Our church services were getting better and better. I was proud to invite my friends to church on Sundays. Joel and Matt were doing an incredible job building their ministry teams to accommodate the growth we were experiencing. There was one girl on the worship team named Kate who had been a contestant on the TV series, “The Voice,” which is basically a huge televised singing competition. Even though we were all rooting and praying for her, she unfairly got cut after the first round. She was an incredible vocalist, but an even better worshiper. New people at Oasis who didn’t know she was a contestant on the show would come up to me after church sometimes and say “Wow, she’s so good, she should audition for The Voice,” to which I would always half heartedly respond, “nah, she’d probably get cut after the first round.” Kate and her husband moved to Holly Springs so they could start a different church called “Vertical Life,” but the pastor of that church was living out of state and hadn’t moved here yet, so we were only blessed to have her join us in worship for a little while. Sometimes, in the middle of a worship set, Kate would stop playing her guitar and just lift both hands in the air and sing as if she was surrendering everything to Jesus. This was always so inspiring to me because I felt she wasn’t performing in those moments, she was truly worshipping. And our entire worship team was growing in this way, we were beginning to experience the presence of God every Sunday morning during worship.
Around this same time a young single guy, maybe in his twenties, showed up for church on a Sunday morning. I noticed him mainly for two reasons. One, young single guys don’t really go to church, so he didn’t exactly blend in. Two, our church was so small, I literally knew everyone. If you were new, I knew. He looked like he just woke up, his hair disheveled, his eye sockets were pretty dark maybe from makeup or just not sleeping. Although he was alone, he seemed to be really enjoying the church service. I noticed he was smiling at me throughout the whole sermon as if I was his grandchild playing T-ball, and he was proud of me for running the bases in the correct order. He disappeared just before the service ended and I did not get to meet him, but he did fill out a connect card. On the card, he left us a really nice message in the comments section. He said, “Best experience I’ve ever had on acid.”
The following Tuesday in our team meeting we read his card aloud and laughed together, then a few of us exchanged glances and we knew we had to seriously consider how to respond. I decided to meet up with him for lunch at a sandwich shop the next day and I learned that he was, in fact, high on acid during our church service. He said the lights gave him a really “trippy feeling” and he swore up and down that Kate, one of the worship leaders, was riding a purple unicorn. I figured it was during one of those moments when Kate had both hands lifted in a pure moment of worship that Paul was seeing a unicorn, and she was riding the unicorn with no hands. He went on to express that he particularly enjoyed the music because he himself plays the electric guitar as a hobby.
“You play the guitar?,” I said.
“Yes,” he said, as he bit into his sandwich.
“Alright, well you have to meet our worship guy, Joel.”
Two weeks later, acid guy was on stage with a guitar in his hand and smiling real big as if the entire audience were all riding unicorns. I told him, “Anytime you or any of your friends are high, you can come to Oasis Church because we have free doughnuts every Sunday.”
That year was also the year Easter landed on April 20 (4/20). I figured this guy would have lots of friends with the munchies, and I was gonna feed them doughnuts on Easter. Eventually, He stopped tripping on acid during Sunday services. He sat on the front row and laughed at all my jokes even when he was sober. After months of wrestling with the messages I was preaching, the day finally came when I saw him slip his hand up at the end of a service because he prayed for salvation. He was saved that day and baptized soon after, and then he also brought his dad to church who also got saved and baptized. I haven’t seen him in a couple of years, he moved 30 miles north of us, but I’ll never forget the lesson he taught me.
Be inclusive, radically inclusive.