Our 83-year-old chapel is my favorite room here at Central. This beautiful worship space was built in 1930 with “liberal” stained glass windows and crosses, in the middle of the Depression, by godly men and women who lived week-to-week and rain shower to rain shower. This chapel speaks to me of tradition and heritage and legacy. It reflects customs and beliefs and practices and stories faithfully handed down generation after generation by some of the best people who ever walked on this planet. I love this chapel. And we spent a lot of time in there yesterday.
As part of our shepherd selection process, we designated yesterday as a congregational day of prayer and fasting. Our church family refrained from eating in order to pour our individual and corporate energies into prayer. We fasted and prayed for our God’s guidance as we select additional shepherds. We asked him to bless us. We thanked him for those great shepherds who have gone before here at Central and, by God’s grace, have brought us to where we are today. We prayed for our current group of elders and their wives and kids. And we begged God to bless those men who are about to be appointed by their church family to lead in the name and manner of Jesus.
Oh, it was all very well orchestrated. All of our elders and ministers signed up to pray in the chapel in 30-minute shifts. We had sheets of paper in there with Scriptures to read and names to lift up in prayer and other suggestions and ideas to guide our people as we praised and petitioned our God. Email messages with similar helps and encouragements were sent to our church family every hour on the hour. We are spread out all over Amarillo and the greater Amarillo area (Canyon, Vega, Panhandle, etc.,) but we would be united in our fasting and prayer during this important time in the on-going story of this great church.
And then God did that thing he does. And he made yesterday in the chapel much better than I could have hoped or imagined.
From 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 last night, there was a steady stream of folks coming and going in and out of that chapel. Every time I poked my head in the door to take a peek, there were at least six or seven people in there. Quietly reading the Scriptures. Praying with and for one another. Holy conversations. Praise and thanksgiving. Confession and encouragement.
I spent three different 30-minute shifts in the chapel yesterday that somehow stretched into 45 and 60-minute shifts. And it was some of the most important and meaningful time I’ve spent with our church family.
We talked together about those great men who’ve gone before. Some of these men I’ve only heard their names (over and over and over). But yesterday I got to hear first-hand how these faithful shepherds impacted these special people in eternal ways. We visited about certain men who were under serious consideration for the important task of shepherding this church family. People had questions, they had insights. Some folks wrestled together over those lists in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and those conversations were helpful to me and to everyone in those two or three pews. And we prayed. We begged God for his guidance and wisdom. And we asked him to bless our church. People came to the chapel yesterday for a variety of reasons. Some people stayed for five minutes, some lingered for more than an hour. And they were all blessed. But none more so than the preacher.
Thank you, Laverne and Melanie, for honoring me by opening up your hearts in prayer as we talked together about the things we’re looking for in additional elders. Thank you, Myrl, for bringing all those emails and making sure each one of our current shepherds and their wives were lifted to our God for blessing. Thank you, Doug and Lisa and Betty and Margaret for the wonderful and holy conversation we had about shepherd qualities, for the questions you asked about specific candidates, for the prayers you worded on behalf of those men we discussed. Thank you, Tim and Brice, for putting your arms around me and thanking God with me for the wonderful people in this church who have blessed us so richly. Thank you, Larry and Callie, for getting down on your knees at the front of our chapel to lift your voices and your hearts to our loving Father. I didn’t get a chance to speak to you. But I saw you. Thank you. And thank you, Gaye. Oh, my word. Thank you, Gaye, for sharing your very soul with me yesterday. Thank you for your precious tears of joy and thanksgiving. Thank you, Gaye, for reminding me with story after story after story of how great the people are in this church and how blessed by God we are to be a part of it. Thank you, Gaye, for your transparency with me and with all of us who were in that room yesterday. And forgive me, Gaye, in advance, for stealing some of your testimony and your stories for our sermon this coming Sunday.
Thank you, Almighty God, for yesterday in the chapel. You, Father, drew our faith community together yesterday in prayer. You reminded us of your power and your matchless love. You encouraged us with warm words and concrete evidence of your grace. You moved us yesterday. To you be all praise and glory forever.