Pastor Stan Wierson, the remarkable man who pointed me to Jesus more than 30 years ago when I was just 16 years old, died last Friday June 3rd, 2011. His lengthy obituary is found in today’s (June 5, 2o11) Des Moines Register. If you want to read it click here. The following is a posting that I wrote for a “secret” facebook page that has nearly 500 members!
“Stan Wierson…man of God, born from above (or again) John 3:3, lived from above, and died from above. In Philippians 1:20b-23 the apostle Paul wrote “…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”
Jesus was honored through the fruitful life and labors of Stan Wierson. To God be all the glory for His kindness in causing Stan’s life to intersect with our own at some point along our earthly pilgrimage as is so clearly evident by the numerous postings on this site.
I was first introduced to Stan nearly 31 years ago when I was a 16 year old sophomore at Newton High School and Stan a 43 year old youth pastor at the other Methodist church in town. I have been in the pastoral ministry for the past 20 years or so largely due to Stan’s early influence in my life. So count me as one of the 200 if anyone is counting.
My first meeting with Stan was an interesting one. I remember walking into his office and thinking that he looked much older than his then 43 years, was the furthest thing from athletic that anyone could imagine (which is ironic because his legacy largely surrounds his labors with regard to Summer Games…a camp ministry whose focus from the beginning was to reach young people for Christ through sports), and shared nothing in common with me…at least yet.
After meeting with Stan over the course of the next weeks and months I came to understand with my head and heart that God was real and that Jesus was more than just a dead man who may or may not have come back to life…I heard and saw and experienced the love of God and the truth of the Gospel for the very first time in my life.
One November day in 1980 after meeting with Stan he asked me if I was ready to give my life to Christ…I said Yes! I got down on my knees right there in his dinky musty smelling corner office with the pint sized piano next to me and asked Jesus to take charge of my life. After praying that prayer I didn’t feel that anything was different…Why? I thought that becoming a Christian would/should be a highly emotional experience.
What I have come to realize after thirty-one years of following after Christ is that it was not necessarily at that very moment I was born again….but rather this had most likely occurred at some point earlier in the process of meeting with Stan over the course of those interesting weeks.
So when Stan asked me that simple question it was akin to asking a child if they would like a candy bar. I had already been changed by God from the inside out! God had already performed in me the radical open heart spiritual surgery that transferred me from the domain of darkness and Satan into the Kingdom of His beloved Son. My heart’s affections had already radically changed!
Again, Jesus said in John 3:7-8 speaking of the wind and Holy Spirit synonymously “Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Indeed the wind of the Spirit blew into my life and caused me to be born again…at some point in the late summer/early fall of 1980.
From there Stan was intensely involved in my early spiritual development…giving me wake-up calls in the morning to encourage me to read my Bible, to memorize Scripture, and to pray. And I didn’t even attend his church!
I too have fond memories of the early Summer Games camps at Wesley Woods…not including the 18 cartons of milk I drank at one meal in a contest…which did not stay down for long, …the smells, the sounds, the sights…especially on the night where we had the stations of the cross and the re-enactment of the crucifixion. As we came around the bend in the road and saw the three young men on the cross for the first time it was breathtaking.
It was especially meaningful to have been asked to play the part of Jesus or was it one of the thieves…I don’t remember which…but to be one of the young men hanging on a cross smeared with karo syrup and red food coloring with mosquitos thinking they had found their own version of heaven as they feasted on my blood…became a powerful reminder of how much Jesus had suffered for me.
After I graduated from high school I too attended Luther College as Stan also did. I had forgotten that part of his story! I had a couple of conversations with Stan while I was in college as he encouraged me to become a Methodist preacher and attend a Methodist Seminary. I think he was disappointed when I chose to go a different route by going to Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN for four years. I am now serving as the pastor of Crossroad Evangelical Free Church in Earlham, Iowa…and have for the past 16 years.
As I look back and think of Stan’s life and ministry I am thankful for God’s sovereignty in bringing this unique and gifted man across my path when He did. I am thankful for God’s sovereignty in bringing Stan to Newton for those “revival and awakening” years in Newton…1980 is when God added me to the bandwagon. And I have yet to witness again anything like I saw in Newton during those years.
Craig, Brent, Shannon…and others who were fired up for God…meeting in Craig’s basement for prayer meetings as 16 year olds…teaching one another all manner of heresy, albeit innocently enough!
Stan Wierson, born from above, lived from above, died from above, and now living eternally above in heaven where there is no more crying or pain or suffering (Revelation 21:4)…and where there is no need for the sun to shine for the glory of God gives its light (Rev. 21:23). These are just a smattering of the memories I have from my three years of rubbing shoulders with Stan Wierson.
At the end of my sermon today I concluded by sharing the story of Stan’s early influence in pointing me to Christ and then faithfully discipling me…in precise fulfillment of the Great Commission in Matthew 28-19-20 that Jesus gave his disciples following his resurrection and just prior to his ascension: “Go…and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I asked my congregation today if anyone had heard of the name “Stan Wierson” and not a hand went up. And though I had always envisioned having Stan come to our church and preach I never managed to get it done. I have shared bits and pieces about my conversion experience throughout my years in Earlham, including Stan’s name.
No one even remembered hearing Stan’s name…but that’s a beautiful thing as well because through Stan’s faithful ministry to me 31 years ago as a snotty nosed, probably cocky sixteen year old, I have had the privilege of preaching the Gospel every Sunday for the past sixteen years and have preached the Gospel in different parts of the world…but it all began with God.
God’s plans begin, progress, and then terminate just as God has determined. I am delighted that God’s plan was to have Stan Wierson’s life intersect with my own 31 years ago…and that Stan would impart to me the words of life that would change my life forever and hence begin the chain reaction that is part and parcel of the Great Commission. To God alone be the glory! Soli Deo Gloria! I am planning to be at the funeral service this Thursday.”