Brady Johnson, Pastor
“For God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7
It had been a long day when we happened onto the church. We had been riding our bicycles up and down the Appalachian Mountains for nearly nine hours. It had rained all day, which was the closest thing any of us had to a shower in the last four days.
I pulled over to see if our group of four wanted to catch the service. They weren’t so sure it was a good idea. We were smelly, scraggly, and sopping wet. I insisted, largely because I needed to worship that day. After two months on the road, church was the only place that felt like home, so I assured them that it would be okay. After all, I had never once felt unwelcome in church before. That would soon change.
The congregation turned around when they heard the doors of the church open, but their glances quickly turned into stares. Most people stopped singing and began to whisper among themselves. As we slipped into the back pew, a few parents even pulled their children closer to them. We looked for hymnals, hoping to join in the singing, but there were no hymnals near us, so we just stood there awkwardly. After the song, the pastor said, “Let’s welcome our new guests.” Silence. No one clapped or smiled. They just stared at us. In that moment, I felt small, unloved, and unwelcomed.
Yet amid the tension, someone stood up in the front pew. It was a young girl no more than 10, and she walked toward us with four hymnals in her hands. When she got to our pew, she handed us the hymnals and said, “Welcome to our church. We’re so glad you’re here.” She then reached out to shake our hands. That seemingly simple gesture changed everything. The only way to describe what happened is that the Holy Spirit fell upon that place. Fears dissipated. Stares were transformed into smiles. The church began to feel like home again. After one more song and a benediction, the service ended, and the church flocked to greet us as brothers in Christ.
As I reflect on that experience, a couple of things come to mind. The first is that fear is often the barrier that keeps us from practicing hospitality. We fear the unfamiliar. When we’re afraid, it is much easier to put up a wall to maintain safe distance than it is to build a bridge. However, when fear prevents hospitality, it is bound to leave an outsider feeling like an outsider. This is why fear isn’t a spirit that looks good on Jesus’ church.
I also think of how one simple gesture changed all of that. One kind act brought down the walls that fear had built. One courageous move born out of love made room for the Holy Spirit to move in the church that day.
If the church wants to truly reflect Jesus, then we must lay down our fears in order to pick up our call to love. For it is when we commit to courageously practice Jesus’ love that we can expect His power to be on display in our midst.
“Gracious Lord, we know what it is to allow fear to stifle our responsibility to love. Forgive us. We pray this day that You would pour out Your love upon our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit You have given us that we may love others in ways that reflect You. May all who come into our churches encounter Your grace at work in us. Amen.”
February 19th, 2021 – Waco, TX – 9:00-3:30
REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT: