Slowing down long enough to read a book can be lifechanging. When I was pastoring in Wedowee, I remember picking a book up off my bookshelf. It was a book I had purchased years before in Opelika, and one I thought to myself that I really ought to read. The tyranny of the urgent and other things crowded out any time to devote myself to read that book. It joined some other books on my shelves—quite a good many of them, actually—those unread books that I knew were supposed to be good ones that I needed to read.
Years later then for an unknown reason to me at that moment in my life, I take and read this book by a Christian author named Reggie McNeal. This was early 2014. The book was not a new book as it was written in 2003. I quickly read most of the book, and the things McNeal was speaking resonated with me about the state of the church of Jesus in our nation. The book sparked in me a fresh vision for calling the church of Jesus back to the foundation of penetrating our culture with the gospel and making disciples. The book birthed a two-part sermon series that I entitled, “What’s Wrong with the Church?” Sometime later I preached a follow up message called, “Distracted from Our Mission.”
When I look back over the four years that I preached at First Baptist Wedowee, those messages prompted by the Reggie McNeal book along with a message entitled, “How to Prepare for Revival” from 2 Kings 22-23 are the sermons I remember the most. Why do I remember these sermons and not the specific sermons I preached verse by verse through Philippians or the first twelve chapters of Acts? What makes these four sermons jump out in my memory?
Recently I have come to understand why those sermons made such a big impact on me. Let me explain how I came to learn why these messages have been so important in my life. I wrote earlier that slowing down long enough to read a book can be lifechanging. Slowing down enough to have lunch with a friend can also make a difference in your life.
I have a friend here in LaGrange who is not a regular attender or member of our church. He and his wife are members of another local church in LaGrange. My friend is a very humble, wise, and Spirit-led follower of Jesus. We ate lunch together a few weeks ago, and during our time of fellowship he said something to me that set my heart on fire. He basically said, “Cade you are called to pastor First Baptist on the Square, but the Lord has brought you to LaGrange do more than just pastor this church.” He went on to tell me that he believed I had a call from the Lord to play a lead role in influencing the larger church of Jesus in our region toward unity and spiritual awakening that would transform our community.
As we walked back to our vehicles, I told him that I understood why the Lord gave me the sermon series back in the summer called, “O Church Arise.” It was a message for First Baptist but also a message for the greater body of Christ. Looking back, I understand why those messages I preached at Wedowee meant so much to me. They were messages for not only our little church but the larger church of Jesus Christ.
In our Apostles’ Creed sermon series when I got to the phrase, “I believe in the holy catholic church,” I preached two sermons about the church. The first message was a message I entitled “More Than We’ve Made It Be.” It was a sermon not just for us to hear but a message I was preaching toward the catholic (universal) church. When the Lord reveals these kinds of messages to me that speak both to us and the larger church of Jesus, I feel the fire of the Holy Spirit flowing through my body.
Over a year ago, I sensed the Lord leading me to call multiple denominational church leaders and congregations to call upon the Lord in prayer. The prayer service we hosted in October of 2017 was the result. It was a glorious night. I knew that we were supposed to host something else after that prayer meeting last year. The big question was this: when were we supposed to gather the body of Christ of LaGrange together again? A few months ago, a handful of us at a LaGrange Clergy Fellowship meeting talked about and prayed about a community Thanksgiving service. I prayed, sought the counsel of others, and the Lord made it clear that we were supposed to host such a worship service.
We gathered together on Sunday night, November 25, and the crowd nearly doubled from last year’s prayer gathering. The different preachers who preached from Psalm 100 did an amazing job. The music was absolutely heavenly. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so powerful. It was is if the Lord gave us a small glimpse of what heaven will be like. It was just an unbelievably anointed time of worship, preaching, and unity in the body of Christ. We truly gave thanks to Him as one body!
As we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my prayer is that we would continue to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit. May we never quench the work that He wants to do in and through us for the glory of King Jesus. This year is coming to an end, and our great King has even greater things in store for our church and the greater body of Christ in 2019. Let us hold fast to His promise that He is building His church and not even the gates of hell will prevail against His glorious and radiant bride.
Thank You, Jesus.