I didn't always like going to church... Confession is good for the soul. Phew, I said it. I feel better now. Our family was always in church....no matter what. The coldest day of the year, the hottest day of the year, and all the days in between were Sundays that would find us in church. At the time, I didn't see the reason we had to be there other than having my hair tousled by my aunts or my head patted by my uncles. I suppose I did enjoy the winter months, when we cousins would sit around the heat register and pull lint off our socks and let the stuff drift upward in the heat current. That was fun.... (things your cousins teach you, to avoid boredom in church).
I can vaguely remember feigning illness so I could stay home. I also remember times of childish tantrums and arguing with mom which always led to me sitting beside her in church in a major stew. I never won these arguments!! I always went to church near death and barely clinging to life.... (Glad mom didn't relent.)
Every Sunday when I was in church, God was using women and men to influence me and I wasn't even aware of it. I thought I was losing my independence to do what I wanted and all the while God was building me into a person He could use in His Kingdom. In retrospect, I wouldn't change a thing about our family church attendance patterns.
Here are just a few reasons (saints) who loved me when I was a whiney little brat.
Rev. Nelson Thomas, Rev. Bill Funk, Rev. Lynn Buttorff, Rev. Lanta Sholley, Rev. Ken Burkett, Rev. Ken Loss, Rev. Bill Slick, Rev. Bill Jones, Rev. Joe Aurand, Rev. Don Nelson, along with my family and neighbors made a difference. Growing up in a small rural church seemed boring, but it formed my theology and spiritual hunger. Included in this short list was all the pastor's spouses.
One such servant impacted me more than I could have anticipated.
(Rev. John Perna, Evangelist. Shown here on the right.)
[Pictured with Rev. Perna from left to right are Mrs. Marjorie Burkett and husband Rev. Ken Burkett]
I'll never forget the powerful sermons of Jesus and the fervor and passion Rev. Perna brought to that old wooden pulpit in Centre United Methodist Church. His voice would boom with energy and his words soaked into a young heart and mind. More than 40 years have passed since these days of formation and I cannot remember one sermon with any detail. but I do remember this man's love of Christ. His demeanor was one of strength and humilty. You see, Rev. John Perna was blind, yet he painted some of the most compelling images of Jesus Christ.
What was it about Rev. Perna that made such a profound influence on me?
I suppose it was his penchant to bring such Spirit filled messages of the Gospel that settled deeply into my soul. Moreso, it was his blindness that he did not see as a liability but as a means to glorify God.
Influence = relationship. Rev. Perna always spoke to me as though I was the only person in the church. He made time. His life was poured out to glorify God and connect others to God. He succeeded!
Who are you influencing? For whom are you making time? Who are you inviting and taking to church each Sunday? Who will look back 40 years from now and say, "That person had such a profound impact on my faith development and spiritual fervor."?