This is the story of how a small, country church astounded the experts on church growth by becoming a megachurch overnight. Without even trying.
The gravel parking lot around St. John’s began to fill early that morning. The shadow from the steeple cast the image of a cross on the western side of the church. Families from miles around climbed out of Fords and Chevrolets to make their way into the sanctuary.
The pastor stood by the front door to greet folks. He asked about Aunt Susan’s broken hip, the Reynold’s new horse, and how the football game turned out in Sunray the other night.
The man of God who shepherded this flock wasn’t much to look at. He had a bit of a gut. And he laughed too loud, especially at his corny jokes. But they loved the man. He had baptized their children, buried their grandparents, and even preached a decent sermon on occasion.
By the time worship was ready to begin, it still hadn’t happened—that shocking influx of worshipers I spoke of. In fact, things looked as ordinary as ordinary could be.
The Kirkpatricks, with their five children, squeezed into the next-to-last pew. The spinster organist, Ms. Schultz, played softly and hit, well, almost every note. Hymnals were opened to the page where the service would soon begin.
At 10:30 sharp, Pastor Baker walked up front and spoke the same words he did at the start of every Sunday service, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And the congregation responded with a hearty, “Amen!”
Then, without any warning, it happened.
The floodgates opened. Worshipers streamed in. Before the congregation had finished saying, “Amen,” this rural Texas minichurch was transformed into the mega of megachurches.
Here's how it all went down.
Through the stained glass windows and the steeply pitched roof, seraphim swooped down from heavenly perches. Each sported six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And around the sanctuary they chanted one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” The foundations of St. John’s quaked at the sound of their voices. The whole church swam with the smoke of incense.
But that was only the beginning.
Cherubim winged their way down from the heavenly city. Not the cute, chubby Precious Moments’ angels, but manly warriors who stationed themselves like sentinels around the sanctuary. They belted out the words to the hymns, added their Amens to the divine words read and preached that day.
But the angels were not alone. With them came saints innumerable. Men and women who had fought the good fight, finished the race, and gone on to glory. But here they were, back at St. John’s on this Lord's day. They added their voices to the earthly choir of farmers and ranchers and coaches and teachers who still trod the pathway toward the heavenly Jerusalem.
The pews were packed. Standing room only in the aisles. Some perched on the rafters and peered down with serene gazes upon the altar. There, wonder of wonders, was a throne. And on that throne stood a Lamb, slain yet alive, sacrificed but resurrected. Every face of every worshiper, angelic and human, earthly and heavenly, was fixated upon his face.
There they looked upon the countenance of the merciful Almighty.
With angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, the people of St. John’s lauded and glorified the name of that Lamb, their Lord Jesus, that day.
Sacred songs shook the building as the choirs wed their voices. The Lord’s Supper was a reunion meal. The folks on earth and the saints in heaven dined on the feast of feasts and the drink that slakes the deepest thirst.
It was a day to remember. A day to repeat.
The following Sunday it would happen again. And then again. This tiny rural church would bulge at the seams with worshipers from realms seen and unseen, all mixed together in the adoration of the Lamb whose kingdom is without end.
That's how a small, country congregation became a megachurch overnight. Without even trying. They gathered around the word of Jesus, ate his meal, sang his songs.
And Jesus showed up, every Sunday, with all of heaven along for the ride.