Not sure you realize this but there are a lot of steps in the Sanctuary at First Jackson. In the choir loft in the #Carols2014 configuration, there are 48 (not counting steps from floor to platform or the steps in the piano tunnel). Going to the “nosebleed”, there are four aisles of steps reaching toward the stained glass over the President Street entrance. I should know how many there are – I dragged rope lights up all four aisles today and then walked them back down to get them ready for tomorrow. In the loges, there are a lot more steps. Plus the choir room. Plus the countless times I go up-and-down the steps between the 2nd and 3rd levels of the church, the steps down from the crosswalk, the steps from the parking garage up to the crosswalk. Lots and lots of steps.
You are probably wondering where I am going with this. In my mind, when I walk the steps, I always count them to myself. I see each step as a person who may walk there, coming to celebrate Christmas perhaps because they were made to come or perhaps because they were invited by many who may read this. I thought today about the names we called during the Carols prayer time last night who have been invited to worship with us. I never enter the north loge behind where the box is now that I don’t remember a decision envelope found from that section some 20 odd years ago from a young man who made a decision for Jesus sitting in those not-good-seats (even then) and then days later joining His Savior for all eternity. I think about folks like Nona Reid, Billy Jim Thompson, Celeste Pickett and others who walked these same steps and who gave so very much for so many many years so that others could hear the Story of Jesus.
And I pray by name for people who are in the choir and cast and orchestra this year that we may share the only story that matters for Eternity and share it in a way that is clear. And I pray knowing that our responsibility to them does not end there. I pray that we will be responsible to disciple the new believers – that we will help them connect the dots (they don’t have an almost 60 year head start like me) and as they face all the curves that the devil is going to throw in their path to try to stop them from choosing Jesus.
So when I count this year as I walk through the church, I think about the 500 we continue to pray will hear the message we share and will believe. 500 has become way more than a number. The “goal” has morphed into faces and names and needs – real people – not a concept. And I pray that we share with them from our heart – from our knowledge of His mercy and grace, from our personal experiences with Him, from our love for others because “He first loved us.”
John 3:16 – This verse came alive for me as an almost 10-year-old in Vacation Bible School almost 50 years ago. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish.” Today I pray that verse speaks to Alexandria, and to Precious, and to guests from Lebanon, and to senior adults from Alabama and those from CityChurch and MissionFirst and recovery centers and ……. for God so loved them, too, just as He does me.
I am looking forward to #Carols2014. I know Him. I am loved by Him. I have been changed by Him. #AreYouChanged?