I remember Dr. Brad Reynolds, my student ministry professor at SEBTS, telling our class that we needed to recognize, study, and understand the different cultures of the towns and regions of the churches that we served. I have thought back on that over the last 10 years since I graduated from seminary and I don’t think it has truly hit home until this week.
For those of you reading this that don’t know where I currently serve, I am the student pastor at FBC Enterprise, AL. Enterprise was devastated by a EF4 tornado on March 1st, 2007 at 1:12pm. That tornado caused massive damage to homes and businesses in Enterprise, but more importantly, caused massive damage to an elementary school and completely destroyed the high school here. The tornado took the lives of 8 students and one adult.
As I looked at social media throughout the day I have seen countless people posting their memories and feelings on that faithful day 10 years ago. I have people who serve in my ministry that were both teachers/administrators at the school and current students who were students at the elementary school when this happened. I have heard about this day many times in the 4 years that we have served in Enterprise, but because I wasn’t here when the tornado barreled through town I have never really felt a connection.
As I was reading this morning in 1 Corinthians 9 I read the following…
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
The Holy Spirit reminded me through these verses that even though the tornado happened 6 years before my family and I arrived in Enterprise, that because God had called us to share the Gospel with people in Enterprise this was our culture too. I realized that part of the reason that this town loves high school sports so much is that it brought them together after the tragedy. I realized the reason that the community loves the school system so much is that after the tragedy, the people here had a new appreciation for how precious our schools and the students in them are. I know that the reason some students are very afraid during severe thunderstorms is because of this tragedy. I realized that I have never really considered how the tornado, even though it was a horrible tragedy, is just another part of what makes the culture of Enterprise unique. Enterprise is a part of my family and I now, and if I am to stay true to the calling that God has placed on my life, I need to be like Paul and embrace the culture of Enterprise by understanding what happened during the tornado. Paul leaves us with a wonderful ending though, that no matter what that culture looks or feels like, that when the Gospel is shared it brings blessings and hope.