At the church I previously served, Ottawa First Church of the Nazarene (OFC), there is a small room located just inside the south entrance to the building. It isn’t much, as rooms go. It started out as a coat closet, had a brief run as an office, and ended up being called “The War Room.” It took on the name "The War Room" because leaders often made difficult decisions and hard choices there. It’s a special place.
“The War Room” was home to many leadership meetings at OFC. The Adult Ministry Team met there in order to oversee the pathway of our people from first time attender to core member. Every other Wednesday at 6:00 a.m. the Mission Strategy Team met there. These were business leaders who were also church leaders tasked with keeping the pastor on mission. I’m sure that turned out to be more of a job than they thought it was going to be, but they were good at it and God used their counsel.
I used it as a meeting place with individual staff members as we hammered out mission and vision issues. Mondays at 1:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. we held staff meeting there. At the Monday staff meetings we would celebrate any “wins” from the previous week. A “win” at OFC was anytime someone took a significant step in the journey of faith, but especially when someone crossed the line and accepted Jesus as their Savior for the first time. We lived for those moments. It was one such celebration that prompted me to write on the wall.
On this particular Monday we were celebrating 7 people who had made first time decisions for Christ. After reading the names, we prayed a short prayer of thanksgiving and started to move on with the meeting. Somehow that didn’t seem right.
If all of heaven rejoices when 1 sinner comes to repentance, it felt like we ought to do something more than pray a short prayer when 7 sinners did. So, lacking any other creative insight, I decided to write their initials and the date on the wall with a black marker. My thought was it would serve as a reminder to all of us who met there as to what we were there to accomplish. We decided to monitor the initials going up on the wall to make sure that no one was counted twice and that every set of initials truly represented a life changing decision. This wasn’t a “count the lifted hands” kind of discipleship, it was a “we’ve met, affirmed their decision, and here is their next step” kind of discipleship.
When I left OFC at the end of June there were 170 sets of initials written on the wall representing those who had prayed to start out or start over during the previous 12 months. Each set represented the Grace of God, the power of Christ, and the effectiveness of His church on mission. This is a Body of believers who get it; “It’s not about us.” Over 13 years they blew up their own comfort zones, invited friends, family and strangers, took chances, forgave failings, and never got comfortable with the fact that there were people who hadn’t yet heard the good news. Every Sunday is Easter at OFC.
Last weekend I was blessed to return and officiate a beautiful wedding at OFC. It had been scheduled for about a year and is the last wedding I’ll do there. So, after the ceremony I couldn’t resist the urge to stop by “The War Room” one last time. What I saw humbled me. Flipping on the light, I discovered there had been 46 new sets of initials added to the wall over the 5 months I had been gone. Praise God! What a testimony to the ongoing commitment of staff, interim pastor, and congregation to always be about the mission Jesus gave us to accomplish. Wow.
OFC has a new Sr. Pastor now, and this great group of leaders is fully behind him. I’m already a huge fan of Pastor Kevin and will be cheering at a distance as the church rolls on, whatever it looks like. Things will, should, and must continue to change at OFC, including the “The War Room.”
Soon, the wall will receive a fresh coat of paint just like the church will receive a fresh new vision. I won’t grieve the painting of the wall in “The War Room." After all, those names are written someplace much more permanent than a coat closet.
Indeed, let the church roll on.
Go, fight, win…OFC!