The Bible is filled with images and geography of specific locations where people met with God. Where God changed their path, their life. Think Moses at the burning bush in the Midian desert or Abraham on Mt. Moriah where Isaac was laid on an altar. Often, when a person met God a physical structure was erected to remember it. You may have such a place or places in your life. The church where you were married. The pool of water where you were baptized. The chair you sat in the night an invitation was given and you were saved.
Holy spaces…holy places.
Last week, I encountered one of mine. Over the past week I have logged 2000 miles in a pick-up truck and have toured West Virginia through our Florida missions partnership from north to south. On Friday evening, I was given an address off an exit near Charleston, the capital of the state. As I drove deeper into an impoverished neighborhood, I came around a corner to the address I had been given. The church that stood there contained a holy place in my life. Not the sanctuary or even the multipurpose gym. Not the lovely lush green hillside.
In 1977 Pam and I were still newlyweds and we were traveling with a Christian band called Decision led by Bill Traylor. We had been invited to do a weekend revival at a church in Charleston. I really never paid much attention to the name. And when we got there, it was just a basement in the middle of…nowhere. The church didn’t have the money to build the rest of the facility. So we parked the motor home we traveled in, unloaded our equipment onto a makeshift stage and that night began a series of three days of concerts. After we finished playing Saturday night, a leader in the church asked Bill who would be preaching Sunday morning. Bill informed them that we were a musical group and did not have a preacher with us. After the conversation, Bill walked over to me and said, “You’re the preacher in the morning.” “ME? Preach? In a church?? Don’t think so!”
But after some conversation, I relented and the next morning, I stood behind a small wooden podium on a makeshift stage in the basement of North Charleston Baptist Church… and I preached. I could not for the life of me tell you what I said! When I finished, two women came up to me (separately) and said, “Are you a preacher?” “No, I’m just the drummer.” “Well, “ the first replied, “God is calling you to preach.” A second woman said roughly the same thing. God is calling you. To ministry. To preach! Their words did not leave me. And one year later, I surrendered to the call to preach.
As the men who gathered there Friday night were enjoying their meal I stood staring at a line on the floor where the front of the platform…and the pulpit stood. All that’s left on the floor is a line marking where the stage used to be. But it was in that place that a line was crossed. Seeing it Friday night brought the memories of 1977 flooding back….remembering.
Because holy places do that.