By: Emily Conley
Have you ever wondered if it was too late for God to use you?
Right after the Christmas story, when Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to be consecrated to the Lord, they met two fascinating people. Simeon, we’re told, was a righteous and devout man who had been told by God that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Messiah. Anna was a widow, and Luke tells us first that she’s “very old” – eighty-four, in fact. We aren’t given many details about either of them, other than that Simeon had been anticipating the Messiah for many years, and Anna had been widowed after seven years of marriage and now spent her days worshiping and praying at the temple.
God had a special purpose for them both that day: proclaiming the truth of who Jesus is and the message of the gospel.
What if Simeon had decided not to go to the temple that day? What if Anna had felt the urge to approach the young family and just dismissed it as too awkward? What if either of them had made excuses when they felt the Holy Spirit prompting, because God could use someone younger, or smarter, or more eloquent?
They would have missed out on the special blessing God had prepared for them of allowing them to see Jesus as a baby and truly recognize who He was – God with us.
Pastor Clyde and Ann Reed could have made excuses. After Clyde left engineering to attend seminary and begin preaching, the Reeds followed God’s call to plant churches for approximately the next twenty years, “because that’s most fun,” Ann said. But things hadn’t always gone as they’d hoped. They served at several churches in different states before deciding to move to Gilbert Arizona.
The church has stayed small, meeting in Gilbert schools for many years, eventually moving to a senior living center, and then back to a public school facility. They knew this would make it harder for them to attract young families and, at times, were discouraged by the lack of growth. But Clyde and Ann realized that God had given them the unique opportunity to minister to the elderly people in the senior living centers, people who were experiencing a vulnerable and often lonely time in their lives.
Ann and Clyde visited the seniors in their rooms on a regular basis, sharing encouragement and prayer with them, hosting parties and potlucks to brighten their days, and, of course, having church services every Sunday.
There have been many seasons of discouragement, like the times that the Town of Gilbert confiscated their small church sign and cited them for violating its sign code. Under the code, political signs could be up to 32 square feet in area and could be displayed continuously for many months at a time. . But church signs could only be 6 square feet in area and displayed for a mere 12 hours prior to the service and 1 hour afterwards. That meant the majority of the time the signs were displayed was after dark, and if Pastor Reed didn’t take the signs down by an hour after the service, he was subject to fines, and even jail time.
The small church depended on the signs to attract visitors, so Pastor Clyde contacted us. Clyde observed, “We think we’re out there helping these cities and towns. And we don’t understand why they want to make it difficult . . . especially when compared to some other signs, like political signs . . . they do not have the same restrictions as we do.”
The Reed’s case began in 2007. Then, this past January, the Supreme Court heard their case, as ADF argued on their behalf, and in June, you were part of an historic 9-0 victory at the Supreme Court of the United States.
Clyde wanted one outcome for their case: “We would hope that across the United States, churches could reach out to the world around them through sign distribution. We hope that will be the result,” he said.
Ann agreed: “Our church is very small, and we keep chuckling away that this little church is an instrument God used to bring a case up to the Supreme Court.”
Because Pastor Clyde and Ann followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting to plant churches after retirement, they eventually came to Gilbert, Arizona, and made an impact on the lives of those in their congregation. And because they were faithful in their ministry, however small and behind the scenes, God chose their church to bring a case before the highest court in the land.
And now, because of their landmark victory, cities across the country cannot single out and restrict the free speech of churches.
How You Can Support Religious Freedom in 2016
It’s never too late for God to use you in an extraordinary way. The Reeds trusted God to use their ministry, and you were a part of their historic victory at the Supreme Court! Because of your support, ADF was able to defend the Reeds at no cost to them. You can help ensure that Christians, like the Reeds, who stand up for their faith will never stand alone. Thank you for supporting religious freedom in 2016 and beyond!
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