Way back in 2015, I felt prompted by the Lord to launch a prayer ministry at my church. As I was thinking through who did prayer ministry like this and did it well, I was reminded of the church I attended for a few years in college–Christ Community Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. It was a long shot but I wondered if I could meet with the pastor, Dave Hess, and pick his brain a little.
To my surprise, when I called his secretary and explained my situation, he was willing to fit me in. So a few weeks later I drove up to Camp Hill to meet with Pastor Hess. I can’t remember the date, I just remember that it was cold and snow was on the ground.
As soon as I walked into his office, Pastor Dave greeted me with warmth and kindness. I explained my desire to launch a prayer ministry and to express the supernatural gifts of the Spirit but in a way that was responsible and accountable. My memory of him that day was that he mostly just listened and asked questions. He didn’t give me any great advice or wisdom except this: He said that I had to experience the Lord and profoundly encounter Him first before I could expect others to do the same.
Then he gave me three books for free. He gave me one training manual on prayer ministry, one book on prophetic gifting, and finally he gave me his own book. He talked briefly about his incredible encounters with God through his battle with cancer. It began to dawn on me just how important and influential Pastor Hess had become. The only way I can describe it is this: Imagine going across the street to your neighbors house to ask advice on how they get their rose garden to be so beautiful and in the process of talking about gardening you become aware that your neighbor is the former President of the United States. Here you are with the President and you’re asking him about roses. That was the feeling.
On my way out of his office, Pastor Dave Hess did something that left a mark on me. It was the most powerful moment of the whole meeting and it was totally unexpected. We both got up from our chairs and he thanked me for coming in. Then he did something that to this day I can’t shake from my consciousness. He took my coat off of the hook before I could get to it, he opened it up and waited for me to slip my arms in it. Picture what a butler would do for the head of the house. Or, if you were into watching Downton Abby, it’s what His Lordship’s Valet would do to help him get dressed. It’s what a father does for his children when they’re trying to put on a heavy winter coat.
As it was happening, I was too stunned to put it all together. It was the perfect picture of servant leadership. Here was this great man of faith, this man that I should be serving, and he was holding my coat. He took the posture of a servant with such ease it was clear that this was a regular part of his life. This is just who he is. I can’t even help my kids put their coats on without thinking about this moment. It is seared into my mind and heart. It was the winter version of washing feet.
I know it seems small, but you have to understand that Pastor Dave gets invited to speak at large conferences, he has written multiple books, and he has been the senior pastor of Christ Community for decades. I didn’t really know any of that when I asked to meet with him that day.
The books he gave me, by the way, ended up profoundly shaping the prayer ministry at my church. But the simple act of helping me put on my coat did something more. Can you imagine? One grown man helping another grown man put on his coat? There’s no logical reason for it. It was simply an act of servanthood. It was simply an act of love to a guy he just met. He has probably done that a million times. Serving and loving people are so natural for him that he probably thought nothing of it. But I’ll never forget it. It must have been how the prodigal son felt when his father brought the robe and put it on him.