I don't think I've ever been a part of a more productive, more God honoring 50 minute meeting than the one I was humbled to witness tonight.
First, the backstory.
Love Escalon was started by a stalwart of a Pastor in the community. Under his leadership, Love Escalon thrived for many years. In a cruel turn of events, the Pastor was diagnosed with brain cancer. Amongst the many life altering choices that come with that diagnosis, he had to resign from leading Love Escalon. Without his leadership, Love Escalon had to be shelved.
A year passed, and unbeknownst to me, one of my first tasks in taking on the role of City Engagement Director would be to work on finding new leadership in a couple of cities like Escalon who had a great history but was lacking a leader.
Leaning into my network, I was introduced to a Pastor at one of our sister churches. After hearing my request, Patrick hesitantly took my call. He was kind enough to allow me to come to a Evangelism Team meeting, I gave my best sales pitch, only to be told a few days later that they were not going to be able to take on the load themselves.
However, they were interested and felt compelled to reach out to the community and host a meeting to see what was possible.
While not a fan of having to attend another meeting, there was something unique about what was happening. In their recognition that this was something they couldn't do, nor want to do, on their own, they took a sizable risk and opened it up to the community. They were realistic, humble, and faithful. They didn't bail at the sign of risk, they leaned into it.
There was absolutely no assurances as to who, if anyone, would show up. And even if they did, would they would have any desire to collaborate in a meaningful way?
I arrived a few minutes to 7 and was met by a few of the usual suspects. There was a bit of nervousness in the air. Yet, slow and steady, 18 people soon filled the room.
We went around and did the introduction routine. With it was the question, "Why do you want to be a part of Love Escalon?" Two things immediately stuck out to me.
Everyone had a deep desire to share their love for Jesus by meeting the needs of their city and working together... and geesh, there were a lot of churches represented.
I quickly started taking notes. 18 people, 5 churches (in a city with a population of 7,500)... which included two of the leaders of the original church that ran Love Escalon. They spoke of the joy of seeing so many other churches that wanted to be a part of something special that had done so much for the community.
And most importantly, that they weren't alone.
The burden they felt by the weight of their situation was lifted by seeing so many others come together to unite for the same cause.
The hairs on my arm started to raise at this point, as it was clear the Holy Spirit was in our midst. Before even one item had been decided, it was fairly clear, God had assembled an army, and everyone was eager to get to work.
We were now 20 minutes into the best 50 minute meeting I can remember. The next 30 minutes? Let's just say stuff... got... done. Typically, teams take 5-6 months to pull off an event this size. Within two minutes the group decided the event would be on April 8, only eight weeks away. Bold move. Everything from the date of the event, working with the city, schools, signs, shirts, projects, budget, sharing costs of the event... things that usually take weeks, were literally agreed upon in seconds.
As we concluded the evening in prayer and people exchanged phone numbers, everyone kept asking how was all of this possible?
I believe three important things factored into the evening's success:
1. God was honoring the legacy of a Pastor who served humbly in the community for many years and practiced what he preached. Many people saw it and were moved, and in its absence, felt called to do something about it.
2. It took the risk of a few to know they needed many. It would have been easier for Patrick's Evangelism team to either just say no, or decide to tackle the project on their own. It was a risk to open it up to others, not knowing what would happen, and be possibly shot down, or worse, wind up with others who are hard to work with. Yet, they felt God stirring them in a direction, and they followed.
3. Everyone in that room, every leadership team and church that they represented, felt the need to come together as God's holy bride and be the tangible expression of love to their neighbors. No egos, only one agenda, to spread God's love in a meaningful way. While many were strangers to each other in the temporal, there was an understanding of kinship in the eternal.
It's amazing what can happen when people humbly come together with a shared vision and a willingness to take some God sized risks.
Even in just 50 minutes.