Jos 4:3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.
The church and I seemed perfectly paired. We both looked like we were on our last leg. I had recently left my home church of the last twenty years. I was trying to research churches around Chattanooga before potentially starting a new work in Chattanooga. But, I had a family crisis in the middle of my ‘market research’. The details do not matter to this story but it was bad and I was utterly devastated. I just wanted to go home and lick my wounds.
Tiftonia Church of God had a similar story. The church had been healthy and on the move. Some trouble happened about six months before I walked in the door. Members fled in droves. To make it worse, the pastor was having considerable health issues. On my first Sunday morning at Tiftonia Church of God had the pastor, his wife, the song leader, his wife, and a couple of other people not including myself.
Regardless of its problems, however, the church had three important features: (1) you could feel the Holy Ghost (2) it looked just like my first home church, Union Ave Baptist Church (3) the pastor, James Ford, carried himself just like my first pastor, Lawrence Hicks. James Ford was strong and humble with a huge heart that dwarfed even his massive six foot frame. God might not send me back to my old home Baptist church, but He sent me to the next best thing — a place with almost the same look and feel.
First, I stayed for selfish reasons. I was hurting and needed friends. We talked together. We prayed together. We worshiped God together. God saw me through that hour of darkness using the fellowship of Brother Ford and the good folks of Tiftonia Church of God.
Second, I stayed because of the call of God. Brother Ford’s health was failing and the Lord bound my heart to his work. I don’t think you can understand what it means without experiencing a call of Aaron and Hur to hold up a man of God’s arms during a rough battle. It’s a call to someone’s mission that bounds you to it.
The church’s biggest problem was its 100% senior membership. This 50+ year-old visiting Assembly of God preacher was the youngest person regularly attending the church. It broke my heart. I prayed intensely about it.
But, a miracle happened. Two daughters of a former pastor started bringing carloads full of youth to the church. They came ready to work. They spent their own money and gave days of labor fixing up the youth rooms. That church has a thriving youth department now. Praise God! Brother Ford saw a church full of consistent young people before he left to his reward.
I was able to see myself and that church cross over Jordan from our separate deserts. I know there will be more deserts for me in my life and my ministry. So, I wanted to keep something to remind me that my God saw me and Tiftonia COG through our storms. So, this morning, as I am about ready to leave for my next assignment from the Holy Ghost, I took a picture on my cell phone of a choir of young people. Their beautiful faces will remind me that my God always makes a way the next time I am discouraged.
— Donnie Bryson