The following article, written by Jeff Schoch, appeared in Abundant Life’s newsletter in November 2004 before Schoch was the senior pastor.
Just show up.
It’s such a familiar refrain around here that I think we sometimes miss or forget just how profound it is.
I’m not sure exactly how or when we first started hearing Pastor Don say it, but I expect it had something to do with our rapid growth during the mid-1990s, when classrooms and the sanctuary were bursting at the seams.
Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, picnics, prayer meetings, concert nights, canoe trips, informal euchre nights: It didn’t seem to matter what the event was. Showing up was just what many of us learned to do.
And as we did, we witnessed an amazing move of God.
Near as I can tell, it was never really a planned strategy to promote growth. Instead, it just seemed like an important tidbit we learned along the way: People showed up, and the Lord blessed; more people showed up, and the Lord blessed even more. Not a real difficult concept to grasp.
Before we knew it, a big church was emerging, and we realized that showing up had something to do with that growth.
With that realization came greater understanding about specific things that happen when the body of Christ meets together.
Showing up taught us to care about one another. It’s hard to about people when we don’t know them, and it’s hard to know them when we don’t spend time with them.
Showing up taught us that when we do our part, God is more than pleased to do his.
It’s one thing to worship God privately in our homes and throughout our daily lives, and obviously it’s crucial that we do that. But it seems the deeper purposes of God – creating a united people for the world to see – are recognized and realized only as we come together corporately.
I think Bill Arn was the first one to instill in me the value of showing up. He’d come up to me, more often than not at an evening service, and place a big hand on my shoulder and say, “It’s good to see you here, Jeff. It’s important that you’re here.” I know he said the same thing to other young men.
For a long time, I really didn’t understand what he meant. I certainly knew he wasn’t implying that we were any more important or any more special than anybody else. Instead – as I came to understand much later – he was saying it was important for us to be there to learn and experience what God wanted to teach us, and those were lessons that we would not and could not learn in the privacy of our homes.
We would learn them only as we came together and participated in what he was doing among us as a body. There are many lessons like that.
Together, we would learn to feel one another’s pain. Together, we would learn to celebrate one another’s victories. Together, we would learn to reach out in new arenas, knowing full well that we had the support of one another just in case we tripped and fell along the way. Together, we would learn to risk. Together, we would learn to trust. Together, we would learn about our strengths and our weaknesses. Together, we would learn to go deeper.
Together, not apart.
The lessons of just showing up were reinforced to me recently during an Abundant Life youth campout for guys.
There were many other places I could have been that weekend and many other things I could have been doing.
But I was asked to go, and I wanted to go, and somehow I knew I needed to go.
It wasn’t until I got there that I discovered my need to experience once again the subtle ways God works through simple activities. I can’t point to any specific profound thing that happened that weekend, but the collective experience strengthened relationships, birthed new ones and energized all of us.
That’s what happens when we show up. God takes something simple and makes it great.
Showing up has never been and never will be a mandate for us at Abundant Life.
Showing up will always be our choice. And that, of course, is how it should be. If it ever becomes just an obligation, then we’ve lost something along the way. The value of showing up will be realized only if we do it willingly and cheerfully.
I’m reminded of a story that ran in The Vindicator in December 2002. It was about a public meeting in Youngstown that attracted more than 1,000 people who had gathered to discuss long-term development plans for the city.
Hunter Morrison, an expert in city planning and the man responsible for Cleveland’s comeback years earlier, commented that the very act of showing by some 1,000 people should be looked upon as the spark to ignite the future.
“[Showing up] is an action that can move this community forward,” Morrison said.
I was struck then and am struck again now by the realization that a key principle used quite accidentally to grow a church was being touted as the foundation for growing a city.
So why is that relevant to us now?
Every once in a while, maybe we need to revisit our past (How did we get here?) to find out something about our future.
Just show up.
It was relevant 10 years ago for Abundant Life Fellowship.
It’s still relevant now.