I got up early to attend a quarterly district meeting of Free Will Baptists in Northeastern Ohio. I wasn’t expecting much. Conference meetings were generally poorly attended and unexciting. Even more, a late night storm had left a thick blanket of snow on the roadways. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the little country church and saw license plates from three different states and multiple counties!
That meeting was warm with fellowship and filled with excitement. One person after another, in no special order, testified, sang, and preached. There was enough food following to feed a small third-world country. They took up a generous and spontaneous offering for my mission in France. So what made this meeting so different from the dozens of other bland district meetings I had attended?
Today, We’re in Canada and working with another church (The Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada). I’ve been reading a thick history book about this little denomination, born of Swedish immigrants and their zeal for “Life in Christ.” I’ve also met many pastors and visited many churches of different denominations and traditions. I have often asked people about their experience of God’s presence. What have I found in common regardless of the stripe or breed?
In a word: hunger. Consider this testimony from the Covenant church in Canada in 1913. It is given by an itinerant minister traveling the prairies to visit churches.
It is a pleasure to see how men, women, and children come riding and on foot long distances to be present at a single meeting, going home happy in spite of darkness and night overtaking him… With such a desire to hear, it is understandable that the Word will not return void.
I get the feeling that much of the church today is a little less expectant! But this can be cultivated. I have to ask myself often: Do I really expect God to show up? Am I hungry for him? And, how do I help cultivate this hunger for others?
I’m so thankful that our experience includes: hour-long drives to preach at store-front churches in France; Bible studies and prayer meetings around our dinning table; and now intimate Sunday nights in a stone Anglican church.
This is the hunger of a missionary’s heart; but it need not only be the missionary’s! It is for all of us that follow Jesus and take him with us wherever we go.
“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.” Psalm 119:62, 63