This is the last time I’ll be here. The last time I’ll come to this theater to sing, to worship, to dig deep into the Bible. The last time I’ll ever be social with my friends on a Thursday night.
Yes, it’s an odd thing to have a Bible study on a Thursday night; at least that day was being filled with a night of worship. Man, great memories being here in this old theater, seeing the red brick walls, sitting in the rugged incline seats, hearing them squeak when you sat all the way down.
This place had a history to it, and I’m going to miss Renovate and all the awesome things I’ve experienced here.
The first time I came here, I was a very introverted person who didn’t want to talk to anybody, befriend anyone, and who was very self-conscious about the way I looked and acted. The day I walked through the doors of the Lobo Theater, I felt alone. Although there were a lot of people attending Renovate 7 or 8 years ago, I felt like this wasn’t my place to be.
So, I got in line where they were serving coffee and hot chocolate because I love me some good hot chocolate! Then, one girl started talking to me and asked me if it was my first time. Of course, little shy me, I spoke quietly to answer her question. Then, all of a sudden, the lobby lights shut off, and it was time for everyone to go into the main auditorium and worship.
I sat in the back where no one sat by me and I could be comfortable by myself. The auditorium lights dimmed, and the worship leader began to sing. The songs were good and familiar! You know, the same kind of worship songs you hear at church, but with a twist to it, since this place was filled with college age students. After that was done, it was time for the message.
The college pastor was in the book of Philippians, and I came in the middle of the series. Nick was his name, and he was a very passionate person who loved talking about the Bible. He did his best to make it simple to everyone, yet also go deep.
By the end of his message, I was sold. I knew this would be my home church for my Thursday nights, and I wouldn’t regret it after that!
It took years after my first run-in with Renovate to finally break out of my introverted ways and become the social butterfly I am today. Slowly but surely, I made friends along the way. With myself talking very quietly, I had to introduce myself to a person, then reintroduce myself to the same person again, and again, and again. It took a few weeks for them to get my name down, but I had the same trouble too, so I couldn’t really blame them for their lack of memory.
This is where I met two people to whom I finally revealed my same-sex attraction.
One was the assistant pastor at the time, now the college pastor, and the other was a tough, muscular, “leader in the making” man. Hanging out with them constantly, slowly building that trust, that relationship with them, made me break out of my shell and have the courage to reveal what I was struggling with — THE BEST decision I ever made.
Because of this small step, I would be able to be more open to other people in the future, telling them about my struggle with my sexuality.
One of my best memories was taking an impromptu trip to see Hillsong United in Oklahoma City for a weekend with people I didn’t know. They became the first group of people I could call my friends and hang out with from time to time. Beside seeing United in concert, it was a blast playing Ultimate Frisbee (Gold team rules) with them, then going downtown to find a neat ice cream place and bomb lunch!
This is where I started going to a small group, too. I took that first step of saying, Yes, I want to go more in depth in the Bible and with other people. I want to share my insecurities and my doubts with others, too, and be challenged by the leaders, even if it hurts.
Renovate made me feel more alive than ever before. Of course, through the years, it changed with people, but it challenged me to learn from others, to receive advice from those who were mature in the faith, and to be honest about myself. As of now, I’m still in a small group with a whole different set of friends, the best people I could ever be with!
Being more honest and open, I felt the burden lifted off my shoulders, feeling free of the secret that I carried.
Yet, I also found hurt and betrayal from people I thought were my friends. Although this happened, it taught me how to be discerning with people and how to discern my own actions.
Both the good and the bad have made me bold in my faith and tolerant of people who are hurting, even those who have messed-up backgrounds. If I need to call out someone or some people, I’m not afraid to do it, though within the biblical standard.
Most of all, Renovate taught me just to listen to people, and in time, when the time is right, tell them about Jesus or challenge them to look toward Jesus even more.
Seven years of coming to this college ministry, calling it my home, has really changed my life for the better. I’m really going to miss this place, and everything it did in my life! My passion and my convictions were instilled in me from this college ministry.
To say goodbye is probably the hardest thing I’ll ever do.
But we, the people here and myself, need to stop drinking the milk and start eating meat. Yes, it’s sad that this ministry is ending, but I know something beautiful will come of it.
I have to remember that God is sending us out to a broken world, to reach the needs of people, to share the good news about Jesus, and to mature in our own faith, too.
So, goodbye old friend; I am going to miss you a bunch. Thank you for helping me grow in my faith, convicting me of my sins, and challenging me to be a better Christian.
“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4)
Have you ever experienced the end of an era or ministry? How did you deal with this? Are you going through this now?