It was Jan. 20, 1775, when the Virginia Gazette contained a small notice advising that “the several counties and corporations in this colony are requested to elect delegates to represent them in convention who are desired to meet at the town of Richmond in the county of Henrico on Monday the 20th of March, next.” The convention was called by Peyton Randolph in St. Johns Church to elect delegates to the Second Continental Congress to be held on May, 10, 1775.
To this meeting, a pastor, Peter Gabriel Muhlenburg, attended. The assembly was taken by the oratory of a young Virginian named Patrick Henry. Nestled in the body of his impassioned speech we find these immortal lines: “Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Pastor Pete was so moved, he returned to his church preaching with great passion and purpose. The next year, he preached his farewell sermon, saying, “there is a time to pray and a time to fight. The time had come to fight.” He took off his pastor’s robe, revealing his blue Continental Army uniform. It was a major step for John Peter Muhlenberg, pastor of Emanuel Church in Woodstock, Va., to join General George Washington’s Army as a colonel, with 300 members of his church forming the 8th Virginia Regiment. He served as Major-General in the Continental Army, and was then elected to the U.S. Congress and Senate.
It occurs to me often as I consider this courageous pastor’s life, ministry and decision, at some point he had a moment. There was a moment for him when he observed the world God had placed him to influence and saw the tremendous need for someone to respond with a Biblical voice and perspective to the needs of the culture. There was a moment when his heart was challenged. Perhaps it was in Richmond when Patrick Henry rose to his feet and shared the timeless call to action. It could have been in the lonely hours of searching God’s heart for his life and ministry. Either way, I am convinced there was a moment when he knew that the God of heaven was speaking to him. There was a moment when he chose to step boldly into a call which God had placed before him. He would be a steward of influence in the season of history entrusted to him. I love that when Abraham stepped out to follow God, he didn’t know where he was going, but he knew who he was going with.
Now, if you will, allow me to share that I experienced a moment a number of years ago. I began to look around and see not only the needs of the culture I found myself entrusted with ministering to, but the historically Biblical mandate that was handed to me in this moment in history. I experienced a moment when I was confronted with the clear leading of the Lord to be salt and light in areas of influence I had never considered. And then there was a moment, I shall never forget, when following the clear voice of the Lord, I preached my final Sunday sermon after 22 years of Pastoral Ministry, then symbolically removing my clerical robe of responsibility, began a new chapter of ministry with an incredible organization called the Family Research Council, which God has raised up for just such a time as this.
As a young man, I remember a telling line from a few brief remarks made by then-governor of California Ronald Reagan. The year was 1976 and he was invited to the podium at the National Republican Convention by then-President Gerald Ford to make a few remarks. Among the many things he said, one line sticks clearly in my mind today: “I had an assignment the other day. Someone asked me to write a letter for a time capsule that is going to be opened in Los Angeles a hundred years from now, on our Tercentennial. It sounded like an easy assignment. They suggested I write something about the problems and the issues today. I set out to do so, riding down the coast in an automobile, looking at the blue Pacific out on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was going to be that beautiful a hundred years from now as it was on that summer day. Let your own minds turn to that task. You are going to write for people a hundred years from now who know all about us. We know nothing about them. We don’t know what kind of a world they will be living in. And suddenly it dawned on me, those who would read this letter a hundred years from now will know. They will know whether we met our challenge.” Wow, does that resonate today. What we do with where we are will make a difference now and for those who follow. They will know. May we each have our moment.
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.
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