I’m sitting in Starbucks looking out the window. This is a typical Friday for me. Today, I’m trying to write a sermon for an event I’ve been asked to speak at in West Virginia in a couple weeks but I’m having trouble focusing. I often find a place to work away from my office where I can sip some coffee. And today, in less than an hour, I’ve seen no less than four cars drive by with “Jesus For All People” window decals. One person wearing a “Jesus For All People” t-shirt came in to order a non-fat latte. I was talking to two people I know who are part of the community of First Christian Church, where our vision, motto, and heartbeat is “Jesus For All People”, and as we were talking, two more people who attend FCC that I’ve never met stopped to tell us how glad they are that God brought them to FCC.
I’m sitting at the same table in Starbucks where I sat two-and-a-half years ago in an interview for a job that everything within me (and a few close friends) told me I shouldn’t take. It meant taking a pay cut to move to a city I didn’t know, to become the leader of a struggling ministry within a church that many on the inside and outside thought was dying, in a city that has been struggling economically for well over a decade.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling then that God was calling me to Canton, and that He was far from done with FCC. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any fear or reservations, but I chose to believe that God had a better story to write. And now as I sit at this table, I look back on the last 30 or so months as I’ve watched God reignite a fire and passion in our church and community as we rally around the idea that Jesus really is for all people regardless of our baggage or how screwed up we may or may not be.
God is the Author of amended stories. He is a divine Illustrator who wants to draw a more perfect and complete picture in our lives. It’s amazing to hear stories of how God has redeemed and is redeeming the story of First Christian Church to give hope to many in our community and to provide a place for people who are far from God to meet Him and find mercy. In the past 12 months alone, 145 people took the step of committing to live for Jesus and being baptized. It’s happening all around us all the time!
And now let me say that I believe this year God wants to write a better story in my life and in yours. And not just write a better story, He wants to use your story to change the lives of other people. Like many of you, I’ve watched from my front row seat as He has breathed new life into His church, my church, and I believe He has great things in store for the people of this city who aren’t even on our radar yet. I agree with our Lead Pastor, Ryan Rasmussen, when he says, “I believe FCC is primarily made up of people who aren’t even here yet.”
So I’m sitting here at my table watching cars drive by and I’m thinking about all the people that have met Jesus through the community of FCC in the short window of time that I’ve been around. One thought keeps coming to mind: church, we’re just getting started. We haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. There are thousands of people in this city who are in need of a Savior to redeem their story and to write a better chapter.
My first Sunday at FCC back in July 2013, we sang the song “God of this City.” There’s a line in that song that says, “Greater things are yet to come, and greater things are still to be done here.” That morning I challenged us as a church to remember that God hasn’t just placed us here to be IN this city…we are here to be FOR this city. We are here to be FOR Canton because Jesus is FOR Canton.
So, FCC friends, this year, let me challenge you to do three things:
- Open yourself up to the truth that God wants to write a better chapter in your life than ever before. Give him the pen and let Him go to work. And as your story is changed and written and amended,
- Use your story to let God speak through your life. Sharing your faith is as simple as being authentic and letting people see how God is working in you. You don’t have to carry a Bible around and have a verse locked and loaded for every situation. Just be available in the moments that you are presented with to show people the love of Jesus. Be present in those moments and don’t let them pass by without notice. Take advantage of opportunities just to get to know people, to learn about them, and to let them learn about you, and God will open doors for you to be a life-changer.
- Go to the Life-Changer booth in the lobby at FCC to check out some resources and learn about opportunities that we are helping to create for you to share your story and to literally be the bridge that connects someone to Jesus for the first time. It’s just around the corner from the Café. Pick up a book or talk to a volunteer at the booth to learn more about what you can do and how you can get in on this alongside many others at FCC who are doing the same.
I can’t wait to look back a year from now and see how far God has brought us. I believe 2016 is going to be a year of life-change and of incredible growth. I believe we will have stories to share for years to come about what God is going to do in and through us. God has a plan for Canton, Ohio and church, we are right in the middle of it. He isn’t finished with us yet…the best is yet to come!
This post was inspired by a blog post written by our worship pastor, Jon Koloff. Check out his post here.