Every General Assembly worship service is different. Some inspire us while others touch, educate, challenge, or connect us. Led by General Superintendent Stan A. Toler and the Africa Region, Sunday afternoon's energetic service encouraged us.
It also surprised us.
Christian music recording artist Sandi Patty, a close friend of Toler's, made an unannounced appearance to honor Toler, who is retiring from the general superintendency.
Known as "The Voice," Patty filled the room with booming, energetic praise, singing "How Great Thou Art" as only she can. She asked the 6,500 in attendance to join her, and the invitation was quickly accepted.
"Proud to call you 'friend,' Stan," she said to Toler.
Toler is jurisdictional general superintendent for the Africa Region, which was featured on Sunday afternoon.
Regional Director Filimao Chambo prayed before an African choir sang, "Africa Will Be Saved."
"May we be a holiness denomination that obeys the will of God," Chambo prayed.
An online viewer in Spokane, Washington, took special notice that Chambo was at the podium.
"No mistaking the voice of Filimao Chambo," said Lee Branum on Twitter."I was in the kitchen, but ran to watch him!"
Nazarene Youth International Director Gary Hartke and Global Mission Director Verne Ward III followed Chambo at the podium, reporting on the work of the denomination among young people and in home churches.
Toler began his message, "Cleansed, Called, and Commissioned," by discussing sanctification in relative, simple terms.
"Say 'Yes' to everything God says, 'Yes' to, and say, 'No' to everything God says, 'No' to," he said.
As a young, sanctified teenager with a call to preach, Toler experienced a potential turning point in his early ministry. He said a churchgoer told him after a sermon that he should quit preaching immediately. Toler said he spent that night with an open Bible at his side, debating if he should continue his call. Eventually, he made a decision.
"I will preach the gospel and no church bully will stop me," Toler said.
He then asked all pastors in the congregation to stand, and led a round of applause for them.
"'Shame on you to anyone who discourages them," he said. "Support them, love them, encourage them."
Some pastors responded immediately through social media.
"Thank you, @StanToler," tweeted Hingham, Massachusetts, Pastor Jeremy Scott. "I needed that."
"If I needed someone to encourage me and hold up my arms, @StanToler would be one of my first calls," wrote Pasadena First Church Pastor Scott Daniels. "Thanks, Stan."
Toler continued, saying the church is commissioned to hate sin, love people, and serve.
He closed his message by reading an emphatic declaration made by a young Zimbabwe pastor determined to answer his call to minister.
The Toler Brothers added an exclamation point to the service – the final public service of the 28th General Assembly – by singing "He Still Speaks."
"He still speaks, and I know His voice," they sang as pastors came to the altar and were surrounded in prayer – supported, loved, and encouraged.
Attendees who feel a call to minister and plant churches were asked to fill out a card to give to the general church. Cards are also available at nazarene.org/card.