Sunday’s Church Service, Part 1

I’m going to try to explain what church was like Sunday, but I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer to get it right. Still, I’m going to try.

Shon’s sermon was about the call of Abram. He focused on the barrenness of Sarai and explained how devastating it was in that culture and time to be barren. That was a society all about building a heritage through their descendants. That’s one reason Abram was so thrilled that God promised him many descendants; that was one of the greatest blessings imaginable in that society.

Shon pointed out that barrenness remains a problem today. There’s more than one kind of barrenness, Shon said, but he focused on the same kind of barrenness suffered by Sarai — the inability to have children.

To make the point, Shon asked a couple from our church to speak briefly on what it was like to have spent over a decade trying to have children — and failing, with six miscarriages and countless prayers, doctor visits, pills, and shots — and no children. The pain was evident in their faces and voices. The husband, Ken, spoke of how hard it was knowing that he’d never have get to be an elder, or play catch with his own son or daughter, or get to baptize his own children.

You see, going back at least 20 years, we’ve encouraged dads to baptize their own children. I baptized all four of mine. That was many years ago, and for me, that was an even bigger thrill than holding my sons when they were first born. Getting to baptize your own children is just inexpressibly joyous. I’m getting chills as I type remembering those baptisms.

It was a great sermon. Shon concluded by saying that he couldn’t honestly promise that God would cure anyone’s barrenness. Sometimes God does, but not always. But everyone — no matter how tragic their circumstances — could be of service to someone else. We can all be needed. We can all have an impact. We can all serve a higher purpose than our own wants and needs.

Shon delivered the invitation, and two young boys came forward to be baptized.

Unknown to Ken, one of his friends, Johnny, the father of three boys, had made his own plans for Sunday unaware of Ken’s presentation. Johnny’s two oldest sons had been talking to their parents about being baptized this Sunday. Ken didn’t know that Johnny’s oldest two would be baptized Sunday.

On Saturday, Johnny typed up a letter asking Ken to handle the honors — to baptize his two sons for him. But Johnny had had difficulty tracking Ken down due to the holiday weekend. He finally found him during the service, just before the sermon — and handed him the letter.

And so after Johnny’s two oldest boys came forward, Ken went back to the changing area with his friend and two sons. No one knew what was going on until Ken stepped into the baptistry with the oldest of the boys. The congregation gasped at Johnny’s generosity and thoughtfulness, to let Ken handle the baptisms. But they didn’t know until Ken spoke that Johnny had made this decision without knowing that Ken would be speaking to the church about the burden of barrenness.

I was overwhelmed. You see, I figure I’m a pretty generous guy. Well, I thought I was. But I can’t imagine letting someone else baptize my own sons. That moment, that memory is too precious to share. The experience was too personal, too intimate to give away. I don’t think I could give those experiences away for anyone.

But Johnny gave up that inexpressible privilege and joy for a friend who would otherwise never have known anything quite like that. And it was his oldest two sons. It’s grace beyond belief.

That’s what happens in a congregation infused with God’s Spirit and the grace bought by the blood of Jesus. Jesus changes everything.

Just two weeks ago, the congregation applauded the announcement that one of our couples had finally — finally — completed the adoption of a baby with Down’s Syndrome from Russia. The Russian judge had originally turned down the adoption, amazed that anyone would want to do such a thing. The Russia attitude to their mentally disabled is shame. To them, it’s unimaginable that someone could want such a baby.

Well, the couple appealed the decision, and the Russian government found itself embarrassed before the international community. On appeal, the decision was reversed and the law changed, opening the door for many other couples to adopt disadvantaged Russian children. Countless lives will be changed for the better.

I’m an elder and, supposedly, a spiritual leader. But I could not have, in good conscience, asked Johnny to let Ken baptize Johnny’s two oldest sons. I could not have asked a couple to go to Russia and adopt a baby with Down’s Syndrome and — in the process — take on the Russian judicial system. I have no standing to make requests of people like that. I’m not that good.

Only God can do that, and he does that through his Spirit. God is alive and well and working powerfully through his Holy Spirit. Never doubt that. And never doubt that God can use you to make a difference.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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13 Responses to Sunday’s Church Service, Part 1

  1. Dave R. says:

    Thank you for this! I needed a blessing this morning and this sure did the trick.

  2. Price says:

    Jay…I’m with Dave..That was an amazing story that just blessed my socks off… If only I could stop feeling like I need to break down and cry I’d be alright… That was a Light that permeated the darkness…

  3. Ditto to Dave and Price’s comments!

    The attitude to orphans in general in the old Soviet Empire is not good. Many people look at them as “losers” and at orphanages as training schools for criminality – and with some justification. In Ukraine, for example, government statistics have told us that 20% of the orphans commit suicide in the first year after they leave the orphanage. Of those who survive 5 years, 80% of the boys are in organized crime and 50% of the girls are prostitutes.

    One reason for these sad facts is that no one has taught them any better. Another reason is simple survival.

    This has created an open door for churches there. We at Eastern European Mission are helping Ukrainian churches as they work in hundreds of these orphanages, provide foster care for hundreds of the orphans in their own homes, and church families have even adopted hundreds of the kids.

    This is opening hearts to the gospel – and the church is growing. When I first heard these things soon after I began working with EEM, it reminded me of what I had read about the early church and the practice of “exposing” unwanted children in the days of the Roman Empire. Only two groups of people were interested in those children (mostly girls): the Christians and the pimps. How sharp a contrast this makes between light and darkness! And God gives the increase!


  4. John says:

    Though I no longer belong to the CoC, I am thankful, and thrilled, that congregations, like yours, are coming to an awarness of the presence of the living God.

  5. rich constant says:

    and me through the story.
    the upward call,
    may the lord continue to bless us all,and strengthen us in the unity of the spirit in the bond peace,in the Godly love of THE MISSION.


  6. LoriBelle says:


  7. rich constant says:

    i should have at the end said

    i one day, lord willing, will learn to write right…
    but this old dog will continue to learn a new trick.

  8. Adam says:

    Ever wonder what Jesus means by “hate your children”? What John did on Sunday is what it means.

    Powerful, powerful, powerful stuff. My wife still can’t talk about it without crying.

  9. LoriBelle says:

    What did John say about “hate your children” on Sunday? I know of a group that carries this to the extreme. It’s very sad.

  10. Terry says:

    Thank you, Jay, for sharing that experience with your readers.

  11. Doug says:

    And I (A relatively new CofC’er) just learned last year that some in the CofC question the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Who else could have pulled off this off?

  12. Jay Guin says:


    Johnny surrendered the joy of baptizing his own children for the sake of Ken — putting Jesus first, which is what Jesus means by “hate your children.”

  13. Rose Marie says:

    This sounds like eloquent writing to me, Jay. And even more eloquent is the Holy Spirit who can move within any of us if we allow Him.

    In a ladies class recently we had occasion to speak about how we have seen the attitude in the US change in our lifetime about the mentally ill, retarded and severely handicapped. The Soviet is a mere 75 years behind us and they have been behind a curtain of political isolation. God is breaking down barriers everywhere. Our world is shrinking because of technology, money and politics. That shrinking world will be mightily impacted by the Holy Spirit and God said that He would do it in the name of His Son! It is a good time to be alive.

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