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Where it all began! 2nd October, 2014

Posted by Scotty in Calling.
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Inside the ChurchA few weeks ago I was sitting with some new friends who asked me to share about my faith journey and my decision to pursue vocational ministry.  There is a very significant experience in my life that was a “turning point” for me.  It’s an important part of my story, and one I have shared many times and in many parts of the world.  When I finished sharing my tale, my friend went back to this part of the story and asked me a question that led to this blog!

Not Happy
About 15 years ago, I was away on a music weekend and was told we had to go to a church on the Sunday.  To my 15 year old self, it was the most excruciatingly dull experience I’d had in a church.  It was a fairly typical church—sandstone building, arched wooden ceiling like an upside down boat hull, two lots of wooden pews separated by a centre aisle, red carpet, organ playing, hymn singing—and I was not very happy to be there (a feeling shared by all my friends!)  I had to sit at the front because I was playing some music, which gave me a unique view.

There is a particular moment during this service that I recall vividly.  The service was moving along as normal, and the minister was speaking, when I, a not-really-a-Christian Christian, began to analyse what I was seeing…

Not Sustainable
As I looked out at the congregation, from my vantage point, I was aware of the 15-20 people scattered down the right hand side, all crowned with grey hair; while the left side was packed with a number of my also-forced-to-be-there adolescent musical peers.  I distinctly remember thinking, as I looked out at the old congregation, “I’m no expert on the whole church thing, but the elderly congregation don’t have a long time left, so if things don’t change, this church will be dead in the next 10-15 years”.

Not Engaging
I turned my attention to the minister who was talking.  I remember his beard, and being repulsed that he wore a cardigan!  I remember him standing talking with his toes hanging over the edge of the step.  I remember a dull monotony to his speaking, random stories from the newspaper, old people drifting to sleep, and young people clearly interested in everything other than being there.  I remember clear as day analysing what I saw: “Again, I’m no expert on church, but aren’t you supposed to be teaching stuff about the Bible?  Why then are you talking about the news instead?  You’re supposed to believe the stuff the Bible says, and so, shouldn’t you be more enthusiastic about what you’re saying, rather than speaking in monotone?  The future of your church are sitting right there—all those young people—and you’re doing nothing to get their attention; even your own congregation is falling asleep.”

Not Honouring
I remember looking over at the organist who was known best for their consistently unpleasant nature—sitting in a robe that looked like Batman’s Bat Cape—and thinking: “I’m definitely no expert on church, but are hymns not supposed to be a way to honour God?  How then can you have a person as horrible as that leading people in worship?  That just doesn’t go together!”

Not Working
And I remember turning my attention back to the minister and having an imaginary go at him in my head: “I don’t get it.  This just isn’t working!  What are you doing?  Your congregation is dying.  You’re so irrelevant, and even you sound bored.  You’re doing nothing to get the attention of these young people who may be the future of your church.  And you have that person leading “worship”.  Do you not know how they treat people?!  [and the part I’m least proud of…] This is a joke.  You are a joke.  This Church is a waste of space!” 

Not Expecting
As I sat back, frustrated by pleased with myself, that’s when it happened.  I couldn’t tell you where it came from—inside, outside, above, below, beside, around, a voice, a thought, a feeling—but something went: “Well, Scott, if you’re so clever, go show me you can do it better”.

Never one to back down from a challenge, I thought with a gulp, “Ok, I will!”

Right then, in that very moment, everything made sense.  All at once I realised: “God is real. His Word is True.  Jesus died for my sins. The Church is His vehicle for reaching the world… and this is not what God intended The Church to be”.

Unconventional
This is not your normal called-into-ministry story.  I cringe as I think about my immaturity and corresponding attitude.  I’m encouraged by God’s ability to use (what appeared in the eyes of the world to be) a failing ministry to lead someone to Him; and I’m humbled by God’s ability to use a potentially-negative-trait—my competitiveness—to grab hold of my heart.  That Sunday morning, I wanted to be anywhere other than in that church.  Today, I dread to think what my life would be like if I hadn’t been there!

Unusual Response
As I was saying at the beginning of this entry, I’ve told my story many times but this time there was something new in the response.  My friend looked at me and said “Have you ever gone back to that church to tell them what happened?  If that church has been struggling along years, don’t you think it would be such an encouragement to them to hear that God called you into ministry during one of their services (leaving out the negative details of course!)?  If you haven’t, you might want to think about doing that!”  And I knew she was right!

A couple of weeks later I was up in Scotland and, with this conversation playing on my mind, I spent some time online working out what church it was that we’d been in and I paid it a visit.  The church building was open but empty.  It was surreal to be back there realising how much has happened since then!  I went and stood where I’d been sitting all those years ago (and took the photo above!)—it looks exactly as I remembered it—and I thanked God for the adventure He’s had me on and the way He’s transformed my life since that day!  It was a special moment.

Unable to speak to someone I did the next best thing I could think of… I found their visitor book by the door and in BIG LETTERS wrote a simple message: “15 years ago during a service here God called me into ministry, and since then I’ve travelled the world for Him”!

I hope they read it and are encouraged.

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Comments»

1. Walter Mckelvie - 3rd October, 2014

A truly honest and open testimony and I’m very greatful that you shared your thoughts on this Scott. So inspiring Walter

Scotty - 3rd October, 2014

Thanks Walter. I appreciate the encouragement. It feels good to be back blogging!

2. mnicholszero - 3rd October, 2014

I can’t express how awesome that is! Our God is the God of the improbable! He uses what seems to be the weakest parts to make the strongest moves!

3. Sue Bastiani - 6th October, 2014

I absolutely love reading or hearing about that moment in others lives! I especially love seeing yours! Thank you for the encouragement, for it is encouraging to know that others have had a similar experience in finding The Lord and changing our whole lives! Thank you Holy Spirit for showing me the way that day in Gearhart, Oregon….


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