This weekend I had the opportunity to perform a wedding in St. Louis, Missouri. Jay Yousef and Alex Brand were united in marriage on Saturday afternoon. The ceremony was beautiful and went off with- out a hitch. Graham Chapel was simply amazing. I have never performed a wedding in a venue like Graham. As I was looking around the chapel I discovered am inscription at the base of the stained glass window. It comes from I Kings 8:58 and reads: The Lord God be with us, as He was with our fathers, that He may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways and to keep His commandments. It is undeniable that many of our institutions of higher learning were centered in Biblical Christianity.
Last week was filled with things to be thankful for. I never cease to be amazed with how God uses people and what would appear to be insignificant things in the lives of others. Sometimes it happens in the strangest and most unlikely ways. In every phase of our lives we are impacting and influencing people. The last week was no exception in being reminded of this.
Monday evening was spent at Ed and Adjet Amante's home. They are members at Columbus Road and are transplants from the Philippines A group of friends gathered to say goodbye to Carlos Paredos Olivo who is from Mexico and came to the states to work. He attends our church and is going back home to be with his family. The evening was filled great food, fellowship and well wishes for Carlos.
Carlos, who does not speak a bit of English, closed our time together by telling us his story. I was brought to tears as he spoke about how God had brought Jason Wollbrink into his life. Ed and Jason had developed a simple invitation to a Spanish speaking Bible Study. Carlos responded to the invite card seen above. Carlos shared about his alcoholic, abusive past. He shared how he had tried everything to stop but nothing or no one could help. One day, he pulled out the invitation and decided to walk to the church, looking once again for help.
After a couple of attempts, he finally found our church. God used Jason over a period of several months to lead Carlos to the Lord. He faithfully has attended our church since that time period. He was discipled by Jason which resulted in his baptism and weekly tithing. Carlos would sit in the back of the church as Jason would translate the message to him. Our people were gracious, hearing a dull roar in the back of the auditorium each week. It was a bit different in a primarily caucasian, mid-west church.
Jason, Carlos and Ed
We learned many things about ourselves over the time Carlos was with us. He shared with us how much we meant to him even though none of us could speak Spanish We are blessed to have known him and look forward to hearing how God uses him in his home land.
The next time you are encouraged to invite someone to something, think twice before you say "No." You never know how God is working and what He will use.
I just finished reading Essential Church by Thom Rainer and his son Sam Rainer III. This book was written to leaders in the church. The authors answer the questions: why do so many young people leave the church? and what will it take to bring them back?
The book reveals many insights that the authors have gained from interviews they have conducted with young adults.
The chapter entitled "A New Spin on Hypocrisy" is powerful. Their findings show that young adults are much more likely to drop out of church if their parents are not involved. Dropping your teen off at church is a sure fire way to insure that you will be taking your grandchildren to church also. People who serve, faithfully attend, and speak positively about the church and its leadership have a much greater opportunity to succeed in raising adults who will be involved in a faith community.
Most young adults did not have significant reasons for dropping out of church. It could be summed up in one statement. It was not imporatant to my parents and it is not important to me. The authors have discovered that secular universities, public education, and the church are NOT the greatest contributors to young people leaving the church. The root (of hypocrisy) is found in the family unit.
You may be heading down a road that will take you to a destination you won't like. The popular church culture has created the largest back door in over 75 years. Parent, what do you want your child to be doing in ten years? Does it look like what you are doing now?
Twenty years is a long time. Lots of things have happened in twenty years. 1992 was the year, Andre Agassi won Wimbledon, the Washington Redskins won the super bowl, Bill Clinton became the president, A Few Good Men came out in the theaters, Windows 3.1 was developed and Pearl Jam and Nirvana were on the top of the pop charts.
Other events happened that year, like Bob Cowman beginning to serve as a pastor in Norwalk, Ohio. Yip, Calvary Baptist Church called me to be the pastor of Care and Outreach on September 9th,1992. God has blessed in so many ways through the years. Two highlights have been serving Calvary Baptist Church in Norwalk, Ohio and Columbus Road Baptist Church in Quincy, Illinois.
I bought this Penn St. circle design GAME hat twenty years ago also. It is hard to fine articles of clothing that you have owned for 5 years let alone 20 years. It has seen a lot of hot days and many adventures. This hat, an article of clothing, is representative of life and relationships in many ways. For many of us, it is difficult to name a friend that you have had for twenty years let alone five. Friendships take time and attention, without those two ingredients, a friendship fades and sometimes even dies.
I have met so many people along the way. Many of those people are still intimately involved in my life and at least most remain connected at some level. There have been many mountain tops and valleys along the way with each group of people. Loss and gain, victory and defeat, laughter and sorrow, have characterized the journey. Looking back has proven that God has been at work in the lives of people and that is the highlight of this journey. I am so blessed to have been a small part in that.
Those that I have served along side have been gracious to me and my family. I will always cherish the time we have spent together. It is crazy to think that I have only worked with 6 other men in the entire twenty years; four in Ohio (Jim, Joe, Dan, and Romyne) and two in Illinois (Jeff and Mike).
I look forward to the next 20 years. It will be exciting to see what God does in the lives of all the people we have been able to touch. Ah, and one last thing, manage your hats well.
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinoin that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
I had the unique opportunity to visit one of our student ministries this evening. It was our Kidz 156 program. They did an outstanding job putting on an entertaining production entitled "The Cross Factor".
This is a ministry specifically designed to mobilize our children into service in the local church. We are talking about kids from ages 4 to 11. Our amazing staff created an environment where children at a very young age begin developing their talents.
I have observed over my twenty years of ministry that little time is placed on discipleship of children. Lots of Bible stories, games and snacks have been delivered but seldom do children have the opportunity to follow Christ through service. Do not read this wrong, I think that Biblical teaching is essential but being a hearer of the word without being a doer is empty. It leads to a consumer mentality in the church. As people move into adulthood, their senses to serve are dulled. It becomes about them versus others.
We want to move the children at Columbus Road directly from participants to servants. This requires intentionality. We have found that it is a lot easier and more effective to train children rather then un-train adults. What is amazing about this philosophy of ministry is that by starting them when they are young, it carries right into the teen years.
This morning we had teens serving in both services as praise team members. We had teens serving as nursery workers, teacher, helpers, and ushers. What was even more amazing was all the teens who came tonight to support our children. It is no wonder, many are Kidz 156 alums.
"Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget."
I read this quote recently and it fit perfectly. I recently lost a "truly great friend". Ron Siepel will be impossible to forget. Of course knowing that Ron will be waiting for me some day in heaven takes some of the sting out of the "difficult to leave" part.
Ron served the Lord with me for the eight years that I have lived in Quincy. In a world where church isn't cool, he made church a cool place to come. Our church is full of life and activity for men and Ron was a huge part of the success of that. He was our parking lot greeter. He was a deacon. He served in our KidZone children's ministyr, KidZone soccer, Wednesday evening prayer service, Columbus Road Outdoor Pro-staff, and Fusion Youth ministry. He did work projects, concrete crews, wild game dinners, men's d-groups, harvest parties, men's archery league, cookie giveaways. (Maybe Ron was trying to take my job!!)
Ron loved archery and his love for archery spilled over. He came up with the great idea of establishing an archery league at our church for our community. Free of charge, hundreds of men and women have shot competitively at Columbus Road. Many people got their start in archery at the league. Just the thought of Darin East's first night at archery makes me laugh. We had arrows stuck all over that gym.
Ron also loved cookouts. Each year he would invite the entire church to his home for two or three cookouts. He like to show hospitality and we loved the food and fellowship. The night usually ended with a not-so-competitive game of volleyball or time around a fire Ron had built. He wanted everyone to feel welcome - young and old - and he made everyone feel welcome. He would give the children four-wheeler rides while the adults were feeding their faces. And he made some amazing jalapeno poppers.
But Ron was more than a list of the things he did for the Lord. He was a friend to all. He took you in like you were one of his own. His garage was your garage. His house was your house. His stuff was your stuff. His car was your car. His lawn was your lawn. His time was your time. His money was your money. He truly showed us all what selfless love is all about. He'd watch your litter of new puppies (he watched the Westcott's ten dogs for ten days this past Christmas), watch your children, store your stuff, and work on your car.
Speaking of working on cars - that is where I really spent some time getting to know Ron. Our mutual interest in speed, noisy racing engines and cars prompted us to start a racing team. Randy Uppinghouse, Tim Pryor, Ron, Shane Wingerter (our cook) and Eric Butler (our lone fan) set out to have a not-so-much-like NASCAR team. It was the hillbilly version, actually. You can go to our racing blog at cowmanracing.blogspot.com to read our story. Ron is such a big part of that story. He was so talented. He could do about anything on a car. He did great body work. He was a welder. He could fix most anything - although with how many projects he had going for others it might take a little while.
Through it all Ron was just so easy to be around. You got what you saw with Ron (unique facial hair and all). He was not proud or stand-offish. He could strike up a conversation about almost anything. Eric Butler came up with the 70/30 rule for Ron. 70% of the time you had no clue where he was coming from and the other 30% of the time what he said was sheer brilliance.
Ron was also a patient husband and father. He loved his children. He spent countless hours talking about them. He was concerned with their spiritual walks, their interest, their children, and their overall well-being. He walked with them where they were in life. He was there to play ball, swing them on the swing, do the paper route, fix their stuff, and walk them through the difficult times.
The thing that stands out about Ron the most is the fact that he lived life for the things that truly matter. He knew that in the end stuff didn't matter - God and people did. And he lived his life every day with that in mind.
When life-altering events happen such as the loss of my dear friend, the tragedy is not in his loss but the tragedy is those who refuse to change in light of that life-altering event. Ron leaves a whole in our hearts and lives. But God is calling each one of us to step up to be:
- A great friend
- Someone who is there for people when they have a need
- Someone who serves God with their life
- A great dad or mom
- Someone who uses their talents for others
- Someone who enjoys the days that God has given them