My name is Bill, and I would like to tell you my story of stretching for Christ.
I had just come from another church that frowned upon divorcees and excluded me from serving in any meaningful capacity.
A few years ago the Holy Spirit led me to First Christian Church in Suisun City. I was welcomed with wide-open arms and hugs. I was becoming a regular attender when Paul Johnson, an elder at FCC, turned to me and asked me to hand-out bulletins to guests as they were entering the church. I was blown away! Here I was divorced, broken, hurting in many ways, when I was given a task to serve the Lord – yep me, a wicked sinner. So, from that day till now I continue to hand-out bulletins and shake hands. The best part is expressing my love to them each and every week. This was in fact an easy and wanted stretch for Christ.
My next stretch came a few months later, when we as a congregation were going through the ‘GO’ message series. In this series Pastor Steve Kiefer was trying to get people off their backsides and go do something for Christ; like serving at the Leaven (a place to help impoverished children learn to read and write), become more missional, or volunteer in keeping the church in order – “But don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to come around before you do something.” Pastor Steve just wanted us to become more of what God wanted us to become.
A few weeks after the ‘GO’ series started, John Johnson got on stage and asked for help with feeding the homeless on Monday nights. So I showed up the following Monday not even sure of what to do. I asked a hundred questions! I’m sure I was an annoying thorn in John’s side for the first few months as I figured out all the details. After about a year and a half, John stepped down to start his Tuesday and Thursday homeless ministry. Suddenly Candy Hanratty and I were the new Monday night leaders!
The next stretch came in July 2013. The Kingdom Kids Sunday school ministry needed a few teachers for 5th & 6th grade. This one, like the other stretches, required prayer. One Sunday I walked up to the Children’s Director Maria in the parking lot to get more information from her. One of the Elders, Chad Ward, yelled across the parking lot, “Over here Bill! Come help me with the 5th and 6th graders!” The Children’s Director pointed at Chad and said to me, “There you go Bill. Go have at it.” I somehow went from asking for more information to becoming a full-fledged Sunday school teacher in just a few weeks!
And now to my most current stretch at FCC. In September 2013, Paul Johnson (the same guy who started me out with bulletins!), came to me and asked me about becoming a Deacon in the church. He told me to pray on it and give him an answer in nine days. He gave me the responsibilities of the role, most of which I was doing already! I made an appointment with Pastor Steve and asked him why me. He responded that the Elders liked what they saw in me and that they wanted me on the team. He answered my many questions and then we prayed. The following Sunday I said ‘yes’ .
Isaiah states, ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags..’ (64:6)
In all of the stretching, I learned that when we do something good, our most noble works are ‘filthy rags’ when it comes to somehow earning us a place in Heaven – they are useless and good for nothing. They are certainly not enough to bring us into a right relationship with God – for that, we need Christ.
So, what I hope you all get out of this is that all of you are stretchable and should GO and get involved somewhere, anywhere for the Lord! Even if you have one talent and mission, stick to it and pray every day for it. God gave us all hands and feet so we can serve others. So GO and get out there and do what you can. But, be sure you’re doing it for HIS glory and not for yourself.