As a senior in Bible college, I had plans. Jamie and I would get married, I would work a job and complete Graduate School in Oklahoma City, and then we would move here to Temecula and get going in ministry. I had the ring, the wedding date, the down payment on the apartment, and everything was in line.
Until Bro. Jeff Copes told me, “I’d like you to meet with Pastor Hardy about interning at Bible Baptist Church in Stillwater, OK.”
We did. And the rest is history. Fourteen years of history, actually.
My wife and I both worked at the church for two years while I drove back and forth to OKC to complete my Master’s degree, and it was a whirlwind of staff meetings, early-morning homework, spiritual growth, and the greatest church training I had ever received.
I’ve told people that Bible college trained me in theology and having a heart for God, but my church internship trained me in ministry. I realized through working in Stillwater that ministry is more than good theology—it’s people. And the people of Bible Baptist Church infleunced me more than I realized at the time.
Pastor Hardy was, of course, a major part of my training, but it was less of his one-to-one training and more of the shaping that the church did to us and for us that made the impact.
I hesitate to say that he shaped the church, but, in many ways, that is true. By the time we got there, he had been the pastor for about ten years, and it seemed that things were really clicking into place. People were excited. The staff was mature. And there was a mentality about church from the people that became a benchmark for me. “If these people can serve like this, anyone can.”
Volunteers spend hours every week cutting lawns. Volunteers spend hours every week working on the bus routes. Volunteers spend hours every week cleaning the buildings. Volunteers spend hours every week running addictions ministries, financial ministries, and children’s co-op ministries.
Nobody there is a super-Christian. They’re cowboys and construction workers and Ph.D’s. They’re moms and dads and OSU college students and public school kids. They’re normal people.
But there’s a mentality of faithfulness.
That’s not everything, but it’s a lot.
Church is a major part of life, there. It’s not just something tacked on or extra. It’s not a take-it-or-leave-it place.
It’s important. And almost every member returns to every service—Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.
I don’t mean to lift them up as some kind of model church. They have warts and issues just like any church—they’re made of humans, and humans = sin.
But I’m thankful for the training that I received from that mentality, and I’d love for that to be more normal across all of Christianity. I’d love for that to be normal here.
I am so thankful for the hours that many members put in here every week in music preparations, retirement homes, jail ministries, retirement ministries, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Camp Pendleton ministries, media, discipleship, Sunday school, outreach, and much more.
I would never want to diminish the devotion of the dedicated, but I never want it to become just a dedicated few. “Eh, should we go to church tonight?” Maybe that shouldn’t even be a question.
Sick? Of course, stay home. At risk of getting in a car accident if you drive at night? I know of those cases (quite a few, actually), and I know God knows your heart and your situation. Stay home and participate online.
But we serve a God who gave his ALL for us—his only begotten Son. It’s not legalistic for a church to encourage Christians to gather. It’s reasonable (Romans 12:1–2).
I guess I’ve said all of that to say that I am excited for you to be able to hear my former pastor today—Pastor Wayne Hardy from Bible Baptist Church in Stillwater, OK. It is his influence that has helped shape my thinking on excellence, intentionality, worship, thinking, and much more.
And I’m also happy that his wife (and my Sep. 12 birthday buddy!), Lisa, can be here with him, too. When we were in 1 Cor. 9, we talked about the biblical case for a guest preacher’s wife to be able to travel with him, and we get to act on that this week.
I’m excited about all day today! Listen with an open heart and let God speak to you. –Pastor Ryan