Sermon Notes for the teaching at Christian Fellowship Church on Sunday, June 26.

My Story

by Scott Williams

For those who are visiting or are relatively new to CF, I have served as one of the pastors and elders of Christian Fellowship Church since 1986 and this is my “retirement” message. So, I am going to tell you some of my story and give a final exhortation. I know my history may sound like ancient history, possibly without any relevance to you if you’re younger than 40. But please know that the writer of Ecclesiastes let’s us know that there is nothing new under the sun. That is, the human soul’s needs, desires, and fulfillment remain the same through the generations. So, my story may have some relevance to you. At least I hope it encourages you in some manner.

For those who were here for my retirement party last weekend, which was amazingly overwhelming in a good way, you heard from my son who mentioned that I grew up around the Lake of the Ozarks, the Gravois Arm of the Lake at Gravois Mills and went to high school in Versailles.

My four sisters and I were taken to a small Methodist church every Sunday by my mother. We loaded up in the station wagon, with the rear facing back seat, and went down the highway a short mile to the church, usually stopping along the way to pick up a few of the five Daniel’s children. It was hard to know how many children were in the car at any one time. It was there that I learned Bible stories from excellent Sunday school teachers and the old hymns that some of you still love to sing. At the Methodist church, you got pins and then bars to add to the pins for each year of faithful Sunday school attendance. I had lots of bars.

As my son, Aaron, mentioned last weekend, I grew up in a holler. A small valley tucked between steep hills. We were on my grandmother’s property which was 300 acres of hills, creeks, woods, and rock outcroppings. It was a young boys wonderland. I learned to squirrel hunt from an old man who lived in a cabin near our house. I got my first single shot, bolt action 22 rifle when I was twelve, so I could hunt on my own. My father was a coon hunter and raised coon dogs. I would go coon hunting with him on occasion and learned quite a bit about coon hunting. Not taking on coon hunting for myself was probably one of my father’s great disappointments in me.

My upbringing in church gave me a belief in God, but it was in the woods where I experienced Him the most as a child and young teenager. The beauty of those hills during the changing seasons served as a cathedral of God’s presence to me. I can’t say that I knew God, but I would pause on many of my hikes and breath in the wonder and give thanks for the surrounding beauty to this distant yet ever-present God.

By the time I was reaching my junior year of high school, I was still going to church, involved in youth group, but wrestling with how God fit into life. I was facing the typical temptations of a teenage boy, yielding to some of them. But the unspoken thing that pressed on me the most was that I needed purpose, I needed meaning to my life. I just couldn’t accept the idea that life was simply going to college, getting a job, marriage, family, retirement, and then you die. There had to be something more. Part of Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has set eternity in the hearts of men.” I could feel this eternity, this yearning for something bigger than what I was experiencing.

The month before I graduated high school a group of Jesus freaks from Kansas City came to our area. I ended up at a weekend retreat, where these Jesus people prayed for me to receive Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit, and I was dramatically changed. I discovered everything I was looking for and longing for was found in Jesus. Only the eternal one could fill the eternity in my heart. I just wanted Jesus.

I came to the University of Missouri looking for like-minded Jesus freaks. I quickly met Brad Garrison and Karen Shippee, who became Karen Garrison, and Robin Brady-Heider. I attended several campus ministries at different times, but they just didn’t seem to fit. The fall of my junior year, Brad Garrison came to me and said, “Scott, I found it.” He said he had found the group we were looking for. So he takes me to a meeting of largely college age people at a house out in the country somewhere. It was led by Joe Tosini and the worship, Joe’s teaching, the prayers, and spiritual intensity and uninhibited joy within the group resonated loudly with my spirit. Brad was right. He had found our people.

I met Jane about that same time. She was a sorority girl who was, as I was, in the School of Social Work. She was beautiful and was way out of my league. But we ended up studying together, and much to my surprise, she was interested in me and in Jesus. I remember the first time my three roommates met Jane. They looked at Jane, then they looked at me, then they looked at Jane again. When she left, they said, “She is interested in you?” I think I responded with, “Yeah, can you believe it?”
I took Jane to the Friday night meeting at Joe’s house. When we all started praying, which included for some people speaking in tongues, Jane ran from the room and out the door. I followed her out to the car where she proclaimed that I needed to take her away from there and she was never coming back. It kind of freaked her out. It was a few months later before she was filled with the Holy Spirit, back at Joe’s house meeting, and bugging her sorority sisters by posting scripture verses around the sorority house.

My pastor from my little home church in Gravois and another pastor I met during a college group retreat encouraged me to go to seminary to be trained as a pastor. They believed I had a calling on my life for full-time ministry. I told them no, because I wanted to do something, which could be a platform for sharing Jesus that people wouldn’t expect. Everyone expects a pastor to talk about Jesus, but I wanted to show that Jesus could be Lord of your life without being religious or a pastor.

By the late 1970’s Jane and I were married, and Christian Fellowship had moved from a college fellowship to an incorporated church. I worked for the State of Missouri in Jefferson City and then directed an agency serving handicapped adults also in Jefferson City, but all the while serving in the church, leading a small group, and doing all I could to minister to the growing number of people attending. I was growing in recognizing that serving the church which was my passion. When I was invited to join the staff in 1986, I jumped at the opportunity to take a 40% cut in pay and serve the people of God full-time.

Over the years I’ve overseen our small group ministry, and with Jane led college ministry and children’s ministry. I took and then taught classes at the Christian Fellowship Bible Institute when it was operating and led mission teams to Nicaragua, Russia, and several to Guatemala.

In the early 1990’s, I was asked to help in a pastoral role at Christian Fellowship School. I took on the role of Principal of the school in 1994 and served in that capacity and as Head of School until 2020. At that time, I stepped out of the school and back into a pastoral position with the church for the last couple of years.

Over the years I have had opportunity to serve alongside people who have been to me friends, confidants, personal intercessors, advisors, and role models as spouses, pastors, servants, what it means to be a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ. At my retirement party I recognized those in the school with whom I worked for over two decades, Rick Mueller, Charlotte Schauwecker, Kim Thoma, and so many more. Today I want to say thanks to others who contributed to my life and to so many others.

First, the elders with whom I worked for over 30 years, who supported me, sometimes corrected me, and always loved me.
Phil Schaefer, who was the point of the arrow God used for us in prayer, vision, faithfulness, perseverance, and a model for what it looks like to practice a long obedience in the same direction.

Clay Spencer, our confessor, whose compassion and wisdom combined with strong theological convictions and knowledge made him a trusted shepherd, counselor, and teacher.

Dan Barraco, whose prophetic gift and timely words to people in time of need modeled for me how to listen for God during difficult situations.

Then there are so many other pastors both present and past:

Marc Galaske, whose love for the youth inspired me and reminded me that people and particularly young people will listen to you only if they believe you care about them.

Donnie Berry whose love for the word of God and for teaching it to others brought new Biblical understanding to all of us.
Rodney Kingstone, whose spiritual insights and humble love for Jesus gave him a thoroughfare into people’s hearts.
Doug Phillips who loved talking to people about Jesus more than anyone I know.

Herb Swanson whose life of integrity and practice of spiritual disciplines produced fruit that will last for eternity.
Steve Boul and Brad Lademann who demonstrated that following Jesus sometimes means pulling up roots and taking risks outside of one’s comfort zone.

Terry Virgo who modeled a level of leadership, humility, and the bringing together of word and spirit which greatly impacted CF and for which we will be forever grateful.

Sam Poe whose reckless love for Jesus, love for missions and prophetic gifting inspired us to see a bigger God.

My own son, Aaron, who gathered, inspired, and influenced others for Christ in a manner beyond his years.

Elias Torres who served Jesus with relentless abandon and discipled others to do the same.

Bob Stricker who brought some maturity to our very young leadership in the early years and who showed us how to stand and believe God in the face of adversity.

Brad Garrison, who was my friend and spiritual companion through my early years with Jesus.

Joe Tosini, who gathered a rag tag group of Jesus lovers and set the course for Christian Fellowship as a place where worship, relationships, and the importance of the local church would be held in high value.

I am grateful for the last two years where I have grown to appreciate our current pastoral and leadership team members and support staff, including Beth Bramstedt, Steve Boul, NeNe Peter, Jean Claude Ntimpa, Cody Riggins, Kalyn Briscoe, Jo Scott, Tara Freeman, and Max Vikhter.

Lastly, Michael Acock, thank you for being whoever and whatever the church needed the last twenty years. You have served with grace, humility, and with all your heart as unto the Lord. We are blessed that God has called you to lead Christian Fellowship.

There were so many things I would like to leave with you as a form of exhortation. Such as read and meditate on the Bible. Chew on it and be transformed by it. Pray. Don’t think you can do life without prayer. We need God’s help, His mind, His power. Give. Being God’s church means giving generously a portion of what He has given you. Fully participate in the kingdom of God by being a giver. But this is what I will emphasize: worship.

Back in our very early days as a church, we invited, upon the recommendation of Judson Cornwall, an American missionary to Argentina to do a weekend seminar on worship. His name was Robert Miller. I did not like Robert Miller. I thought he was arrogant and condescending toward us pitiful, spiritually weak Americans. Maybe he had a right to think that way as he was ministering in a country where any hint of opposition to the strict right-wing government was met with a nighttime disappearance or an open death squad. I know he had lost people within his church and his own life was at risk if he wasn’t careful.

So, Robert Miller saw worshipping God not as a convenience, but as a holy necessity. I vividly remember one session where Robert Miller led us in singing, “Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul and All that Is Within Me” over and over again. Exhorting us to sing louder and with more intensity, less we demonstrate anything less than “all that is within me.” We sang it no less than a dozen times, maybe as many as 20. Several times I thought, “Why am I doing this? I’m going to protest or walk out of here.” In the end, it was not a pleasant experience, and I would never support anything like it, however, it did impress upon me the fact that I could command my soul to worship when it was time to worship, rather than leaning on my feelings. So I want to exhort you to become or continue to press forward in worship.

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship.

Now I believe this verse pertains to the entirety of our lives, not just when we gather in a place like this to worship. In fact, The Message Bible writes it this way:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life, and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.

So as you enter into your workplace, whether it is digging holes or doing IT in a local business or changing diapers as a mother or studying for a test as a student, when we do it as unto the Lord, it is worship. God sees it as work unto Him and He uses it as a means of bringing blessing to the community and glory to Him, whether you and others recognize it or not.
But there are specified, designed times when He bids us to come and worship Him in singing as a congregation of believers. So I just want to remind us about some things pertaining to this worship.

1. God is always worthy of worship. “In view of God’s mercy”. If you have experienced, if you understand, if you can grasp God’s mercy, worship Him. His mercy is new every morning, so He is always extending mercy which demands a response to worship. The Psalmist says,
“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.” Psalm 95:6,7
He is God, we are His people. Let us worship Him.

2. Worship is spiritual warfare and causes darkness to flee. Three weeks ago, I quoted Psalm 149:6
“May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands.”

“Praise be to the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” Psalm 144:1

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” 2 Chron. 20:22

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:12

Warfare is never waged at our convenience. We are the light of the world, and it is a part of our calling, it is your ministry to extend the kingdom of God and expel the darkness, that includes worship.

3. Worship is sacrifice. A sacrifice isn’t left with a choice. You don’t ask the sacrificial lamb, “What are your thoughts on this?” We surrender our wills to God’s, knowing His will serves our best interest and our greatest happiness.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of our lips that confess his name.” Heb. 13:15
“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5
A spiritual sacrifice means that it may be hard at times, particularly in times of loss. Like when David and Bathsheba’s son died, and David’s response was to go into the House of the Lord and worship.
The first mention of worship in Genesis is when Abraham is taking Isaac to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him before God. Abraham tells the servants who have accompanied them to stay behind while he and the boy continue to the mountain to worship.
When Jane and I returned to our first service after she lost her sight, standing and worshipping God had some sacrifice to it. Some of you have done the same in the midst of loss. Yet we worship because we need God and:

4. God’s presence is readily experienced in worship. I say “readily” because there is no guarantee. But He loves our praise and worship and His manifest presence, that is His felt presence, is readily experienced.
“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” Psalm 22:3 Now I want to use this verse somewhat reluctantly, because it is a difficult verse to translate in the Hebrew. Some scholars lean more towards the NIV translation, which is “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel” I make this point only to be completely true to scripture and not to try to make it say something I want it to say, when it may not. Nonetheless, I believe the principle is still true as James tells us: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” James 4:8a
So let us create an atmosphere of worship, which draws the human soul toward God and God’s manifest presence toward us.

5. You are realigning your mind and soul with the one thing and person who matters most. By one thing, I mean the kingdom of God, and by person, I obviously mean our triune God. The world so much wants to rule our thinking, to cause us to conform. But what does Romans 12:2 say?
“Don’t be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of you mind.”
Worship, the singing of truth to the one who is truth, realigns our mind, our hearts, our souls, so we begin to think more Godly, more clearly according to his good, pleasing, and perfect will. The Psalmist says, I will sing unto the Lord. I will sing praise. He says, “Praise the Lord, O my soul”. He is commanding himself to enter into worship. Speak to your soul to praise the Lord!

Brothers and sisters, beloved of God, let us be a worshipping community. Let us join with the generations before us and inspire the generations following us to worship the living God. Styles of worship may change. Songs and music will change. But let us worship like the Psalmist of almost 3,000 years ago with exuberance, with reverence, with joy, with upraised hands, with bowed knees, with dancing, with determination, with humility, with confidence, with assurance that God is in our midst and He is singing over us with joy as Zephaniah 3:17 tells us. This is my final plea, Let this, by God’s grace, continue to be a distinctive of Christian Fellowship, that it is a house of worship. Amen