This past Easter Sunday I saw God move through his church in a tremendous and tangible way. It was an Easter Sunday like any other – after pigging out on delicious foods at our fellowship breakfast, people filled the pews of our Sanctuary ready for the start of the service. Our church is near Malone University, a private school with a great community of Christian students who regularly attend our church, and despite our group of college students being on break I was amazed at how many people had shown up. It was great to see the sanctuary so full but it was also a little saddening at the same time because I wonder how many of those people only show up for those “big holidays” like Christmas and Easter? It’s not very hard to see how some people don’t experience the reality of Christ when they only surround themselves with believers or put themselves in that situation only twice a year and it’s especially hard to make sure that while we (Christians) have them in our church, that we do everything we can to share the Good News and what Easter really means (if you’re not sure email me and we can talk about it).
This year we had a great service planned – upbeat, celebratory worship music, special music ranging from singers to prepared piano pieces, and a tremendous sermon. However, God had something much more in store for our congregation that day.
It started with God (as these things most often do) speaking to the heart of an individual, in this case the pastor, who had to make a choice: follow the leading of the Spirit despite the reaction of man or to give in to the pressure of man and “stick with the plan.” On this day, the pastor chose to follow the leading of the Spirit…
The special music was done, the sermon was drawing to a close and the worship team was coming back to the front to lead the church in one final song entitled “Lead Me to the Cross.” Our Pastor closed his message with a simple altar call that if anyone felt God was calling them, to come forward and pray and he turned to the worship team for them to begin playing. As a worship leader, what I witnessed next was exciting and moving!
We got through the first verse and chorus of the song when I heard our Pastor’s voice asking the worship team to stop the song. I stopped singing but kept on playing softly and looked around for the source of the voice that was coming over the sound system. When I found him, I was surprised to see our Pastor, in his Easter clothes (you know how church people like to dress up on Easter) standing in the Baptismal! It was a little shocking, but he was standing there making another offer for people to follow the Spirit’s calling. He talked a little about how baptism is an outward and public expression of one’s desire to follow Christ and if anyone wanted to make that declaration they could come and join him. No sooner had he finished when a young woman jumped up from her spot and literally started running up the aisle and along the way she was kicking of her shoes and taking the sweater over her dress off!! She ran out into the hallway that leads to the baptismal and the next thing we know she is walking down the steps into the water and joining our Pastor. It was amazing to see how God still moves in the hearts of people and how many are willing to respond to His calling.
This young woman wasn’t the only one who responded that Easter Sunday as many more, young and old alike, came forward to be baptized in their Easter clothes. One of the most moving moments was when our pastor was making one last call for anyone who was being led to come forward when suddenly his wife started walking down the steps into the baptismal following their son. What an incredible moment when our pastor realized that his son was making a choice to publicly declare his love for Christ and his desire to follow Him! Our pastor hung his head and wept a little as he called for the assistant pastor to come to his rescue as he was overwhelmed with the joy and emotion of what was about to happen! If one man can feel that type of joy over his son making that choice how much greater can the joy of God be when an individual chooses to accept Salvation and follow Him!!! I can hardly imagine the emotion that comes from the heart of God when this happens.
All in all there were probably around 10+ people that morning who, despite being in their “Sunday best”, chose to come forward and publicly declare their desire to follow Christ. What was a normal Easter Sunday like any other year, transformed into a celebration – not only of Christ’s resurrection, but also of the new life that His death and resurrection had brought for those people who took a leap of faith and responded to His call! Some people who were witnesses that morning, like me, were amazed at how God still moves through his people, others were blinded to what was going on and thought that it was all staged, but I can tell you that God was there that morning and through the obedience of one man, many were called and responded.
What about you? Has God been calling to you recently? How have you responded? Sometimes it is hard to follow Christ because we are so worried about what others may think. Have courage and strength to respond to God’s calling to you. Don’t put it off.
Galatians 1:10 – “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”