My name is Steve Fink. Some quick info about me: I said yes to Jesus at Threshold in November of 2005. Lead Pastor, Jeff Gardner married Lisa and I and baptized my son River, my daughter Avonlea, other son Bear and myself.
I can probably say that 99.5% of my “ah ha” moments or moments of seeing God really work have been in groups of people. So, I’m going to be getting into Cells and missions and why I feel it’s important to go on a mission trip and join a cell and the broader community, us as Threshold, us as the church. For those that don’t know, Cell is what we call a bible study group or small group. So here we go, another pitch to join cells blah blah blah… I’m not pitching for cells. I’m pitching for your life. (Disclaimer: I’m going to be name dropping like crazy. It’s going to sound like I just want to talk about myself. But I assure you, the purpose of my story is to tell you how the people in this church respond not only to just me and my family but to everyone. )
So a few summers I took my first mission trip to Kentucky. Up there, they do a devotional every morning, it is about 20 minute talk. Jason Robbins, our Pastor of Youth at Threshold volunteered our team to lead the last devotional on Friday morning. So come Tuesday or Wednesday, I was walking down the hall and Jason was talking to Traci Buckley. Traci is the girl who runs the show when it comes to the Kentucky trip, she’s awesome. All I heard was, “Don’t worry Steve will do it”, and he started laughing. So I went along with it and was like “sure no problem”. It was some time on Thursday afternoon when Traci says “are you all set for the devotional tomorrow morning?” I’m sorry, WHAT?!
So panic had set in. Friday morning, I woke up early and walked to the place where the devotionals are held. It’s this really cool place on a hill with 3 crosses, I sat down and prayed out loud. I said, God, I sure hope you know what you’re doing here….. Then the moment came and we had worship songs and it was my turn to talk and so I did. It could have been awful. I don’t know. But I had a few strangers come up to me and thank me for my message and gave me some positive feedback. It was an awesome experience and moment. So ever since then I have been having dreams and sleepless nights about preaching.
All trips to Kentucky have been just awesome. Let me just say this. I rode up in the car with Ryan Watkins and Joe Cato. Let me tell you what it’s like to be with them for 5 hours in a confined space. It was actually pretty hilarious. Each hour turned out to be a certain decade of music. We started in the 80’s and left the Y parking lot listening to Culture Club. So I had a bunch of awesome Holy Spirit filled moments the first Kentucky trip. The devotional that I mentioned was nerve racking but I’m so glad I got to experience that. I also had some awesome conversations with the high school kids. So it was great to connect with them on a different level. I got to work with Cheri Maisel and Jane Cannon for the week. It turns out Cheri is a perfectionist and she made me redo all the work that was done by the group that was there before we got there because it wasn’t done correctly. What a great way to bond!
We had been coming to Threshold for a while and we had not been part of a cell and didn’t know a whole lot of people. So Lisa and I were missing the boat. Or I should say, still on the boat. I’ll come back to that at the end. I kept saying “I don’t know enough about the bible to join a cell”. Does that sound familiar? Let me share a secret that no one shared with me. You don’t sit around a table and answer questions about the bible and get graded on it in cell. There is no test. There is no pass/fail.
So one day there was a cell outreach day. Lisa took initiative and signed us up for a cell. I was very apprehensive about this. I said “Ok, whose cell?” She said “Jeff’s”. “JEFF, as in Pastor Jeff? Are you kidding me?
At that time, we were in the process of losing our house, losing our cars, I was basically unemployed and Lisa had been laid off while on maternity leave. I was not in a very good place. I was making very bad decisions and our marriage and my life was on the brink. Our cell pulled me out of it and basically saved my life. You guys have heard stories about how Cells have changed lives. I may not be here if it wasn’t for them. So I don’t know why everyone isn’t in one.
So fast forward. There came a time where we felt we had to move on from our cell. We all became very close and that caused some accountability issues. So we felt we needed to branch out. It’s not you it’s us. But that whole experience was a spring board for our lives, both emotionally and spiritually. One of our cell mates Jodi shortly after that became an elder here. I made sure I went up to her for communion. I was so excited for her. When I got there, I instantly started to cry and just hugged her. I was so honored and blessed to be there. To this day that is one of my top Holy Spirit filled moments. That experience would not have had the same impact had I not been in her cell.
Going through life with our current cell….
Nate Hughes, Joe Crace and Jason Hase showed up at my dad’s funeral. They sat through stories and eulogies for a guy they didn’t even know and never met. They came up to me after the service and said “Man your dad sounded like a great guy. All those stories make me want to become a better dad”. That was one of the greatest complements I’ve ever heard about my dad and that turned my mood completely around. I went from morning my dad to celebrating his life. That’s what cell does people. That’s what fellowship does.
DOING LIFE TOGETHER:
One evening some guys met at Casey Crimmins’ house one evening. We all were talking a bit and Ryan Watkins told us about his mom getting diagnosed with Cancer. Casey looked at me and kind of nodded a bit so I talked about how I recently found out about my dad having cancer. It certainly change the mood in the room. So Ryan and I would obviously run into each other at church. I’d ask how his mom was doing and he’d ask how my dad was doing. We would eventually met up for lunch or a beer once in a while and talk about things. Cool story; eventually my mom and dad moved down from Connecticut and started coming to Threshold. I remember the first time dad took communion here. We got separated in line and it didn’t dawn on me until after church, but dad was served his first communion here by Ryan. I sent an email to Jeff and Ryan about it. It was just another intentional moment by God.
So my dad and Ryan’s mom would eventually lose their battle with cancer within about 30 days or so or each other. It sucked. Not the best thing to start a friendship on but hey, we got to walk that life together. If some of the guys never got together that night, that walk could have been very different. My friendship with Ryan was pretty much what got me to go to Kentucky that first time. I would bother the crap out of him. Hey Ryan, what should I bring? Do I need my own tools? Do I get to pick what project I work on? I’m sure at some point he wanted to tell me just to stay home.
Shortly after that, Jason Robbins took over the youth program and we got to know Jason and Katie Robbins and their kids. Jason and I are probably the 2 biggest kids in the youth group. There have been tons of Spirit filled moments in youth.
One youth story: After church one day one of the kids comes up to me and asks if we can talk. I said sure, I’m supposed to be putting chairs away and stuff so this was a good distraction. That seemed to happen a lot, me getting distracted when I was supposed to be breaking down. So we went down the hall were it was just the two of us. Keep in mind this particular kid hardly ever said a word in youth. He and his sister were always the 2 quietest people in the room. So we are in the hall and he just kind of looked at me and said “I said yes to Jesus”. To be a witness to that? Holy Crap!! If I wasn’t part of the youth group and didn’t have a relationship with that kid, that moment never would have happened.
This church cares for people. Truly cares.
Our church cares by supporting its people. We were the beneficiary of an anonymous monetary gift from someone at this church. It could have been all from this anonymous family or part of the building fund that Jeff talks about. We don’t know. I struggled heavily with this. I felt very uneasy excepting this grace, which is what it was. I reached out to Jeff about it and he directed me to Romans 8:26, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words.” That has become my favorite bible verse.
Lisa had a miscarriage before our daughter was born. The support this church gave us was simply amazing. When my daughter was born right before Thanksgiving you were there. Katie Timmerman brought us coffee and ice cream. You all showed up at our home with meals for about 2 months. It didn’t matter that it was probably the busiest time of year for everyone.
This church would love nothing more than to care for you. It just needs to know who you are and that’s on you. Jesus calls us to get out of the boat, to trust in him. I know it’s uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be. Time after time you hear stories about people and cells. If it’s not a cell, join a set up crew. Go on one of the mission trips. Get in a prayer group. It doesn’t matter. Just get out of the boat. Walk through life with people around you that care about you. With people that will be there for you. With people that will hold you accountable if that’s what you need. Jesus wants you to gather in his name. Get out of the boat.
My Threshold Story:
Right out of college, I began working for an aviation company in Charlotte. I was flying for them based out of the Concord airport.
After several months of flying in and out of the same airport, pilots learn the voices of the air traffic controllers, and they learn yours too. I was invited up to visit the guys in the tower one day. I met Ken Johnson. We agreed we'd heard each other's voices for a while now, and he vowed to keep an eye out for me. From then on, whether I was coming in after a long flight or in IFR conditions (inclement weather), I'd receive my clearance from Ken and know I was almost home.
Less than a year later, Brian and I got married and started searching for the right church for us as a married couple. After a few months of visiting other churches, we felt called back to the church Brian had grown up attending and loving. One of the first Sundays I walked through Threshold's doors, I saw a familiar face. It was Ken Johnson!
It dawned on me in that moment that God is in fact growing His Kingdom, and Threshold must be home base for some incredible believers out there in our community. It was such a joy to see the man, who I thought was just nice air traffic controller, be in fact a Christ follower, using his unique position on the radios every day to do God's work.
To this day, I'm one of the few people at Threshold who can say I first met Ken Johnson over the radio from an airplane!