Sunday we traveled back to Clarion. Along the way, we had a wonderful time of worship. While this added a couple of hours to our trip, it refreshed us in such a way as to seem the opposite.
I want to write a bit about our worship time, but perhaps a little background info is in order first. I have what may be an unusual situation here. I have become friends with the two previous pastors of this church and I’ve developed a deep appreciation for both of them. Dr. Dale Salico was pastor here in the 1980’s. He is now Executive Minister of Transformation Ministries (http://www.transmin.org), doing yeoman’s work for the Lord. Rob Andrews was pastor in the 1990’s. He now serves at Three Rivers Baptist Church (http://www.3rbc.com) in Irmo, SC (a suburb of Columbia). When I came on as pastor in 2000, it was so clear that God’s people here had been well served by these capable men. I am a grateful beneficiary of their labors and have felt many times as though I have reaped where I did not plant.
So, we timed our return trip to be in Columbia for public worship at TRBC. We actually arrived just a few minutes late. The service had begun, so the ushers looked around for a place where they could seat our caravan of eleven people together. Wouldn’t you know, it was right by Rob and his wife Holly, who stopped singing long enough to hug us and quietly welcome us. But while it was great to see them, that’s not what made this time so special to me.
It began with the heartfelt reverence of God’s people as they lifted their praise to the Lord in song. Then the service was opened up for congregational prayer. Five men prayed aloud in succession, and there was something common to all of their prayers—every man’s prayer was laced with Scripture. It was subtle and so natural that I am sure it was not contrived or coordinated in any way. It’s just how they prayed. They praised God according to His word, they petitioned God from His word, they claimed the promises of His word. I thought that spoke volumes about Rob’s ministry among them.
Then came the time of preaching. It was edifying, substantial, and thoroughly biblical. A sermon outline was provided. I don’t mean one of these silly, three-point, fill in a word outlines that seem so popular. I mean a four-page outline replete with biblical references. The outline itself was not manipulated, it simply took the text and arranged it in such a way that to read the outline was to expound the text. It is always my goal not to force my outline upon a text, but to outline a text in such an organic or holistic way that the outline itself is expositional, and Rob had accomplished that masterfully. It was a thing of beauty. And as Rob preached, he stayed very close to the outline, yet in such a way that it was not mechanical, but warm and pastoral.
I was blessed. I was impressed. I was refreshed. I communed with God Sunday and He reordered my cosmos.
Thank You, Father, for stooping to speak to creatures of dust and for strewing our paths with such precious tokens of Your kindness.