Have a Homecoming And They Will Come
Everyone has something that excites them—what they want to do for ministry. Steve Walker says, “Mine feels like it should be helping the community get to know each other—meaning the community in general and also 'community' meaning other church organizations.”
Walker, an active member of the Anchor Point Church plant in Stanfield, Ore., has enjoyed attending Bill Gaither Homecomings over the years. One time Steve heard Mark Lowry (Christian comedian and vocalist who has performed with the Gaither Homecoming) make a joke about “all these denominations under one roof and nobody’s fighting!”
Walker thought, “I should do a homecoming! Something on a local level like a Gaither Homecoming and get all the local churches involved.” And that’s where it all began. “Now I guess we’re going to do another one in March ," he shrugs with a smile.
When asked what it was like getting started, Walker said, “Amazingly, I talked to several pastors, thinking they’d give me information about talent in their churches, but the pastors weren’t the least bit interested! Then one day I was talking to a friend of mine who attends another church and he thought it was a really good idea, but he got the same response from pastors!”
Walker began looking about for talented participants, and gradually found one group, then another. In spite of the pastors’ responses, the people of the congregations were interested and enthused about the idea. When six or seven of the members of one of the larger Hermiston churches went to tell their pastor they were involved with the first Hermiston Homecoming, then both their senior and associate pastors jumped on-board.
Walker financed the event out of his own pocket, including renting the Hermiston Community Center. His wife, Carmen, made hors d’oeuvres for the concertgoers to enjoy at intermission.
Diversity in God dominated the day, demonstrating itself in musical numbers, including bluegrass, country, orchestral, patriotic and old-fashioned gospel. There were solos, groups, comedy, sign language and even a ventriloquist act.
Walker was and still is amazed at how it worked out. “God wanted it to happen, and it happened,” he says. At the end of the day, area pastors’ comments had gone from “not interested” to “have it at my church next year!”
Attendance was estimated to be at least 425 people, with representation from about 12 churches among the participants. The audience members represented far more churches than that. Seven or eight pastors from other churches as well as the manager of a popular Christian radio station attended—some participating. Only two churches Walker approached refused to participate in any way.
“I’d never done anything like this before and I’ve been to lots of things that weren’t attended very well, so I was concerned about publicity. We used radio ads on two stations, ads in three newspapers and placed fliers on numerous billboards throughout the surrounding towns and Hermiston. I also gave fliers to about a dozen of the area churches to put in their bulletins on Sunday morning," said Walker.
Walker was eager to say, “One of the coolest things was that I got to pray with so many people—something I hadn’t anticipated. When you decide to do something you don’t know how it’s going to end up, and that was one of the fringe benefits. I discovered that many people I’d known for years were Christians, and it has changed my relationship with them now when I see them.”
This experience spawned many God-centered conversations that otherwise would not have come about. “When I was brought up we never did anything with other churches. In the last six or seven years of my life I’ve discovered Adventists aren’t the only Christians in the world. Jesus said, ‘I have sheep of another fold that you don’t know anything about,’” said Walker.
"I would encourage you to put together a homecoming in your area and start an annual tradition that tears down walls and builds bridges."