By: Dr. Michael Gardner
This week, as our Youth Mission Team is busy serving Christ in Kenosha, and we prepare for the coming Independence Day holiday, we are also preparing to start a new worship series at Old Mission called “Influence.”
During July, our worship services will share messages about the influence of significant people and experiences on our life of faith. Each of our staff pastors will share their personal story, and our youth will talk about the influence on their faith of their summer mission experience on July 8.
I believe our lives are the product of those people and experiences that have impacted our life journey. Certainly, I am who I am as a Christian because of those whose influence I still feel today. I feel like I am standing on their giant shoulders.
I still feel the encouragement they gave me at critical moments in my life, and think often of the words from Hebrews 12:1-2: “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
Among my personal heroes whose influence was critical, I count my grandfather and father, and my mother and my wife, Ann. They shaped my life for good and taught me the enduring values of hard work, rigorous honesty, personal integrity, and the power of lifelong love and support.
I also would not be who I am today without Elizabeth Warren, Bill Foster, and Janice Ashley, my High School teachers, who encouraged me respectively to read widely, follow Christ above all, and set high standards for myself.
My mentors in ministry, Dr. Charles Merrill Smith, Dr. Marion Brown, and Dr. E. Dale Dunlap, all made a profound impact. And I am grateful for my fishing buddy and accountability partner for more than thirty years, Rev. Wally Proctor.
My guess is that each of us could make a similar list. On my best days, I think that in some small way, I have had an impact on the spiritual and earthly journey of my children and grandchildren, and people I have befriended and encouraged in the faith. We all have that opportunity for influencing others for good.
I am looking forward to this Sunday’s message, “Freedom” on a text from Galatians 5:13-14 “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters … so through love serve one another. The whole law is summed up in one command “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Join us this Sunday at Old Mission for worship at 8:30, 9:45, or 11 am as we celebrate the influence we can have for good!
If you would like to revisit a past "Beyond Believing" article, please refer to the archive.