Yesterday, we did not
have what’s often called “Youth Sunday.”
We had a regular “Adult Sunday” with our adult band leading worship, regular greeting team providing the hospitality, and even an 11:30 believer baptism.
Yesterday was unique, however, in that I did not bring the sermon. Instead, I wanted to conclude the Not A Fan series by having one of the most spiritually vibrant people in our church deliver the message.
And in looking for that spiritual vitality, I happened to settle in on a teenager, Amber Carter.
I’ve known her since she was in pre-school (!) and have watched first-hand as she has developed into a young woman of deep faith and uncommon poise. So when I asked her in early September to give this November sermon, I was almost certain it would be really, really good.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Neither were the people who crowded into our 8:30, 10, and 11:30 worship gatherings.
I am including a manuscript of Amber’s words below. If you like to see what it looked like — and to understand the confidence and serenity with which she delivered the message — simply click on this link.
If she is what it means to be not a fan, count me in.
Good morning! My name is Amber Carter, I’m a senior at Olympic High School, and I am not a fan.
I started out as a brat. Yep, I admit it, a b. r. a. t. brat. My family and I have been coming to good shepherd since I was about three and I’m not gonna lie, I hated it. Those long hours listening to Talbot talk drove me crazy. The only place I like going was the bawl room, not so I could cry, but so I could play. Sometimes I would fake being sick just so I wouldn’t have to go to church, and let me tell ya it worked too. My dad has played the drums on the praise team for about 13 or 14 years, and I used to work my way around going on some of those Sunday’s too. Believe me, it was bad.
Good Shepherd Summer Camp:
When I was nine years old, about to enter 4th grade, my parents enrolled me into the summer camp program here at the church, as I look back I can honestly say that it was the best decision they ever made. It was that summer that I learned how to pray, to worship, and about God in general. I learned about the cross and what it meant for our sins, I learned that we need to be constantly forgiven, and most importantly I learned what it meant to be saved, what it meant to live a God honoring life. Finally, I was not a brat.
It was at the end of that summer, probably around August, that I was saved. My teachers that summer were Allison Trotter and Jamarl Clark whom we knew as Mr. J, and every day we would have some kind of Bible lesson in our class. One morning they taught us that in order to be a true Christian we had to accept Jesus as our Savior so that He could come live in our hearts. Since then I have learned that being a follower of Christ means so much more than that, but at the time those truths changed my life. Mr. J asked us at the end of the lesson if there was anyone who had not yet been saved. I knew I had never done anything like that so I raised my hand. He took me, along with another boy, to the side and prayed with us asking Jesus if He would enter into our hearts.
Now being little nine year old me, I didn’t realize that the first time was the charm, so I prayed the same prayer about every night for a year just to make sure that I was really saved. In that time my mom began to pray with me every night before I went to bed and she taught me the Lord’s Prayer. I soon realized that God hears us the first time, and I didn’t need to question Him.
Started Big House:
At that time the Big House ministry was open to kids from 5th grade to 12th grade. Now after being saved the summer before 4thgrade I was really excited to start in the youth group, but I had one more year to wait. One Sunday evening, my friend and I decided that we didn’t want to wait a year before starting Big House so we asked my dad to drive us up there so we could go. We were so excited, but as soon as we stepped in the lobby they stopped us, asked my dad how old we were, and made us turn around and go home. Can you believe that?? It was as if we were trying to sneak into a movie, only we were trying to sneak into church. But luckily I was able to attend that next fall and God took a hold of my faith and ran with it.
The next two summers I continued to attend the Good Shepherd summer camp, and I grew more and more serious about my faith. The summer I was to enter 6th grade was my last year, but it just might be the most memorable, because that year I was baptized! Near the end of the summer I was helping set something up for the Sunday service that week, and I was in this big room with two other girls and an amazing man named Mr. Bob. We were about finished with our task and we were resting on the stage when we started talking about baptism. He was telling us what a huge step baptism was in our faith walk, and told us that it was a public declaration of what we believed, so I mentioned that I’d like to be baptized one day. Now I was imagining in maybe a couple months, when I planned it out with my parents and everything, but I guess God had a different plan because little did I know, but that day Mr. Bob told Talbot that I wanted to be baptized, and later that week Talbot came to bring me to his office so we could talk about it further. Whoa! Talk about a wakeup call. I was content doing things like this on my own time, and Talbot was ready to set a date. So he gave me some scriptures to study, and I realized that this is what God wanted me to do. Thanks to Mr. Bob, I was baptized August 17, 2007.
I remember that the week before I was going through a bad cold, and my ears were so clogged I was having trouble hearing. I got this idea in my mind that once my head went under, my cold would completely vanish and I would be able to hear again. Low and behold, when Talbot pulled me out of the water guess what happened? I was still sick and I could still barely hear! But it didn’t matter, my soul was brand new, and I was spiritually healed.
As middle school started I was invited to join the Christian club at school called YCI. We met every Wednesday morning for half an hour. We used to play games, listen to testimonies, listen to John sing, and have Bible studies. One day I remember more distinctly than all the others. A girl was giving her testimony and it really moved me. She claimed that her relationship with God did not truly begin until she started reading her Bible regularly. That hit me hard because at the time I wasn’t a very dedicated Bible reading 12 year old. I read the scriptures on the screen at church, but that was about it. I knew this was not enough so I decided I would try reading on my own. It was really confusing at first, but God slowly used his word to speak to me. I can remember one year, at a big house winter retreat, I, a friend of mine, and the assistant youth leader at the time named Amy Berryhill decided to read through the Bible in a year. I planned on reading it cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation. Let me tell you this right now: That is not the way to read the Bible! And I found that out the hard way. For one, I wasn’t reading and taking the time to listen to what God had to say, I reading more out of guilt. I thought if I didn’t read exactly 3 chapters a night I was a failure as a Christian. Little did I know, that’s not how it’s supposed to work at all.
As I’ve gotten older, serving has been an important part of my faith. Opportunities I’ve had to serve through Big House have shaped me into the person I am today. One summer we went on a trip called U-Haullelujah. We set out for four days in four vans filled with food, love, and teenagers eager to serve the Lord. We had no destination, no plan, and no idea how miraculously God would show up over that next weekend. My group ended up in downtown Raleigh by the second day. We served lunch to homeless people in the park, and then drove around looking for ways to serve. We ended up at a church where we met a woman named Shanti who told us about a prominent food shuttle ministry nearby. It was closing time when we arrived there so they invited us to come back in the morning.
That next morning we followed the food shuttle to a Latino community to distribute and pack food. The man leading us to the community warned us that this group of people preferred to do everything themselves, without the help of outsiders. To our surprise, they welcomed us with open arms and put us to work. They all spoke in Spanish as they instructed us on what to do. Luckily a wonderful leader in our group, Vanessa Gordon, spoke fluent Spanish and was able to translate directions. We worked diligently sorting and packing food, and when we finished up we were able to speak with some members of their community. They told us the name of their church, and Vanessa later revealed that their church’s name translated to English was Good Shepherd! In that moment God seemed so much bigger and greater than anything I could have imagined before. It was then that we knew that God had planned for us to be there with our new Good Shepherd friends long before we ever set out on the trip. I learned that when nothing is planned, nothing can go wrong. And when we give God free reign to lead us as we serve, He shows up in the most remarkable of ways.
One of the most memorable moments in my faith was during a sermon series called “Loved”. The series was all about being loved by God. They handed out little buttons that said “Loved” and I remember walking around my middle school and everyone wearing one. One of the last Sundays of that series I remember April Geiger coming up at the end of the service and singing How He Loves. It was one of those moments where the whole congregation was sitting, and we were supposed to just take in the music. But for the first time I remember feeling totally and completely surrounded with God’s love, and I stood up. I was the only standing and God was moving through me. My dad soon stood up with me. It was a powerful moment. But God wasn’t done amazing me yet that day, when my dad and I got in the car, he told me something I will never forget. He said “Amber, I love you, but Jesus loves you so much more.” I don’t know if he knows this, but I cried after hearing those words. That’s when I knew, God had my heart and he was never letting go.
My name is Amber Carter, and I am so loved that I am not a fan.