Last Sunday my church surprised me with a video and testimonial service celebrating our 20th anniversary for Hope Family Fellowship. As I was waiting to start my PowerPoint for the message, the young lady that creates and runs our announcement sheet, refused to sit down. She just looked at me and smiled. While that is not unusual, the refusing to be seated part was.
My associate pastor at that point looked at me and said in his own gracious way, “Go sit down.” I thought, okay, they want to show a video or something and then I can share the message. I was half right. They did show a video and it was very well done. That same smirking young lady that refused to sit down had produced a remarkable historical video of Hope Family Fellowship.
As Leslie and I watched the last twenty years fly by in about 15 minutes of photos and music, we were flooded with memories. A series of faces, events, buildings, and meetings all filled the screen in a remarkably creative way. While twenty years is not all that long compared to some ministries and groups, in our world, it is a good chuck of our lives.
Did we really look like that two decades ago? Wow. It seems like we tend to think that we have always been our current age, yet photos do not lie. There was a day when our children were young, my hair was dark and Mark and Curt even had hair. Time does indeed fly, and the years change all of us. 🙂
The video also reopened a few painful times over the last twenty years. There were faces of people dearly loved that have moved on to other churches. There were also many young people who are now grown and have begun their own families. Every pastor struggles with people leaving their church, but we all hope that the time spent under our care helped…even a little bit. Every pastor I know has broken relationships that they wish they could fix – sadly, few ever will be until perfection in eternity.
I shared with my wife, and those close to me, a struggle that occurred that very morning. As I was driving to the service on Sunday, I was asking the Lord to anoint, bless, help, pour out His grace, and use me in spite of me – a very typical Sunday prayer for this pastor. 🙂
As I was driving, I found myself questioning the whole ministry of Hope Family Fellowship. Asking the Lord questions like, “Lord, is it worth it? Has the whole Hope thing just been my creation or is it Your hand? Have I just been way too stubborn in staying and have propped up something that You never wanted? Is my life and ministry a failure? What would You say to me today Lord?”
Some may say that is a bunch of unbelief and negativity, and perhaps they are correct. For me, it is a fairly regular battle within my brain. Who wants to invest their life in something worthless? Our enemy loves to torment us, and pastors are not immune. This drive in was particularly hard and discouraging.
When we began Hope all those years ago, I said, “I will keep coming and teaching the Scripture as long as people are there. The first time I show up and no one is there, I will know it is time to quit.” Well, for twenty years, people keep showing up and so do I. Not real deep thinking I know, but at least it is clear to me. As long as people make an effort to be there, I will study, pray, and teach the best I know how to share as clearly as I can what the Word of God has to say. The Bible is the best material and as long as I stay close to it, the messages will produce life and fruit.
I asked the Lord “if it was worth it” and “what will You say to me today,” and I usually do not get such clear answers to my prayers! The historical montage of photos brought tears to my eyes, because it was clear that many people have been impacted by Hope. Each photo represented a person or family that at one point wanted to be there, served, prayed, rejoiced, and enjoyed their time at Hope. For those that have moved on, I pray that each one carried something of value away from the contact.
After the video a steady stream of gracious people shared what Hope meant and means to them. While it was difficult to sit there and listen, for it makes Leslie and I very uncomfortable, it also was healthy for us to do so. Person after person shared their story about Hope and again, it was difficult not to cry. God has been using Hope Family Fellowship to help and encourage many, and for that I am eternally grateful.
We know that Hope Family Fellowship is more than one person and it is centered in a vision. While we may have been the spark that started it, the fire burns because of the people who continue to invest there. Most, if not all of those who call Hope home, are there because they have heard something in their heart. The vision burns within them and they have finally found a church that echoes what they believe.
God often uses unlikely people to do Kingdom work. My bride and I fit that bill. The Lord answered my discouraged prayer on Sunday in the way He often does – through people. I have never had a personal visitation from an angel or Jesus, but many times people have been used by my Lord to answer my need.
Hope Family Fellowship is about people and not a pastor or any single person. The vision remains because there are those that the Lord has called to keep it going. My prayer is that if the Lord does not come back soon, that there will still be many people loving and serving at Hope Family Fellowship long after we are in glory.
Thank you to all those who sneaked around and made this possible, to those who shared, to the young lady that refused to sit down, and to the Lord for the good things He has done. The first twenty years have been interesting, can’t wait to see what the next twenty bring!