This last week I discovered on Sunday who some of my real friends are. It was my last Sunday at the church I had served as pastor for a little over 4 years. I knew it was going to be emotional and it wasn’t only my last service but the last service where the church was going to operate. The Virtual Pew was getting ready to start and I was excited about the things God was doing, as well as the things I knew he would be doing with the new ministry. As bright as the future is, I knew the day, April 30, 2006, was going to be a sad day. God had done a great work at this little church, we truly understood the concept of God being able to work with a small church, especially a small church with so much artistic talent, and its people coming from such diverse backgrounds.
One of the things I was actually kind of cautious of, and had actually prayed for, was that God wouldn’t use this day to send a lot of visitors to the church. Well, it was getting time for church, and as is the tradition in most inner city urban churches, our people were arriving late. Then, low and behold, I see an elderly lady showing up as the first person to the church. Here I had prayed for no visitors and the first thing to arrive was just that, a visitor. I was concerned; already we had a visitor arriving prior to the start of the service. What was I going to do? What was in fact, God going to do?
My wife was talking to the elderly lady when our own people started to show up, I was feeling better as I was going to have some dear friends at church I had shared my last few years with. We were all looking forward to the celebration that was to come, but also sad about the “official” closure of the church. As I was talking with my friends from church I was surprised in an even greater, unexpected way by guess what? More visitors.
I am active in the wrestling community. Between wrestling, (the real sport not the fake stuff) and movies I have been reminded for years that I needed to find a ministry that would allow me to be more effective in those ministries. A dear friend of mine, named Aaron Sweazy, had dubbed me the Minister of the Mat. That moniker has carried on now for the last couple of years, but it was within these groups that I developed real relationships outside of the church community. It was the wrestling community that would teach me a valuable lesson on this special day.
It wasn’t long before church started that I saw Sweaz show up at the church, along with a number of other friends involved in wrestling. Sweaz lives about 2 hours from Wichita yet he and the others show up at church. There were around 12 or so in total. This dear friend, along with my son, had gone out of their way to invite several people from the wrestling community be at church during my last Sunday. Here I was, someone who had been asking God, “Please Lord no visitors today,” when in actuality we ended up having around 13 -15.
I was reminded of the value of friends, friends who would go out of their way to let you know that you are special to them. Friends who would sacrifice to let you know they loved and appreciated you. Friends who were willing to do something that I would never forget. Aaron Sweazy had gone out of his way to let me know how much I had meant to him, but his story also reminded our church of what they had meant for him and the rest of the wrestling community.
My friends in the wrestling community made it clear that our church, through me, had provided a ministry to them. Aaron shared about how God had used me, and how he had recalled the church praying for him. Aaron had gone through a serious bout with cancer and the church had made the commitment to pray for him and keep him in our prayers. Sways spoke about how we as a church had we placed our hands on him and prayed for him was one of the most important days in his life. He had never experienced anything like this, and I think he knew, without doubt, that we loved him enough to pray for him on a regular basis. Yes, a reminder to the church of the importance of friendship and love. It was a lesson of how that my friends could become their friends, and their friends, could become my friends. The accolades weren’t really as much about an individual or a church as they were about a concept, a concept we call friendship.
I have recently become involved in MySpace, a sight this blog will appear on. Truth is our society is looking for friends just like many do on MySpace. Friends that will hold your hand with you, cry with you, laugh with you, and be there when you need them. Kind of like Swayz was with me and I hopefully have with him. This concept reminds me of the passage from the Bible that comes out of Romans 12: 15-17, it reads;
(15) When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. (16) Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people. (17) Don't mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others,
I have learned this is what real friendship is. Yes, it is hard to have hundreds of friends, but it is even harder going through life without friends. I mention this today, deep inside feeling a little regret. You see my friend Aaron Sweazy is having a celebration tonight and I can’t be there. He is celebrating his 1 year anniversary of being in remission from cancer. While I can’t be there, I wanted to do something special, something special enough that would let him know that I love him and appreciate him. This blog is that special thing.
Sweaz, you have reminded me of what friendship is. We have been happy together, we have been sad together, we have laughed together, we have cried together. I want you to know that while I can’t be with you tonight, I am thinking of you and thanking God for you. I look forward to the phone call I’ll make a little later on where I get to talk to you. You continue to give, in more ways than you can imagine. I hope that this blog, in some ways is a continuation of that gift. Not just to me, but hopefully to those who read this and realize that through your example, and through reading this, they as well can be a better friend to someone who needs it. I love you bro, and want you to know that.
Now to the rest of you out there, take this message and learn; be a friend, a real friend, let someone know today or tonight that you appreciate them. Notice their response. If the Son of God was willing to become our friend, isn’t it about time that we became a friend with someone else and then share our friends with them, just like we do at MySpace or in the rest of the “real world?”
To learn more about The Virtual Pew visit www.thevirtualpew.com Also Check out Mike's MySpace Page at: www.myspace.com/mikefurches Blog at, http://blog.myspace.com/mikefurches and Hollywood Jesus Group at MySpace at, http://groups.myspace.com/hollywoodjesus If at MySpace you can visit Hollywood Jesus at www.hollywoodjesus.com or Mike's Virtual Pew Blog there at, http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/comments/virtualpew/blog.html