i was only 19 or 20 years old. 20! a simple moment in time 34 years ago changed everything.
the man’s name was john chase. my home church was a funny place. small. dysfunctional. traditional. a mid-western church transplanted to sunny socal back in the 50’s. six times during my first 20 years, the church had a major disagreement and people split away to start a new church.
hey, we knew all about church planting before it was all the rage!
it was after one of those splits that john chase came and filled in as our preacher. he was in his 70’s. he was a retired missionary to japan. an old, wise, gentle saint. he was not “cool”. he was not “relevant”. he was not in tune with the youth culture of 1974, nor was he particularly connected to the social consciousness of our nation during the post-vietnam era. but he did walk with god.
in that moment when i informed him of the need for someone to step in and fill the leadership void of our sunday school class, he could have had a bunch of different responses:
- he could have panicked.
- he could have called an elder’s meeting to discuss the problem.
- he could have put out an announcement to the church family informing them of the need.
- he could have conducted interviews of more worthy potential candidates.
- he could have filled in himself.
instead, he looked me in the eyes and told me to do it. he didn’t flinch. he wasn’t concerned that he was going to create a crisis for me. he didn’t ask if i had the time. he didn’t tell me to check my schedule. he didn’t ask me to try it out for a couple of weeks to see if i liked it.
he didn’t ask me to pray about it and see if the lord was leading me to do it. he didn’t have me fill out a spiritual gifts inventory. he didn’t tell me to check with my family. he wasn’t concerned with my job. he couldn’t have cared less that i was a full-time student. he didn’t know that i was preparing to get married. it wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway.
it didn’t matter to him that i wasn’t a bible college student. he didn’t even ask about how much of the bible i even knew. he didn’t ask me if i wanted to do it. he didn’t ask me if i felt qualified to do it (as if i would have even replied in the affirmative!). we didn’t have multiple meetings to discuss the job description.
he did not coddle me. he was not worried about offending me or putting me off. it did not occur to him that his blunt approach would make me uncomfortable or cause me grief. there was no guilt inducement. there was no manipulation. there was no bait and switch. he simply told me what needed to be done. he left no room for me to say “no”.
he just said there was a need and god had placed me there to fill it. he pointed out the obvious and empowered me to respond to god and to the needs of others. he offered his support and told me he would help me anytime i needed it. he told me he would pray for me. that’s it.
there was no question that god’s hand was heavy on me at that moment. john chase knew that. i didn’t necessarily know it at the time, but john chase knew it.
here’s my question for today.
we have a church family full of needs right now. why don’t we confront people with the need to step up and respond…and then refuse to take “no” for the answer?