The Power of
FIRST GLIMPSE: Looking Forward to Louisville
Anaheim, California, 1980
Sweaty palms. Pint-size leisure suit. Racing heart. Three terrifying judges. It was the first of many competition performances, from Bible memorization and sword drill to drama, piano, vocal solo, art, and photography. In 12 years of competition, I won only once. But those years of practice shaped, molded, and prepared me for ministry. I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience.
Charleston, West Virginia, 1991
Top row. Wednesday night missionary service. As the convention choir sang “Oh, What a Savior,” the words sank deep into my soul. Shouts rang out across the arena, and one attendee, overcome completely by emotion, left his seat and ran the length of the arena, his booming shouts reaching all the way to the upper-deck seating. It was more than just an unforgettable service. It was the night I felt God nudge me toward ministry through music.
Birmingham, Alabama, 2006
Relentless sun. Triple-digit temps. Sweltering humidity. More than 400 volunteers spread across the city for the first Impact event armed with Bibles, hammers, chainsaws, and determination. Teams of two and three walked the streets, taking the gospel to every door along the way. And before the hot sun faded to a molten copper sunset, six people met the Savior in central Alabama. I’ve rarely been so proud of Free Will Baptists.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 2010
Sunday morning. Opening service. My friend and mentor Bert Tippett preached his final convention sermon powerfully. He expressed no bitterness, though the final stages of an aggressive form of bone cancer would soon claim his life. His faithful words of encouragement in the face of suffering still echo in my mind.
Charlotte, North Carolina, 2011
Quivering voice. Shaking hands. Last-second adjustments. After leading the opening songs of the convention on Sunday morning, as I turned to take my seat, I bumped and spilled the courtesy pitcher of ice water under the pulpit. Over the next 40 minutes, Sunday School teacher Rodney Holloman was gradually drenched with bone-chilling water from the knees down as a puddle formed around his feet. He still hasn’t let me forget it.
Tampa, Florida, 2013
My first board report. Although only two steps led to the stage, I somehow missed one. Papers flying, I pinwheeled across the platform, finally catching myself on the keyboard stand. Nobody remembers what I said that day, but every year, somebody reminds me of that not-so-graceful display. I don’t blame them. I would have laughed, too.
Kansas City, Missouri, 2016
After a message calling generations to work together for a stronger church and denomination, my daughter and I walked down the long aisle to the altar where we knelt and prayed. It was a moment I will never forget.
Louisville, Kentucky, 2017?
I could fill pages and pages with memories from the national convention. And maybe you could too. The only question is: what will happen this year in Louisville?
About the Columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.