Over the years, I’ve learned that even when I was struggling with my own issues, that serving others has a reward of allowing me to look past my issue and experience the joy and peace that comes through serving others.
Around late summer of 2012, our youngest daughter had started attending Christ’s Church and was telling us a lot about this church. My wife and I attended to see for ourselves and felt like this was what we had been missing. I had a commitment to the church we were attending until the end of the year, so we attended Christ’s Church sporadically until the end of the year, and then started regularly attending. We had come from a church of about 100 in worship weekly to Christ’s Church, what a change. My wife and I started attending a class on Sunday mornings, also attending the 3rd worship service. We also started attending some Wednesday evening classes. I was amazed at the opportunities for growth at Christ’s Church, so many classes to choose from, almost making it difficult to pick a class. We started connecting with some people at Christ’s Church, but it seemed like we saw very few people we knew in a church of this size. Our daughter attended the Women’s Encounter, and I heard about Men’s Encounter several times but was always a bit hesitant to commit to attending. I had seen some guys that had attended Encounter and seemed to have a genuine brotherly love for each other. I watched this over a period of time, to see if it was real; it was something I hadn’t seen since I had become a Christian and was involved with the Baptist Student Union at Pittsburg State, which was a discipleship ministry. I had friendships with other Christian men, but this seemed to be much deeper than a casual friendship. What I saw was genuine, so my hesitation to attend was beginning to fade. My son had gotten involved with Peterson Outdoor Ministries, and invited me to see what they were doing. I met Tron Peterson at one of their hunts and helped a little bit with some hunts. This seemed to be a great place and opportunity to serve, and since I have hunted for many years, I started to get involved. Tron invited my son to Encounter, and I ended up attending with him. Tron also was one of the servers in our cabin. The encounter weekend was intense to say the least, seeing the Spirit work in these men’s lives, men building relationships with other brothers in Christ, and most of all, men seeking to have a relationship with Jesus. These men had an Encounter with Jesus, and now they have an opportunity to keep this Encounter going with the post encounter and school of discipleship.
I had been to similar sessions on a lot of the topics discussed at encounter when I was involved with the Baptist Student Union, and being somewhat familiar with these topics, I thought maybe I could help the younger guys. As usual, so much for my plans, on the last day of the Encounter I began to feel God telling me it had been a long time since I had been involved with a discipleship ministry and it was time to get involved again. One thing I realize about this is that it was from God because left to myself, it would have fizzled out long ago, but the desire to be involved in other men’s lives is still there. I determined to get involved with the Encounter, attended the Post Encounter, and the School of Discipleship.
A statement I heard at Encounter, “Spend time with Jesus”, is the most important thing we can do in our lives. Hosea 6:6 tells us that God wants to have a relationship with us, and as with any relationship, we grow closer by spending time with that person. If I didn’t spend time with my wife, how would I ever know who she really is? How could I ever know the wonderful person she is? By both of us seeking Jesus and putting Him first in our relationship, we are able to reap the fruit that only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Matthew 6:33, NAS, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Another thing I began to realize is that I had a lot of “head knowledge”, and that needed to be in my heart. Psalms 119:11, NAS, “Thy Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.” I still have decisions to make every day and don’t always make the right decision, but fortunately, God is the one who is faithful and He isn’t done with us yet. Philippians 1:6, NAS, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” To sum up, KEEP SEEKING JESUS! This requires a desire, determination, and effort on our part to accomplish, just as any good relationship requires. Someone once told me, “Anything worth having is worth working for.” In the same way, my marriage is worth working for, and sometimes, it takes work to make it good. I have to quit looking at myself, quit being self-centered and selfish, and realize that change is needed. Sometimes we need pruning to bring the best out of us, and in John 15:1, Jesus refers to the Father as a vinedresser. The effort needed to bring about change has the rewards of a deeper relationship. Ezra 7:10, NAS, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
Another thing I took away from Encounter was that none of us can walk this Christian life on our own. We need to be cautious about who we walk with. Are those whom we choose to walk with building us up or tearing us down? 1 Corinthians 15:33, NAS, “Do not be deceived; bad company corrupts good morals.” The Word of God also tells us to build each other up, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NAS, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” Another verse is Proverbs 27:17, NAS, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” From the start of our post encounter, the group began to build on the relationships we had started and walking together in our journey of faith. Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us, “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” As men, a lot of us are taught that we don’t need anyone else, that we can do it on our own, this is contrary to what the Scriptures tell us.
As we kept meeting, guys would open up more; we would learn more about each other, pray together and pray for each other. We even made ourselves accountable to each other and challenged each other. We started growing together, and I began to understand how long it had been since I had been in this kind of group. After the School of Discipleship, I began to sit in on these and later, I was asked to finish the one I had been sitting in when the leader left to start another group. After this, I had the privilege of leading some post encounters and school of discipleship classes. It is hard to explain the excitement of having a group of guys who want to spend the time and commitment required to attend these schools, who have a desire to walk with God and watch them grow. I have to admit that after spending time each week with these guys, I would be pumped, and needed time to chill when I would get home, so my mind would slow down enough to go to sleep. Some of these men that have been in these schools have gone on to lead other posts and schools, and most are involved in discipling others. Some of us still meet regularly to keep our brotherhood going, we are aware that we need each other. The apostle Paul, in writing to his spiritual son Timothy, charged him to find faithful men and teach them to make disciple-makers. 2 Timothy 2:2, NAS, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Notice the cycle does not end, Paul, Timothy, those discipled by Timothy’s disciples, and keeps going. I have heard it said, “Who is your Paul, and who is your Timothy?” The last time I served encounter, I began to realize that I was able to see this cycle. Each of the guys in our huddle attended and served in different areas. As I watched, I began to realize these guys were doing the very thing Paul was talking about in 2 Timothy 2:2. They were able to teach others, and I have an assurance and the confidence that they will continue the cycle.
At Christ’s Church, I have met many people, it is unusual now to walk down the hall and not see people I have either connected with at Encounter or through other opportunities at Christ’s Church. I am part of a cord which is much larger than three strands, one with many brothers and sisters, I have learned I cannot walk this Christian life on my own, God did not intend for me to do so.
Recently my wife and I have felt God leading us to serve in our Thursday night service. I am excited to see the opportunities God is going to provide us to connect with people at this service. In Mark 10:45, NAS, we see that Christ did not come to be served, but to serve us, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for all.” Over the years, I’ve learned that even when I was struggling with my own issues, that serving others has a reward of allowing me to look past my issue and experience the joy and peace that comes through serving others.
At Christ’s Church, God has provided me with a family to walk with me. I can truly say my concerns about joining a big church are long gone; it is hard to imagine being anywhere else. We have a family at Christ’s Church, one with our brothers and sisters in Christ. At Christ’s Church, I was able to connect as part of the body of Christ who are also seeking a relationship with God.