I recently finished, The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama by Joshua DuBois.
DuBois was the spiritual advisor to Senator Obama and continued in this capacity until the beginning of this year. In his book he tells the story of one small church that changed his life forever. I thought this would be an encouragement to many of you. Pastor Warren’s church produced an advisor to the President! I wonder who your church is going to, or has already produced?
Listen to DuBois’ brief story:
“I called Eugene and asked him to pick me up for church the next morning. When he arrived in his black SUV, I thought that our next stop would be a gleaming white building with a steeple on top. Instead, he pulled over in front of a middle school where Calvary Praise and Worship Center was at the time renting space for its service.
“Where on earth is this guy taking me?” I must have muttered. We enter a small auditorium and I saw a smattering of people greeting each other. A few embraced me warmly, and I thought that maybe these kind folks were part of the choir, preparing for service. But then the pastor, Warren Collins, kicked things off, and I realized that this wasn’t just the choir—it was the entire congregation.
No more than twenty people. No organ, no piano. Belting out worship songs to words displayed on a dim slide projector. A scripture reading, and then right into the message. This was a bare-bones service if I had ever seen one, and I looked down my holy nose at it. And then Pastor Collins started preaching. Just a few written notes, no “three-part structure” that I had grown used to in my years in church, no sing-songy voice. He just talked, in a deeply personal way, about Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth. Who he was. How he was raised. Why God sent him to earth. How precisely he loved the people around him. Why he died, and what that death and resurrection meant for me, personally: Joshua DuBois, from Nashville, Tennessee, a kid with some brokenness and in need of redemption.
There was no pulpit, no grandeur, no church-fan to wave or even a choir to echo his words. But stripped bare of all of these sanctified accessories, I was finally able to catch a glimpse of Christ. And I liked—loved—what I saw. It took a few more trips with Eugene but one Sunday morning, I just knew. I finally summoned the courage to admit that even with my supposedly righteous past, with all of that church under my belt, I was not a Christian. My pastor welcomed me into his arms, and walked me through a simple prayer, a confession of faith in Jesus, an admittance of my own frailty, and an acceptance of his love.
What matters is knowing Christ personally, spending time in conversation with my God, reading his word, and serving those whom he loves. I didn’t learn that in a cathedral or through an elaborate message filled with the finer points of theology. I picked it up in rickety theater chair, sitting in a dimly-lit middle school auditorium. And it has proven to be the most important lesson of my life.