We were sitting in Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor on a Saturday afternoon. Huge sundaes, the specialty of the house, sat on the table before us. Laughing and talking together, this group of friends was enjoying life in that way that is unique to teenagers. But more than our youth, our common bond was our love for Jesus.
Passionate for His Kingdom, we had spent the morning at church engaged in a lively Bible study with our pastor. When empty stomachs began to clamor, we headed to nearby Farrell’s for lunch. After wading through burgers and fries, we were ready to dig into the sundaes. While we were inside savoring every mouth-watering bite, the dark grey clouds that had been hovering ominously all morning finally let loose. It was raining the proverbial cats and dogs. It was then that I began to fret that perhaps I had left my car lights on. Yes? No? Maybe? Should I run out in the rain and check? Ugh. My pastor must have noticed my inner turmoil because he asked what I was thinking. Almost before I finished telling him my dilemma, he was out the door. Through the window I saw him splashing through puddles as he hurried to check my car. He was back shortly with his report: the lights were off.
Almost 40 years later and I still remember that day. Not because of the Bible study, or the food, or the laughter. It was that one act of humble service that is burned into my memory. My pastor epitomized these words of Jesus:
Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. Luke 22:26.
Pastor Snook was the most humble, godly person I have ever had the privilege of knowing. His ministry changed my life. I met him during the days of the Jesus People revival in the 1970’s. The front pews of Trinity Assembly of God were filled with young people who were meeting the Lord. There were barefoot, long-haired hippies in cut-offs, sitting alongside leather-clad, long-haired bikers. There was a scramble to get seats as close to the front as possible as though sitting further back might interfere with our ability to absorb the truth that was being preached.
Looking back, I realize Pastor Snook invested a tremendous amount of time and physical energy in the young people in his church. He was the one who led the high school Bible study group. We peppered him with questions, none too simple or silly for him to address in his gentle, considerate manner. One time when I was in his office I asked, “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘The Lord will make a way where there is no way?’ He replied, “Well, I don’t believe I have ever read that in the Bible, but let’s check together.” He pulled out a concordance, and together we searched for that verse. Of course, he knew all along it wasn’t there, but he kindly let me discover that for myself and in the process introduced me to a concordance. Another time I showed up at his office in tears, fearing I had compromised my testimony at school that day. A teacher had ridiculed my faith and I had broken into tears. He listened carefully and then said, ‘I think your response will speak to him of how much you love God.’ So simple, so reassuring.
One year he packed up an RV full of high school students and drove through the night to Minneapolis, Minnesota so that we could go to an open house at North Central Bible College. It was a long drive, but one I would come to know well. A full day including chapel, cafeteria food, and an afternoon of fun activities cemented my decision to return as a full time student the following year.
It was on the return trip from the open house that I had a memorable conversation with Pastor Snook. Sometime during the night I awakened to find that we were the only two people awake. I crawled my way over sleeping bodies to the front of the RV and deposited myself in the empty passenger seat. He chuckled a bit as he ascertained, correctly, that I was worried about him staying awake on the dark Wisconsin interstate. We began to talk and after a while he told me about a ministry decision he had had to make. When the unchurched young people began pouring into the church, he had to decide what to do. Although I was completely unaware of it at the time, I can now easily imagine that some church members may have been unhappy about their changing demographics. He said, “I could either reject what was happening or accept it. And I didn’t want to miss out on what God was doing so I accepted it!” Am I ever glad he did!
He must have communicated pretty effectively his vision for the church, because I never felt anything other than love and acceptance from that Body of believers. Pastor Snook’s decision to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit had a profound effect on numerous young people.
When I find myself looking critically at new trends among younger Christians in the church, I want to remember that I was once a part of a new trend in the Church. Men, you take it for granted that you go to church in shirt-sleeves and no tie? That use to be a no-no. Ladies, you wear slacks or (gasp!) even jeans to church without a second thought? You have the Jesus People generation to thank for that. Are you worshipping to the sound of guitars and drums? Without new trends you would still be singing along to the organ.
When the Spirit of God is at work in a way that looks different to what I am accustomed to, I want to remember the advice Gamaliel gave to the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem. The council had just ordered Peter and the apostles to quit teaching about Jesus. When they declined to do so, the enraged council members wanted to kill them. Gamaliel, one of the most famous rabbis of his time, calmed the crowd down with these words: “In the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
I will forever be grateful that Pastor Snook heeded the advice of this ancient rabbi. He didn’t want to discover that he had been fighting God. Because of leaders like him, my generation rose up to receive the freshness of God’s Spirit and the church was revived.
And what about the generation that is just now rising up? I love this verse from the song Hosanna:
“I see a generation rising up to take the place with selfless faith. I see a new revival starting as we pray and seek. We’re on our knees.”