Lighting Up the Darkness: Rev. Zach Stiefel, Collaborator


God is certainly moving in the sleepy town of Corsicana, Texas. If you were to ever find yourself driving 50 miles south of Dallas, you could expect to find a few things. You can find a historic downtown, a church on nearly every corner, and a passionate college ministry called Amplified. This is a ministry that meets on Tuesday nights at 9pm. We meet at a building on the Navarro College campus for a time of fellowship and worship. Getting this service started has been a combined effort from the UCF Wesley Foundation and First United Methodist Church of Corsicana.

The name Amplified was inspired by Colossians 2:6-7. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up (amplified) in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” We have prayed that this would be a reality for our students. We are reaching to students of low income, and who may be looking for direction, yet we want to show them the identity they have in Christ. It is our goal through Amplified to change the atmosphere of Navarro.

The idea behind Amplified is to give the students of Navarro College an opportunity for uninterrupted worship. We meet together, and when worship starts, we turn out all of the lights. We have used candles before, but really the only light in the room comes from the words on the screen. We believe that this gives students the opportunity to leave anything weighing them down at the door. They don’t have to worry about who is standing next to them, they don’t have to care what anybody else in the room has to think, but instead they get an opportunity to honestly worship.

We bring in guest worship leaders once a month, but the bulk of the worship is led by students. We have given them this task, and they have taken it on as their own. They have accepted the responsibility to bring the sound equipment, pick the worship set, practice, and lead their peers on a weekly basis. The students who lead the band also help lead worship in The Current, which is the contemporary service at FUMC Corsicana. We have partnered with each other to bring something special to the campus.

We will give a short message, no more that 5 to 10 minutes, each week. To start out, Rev. Meredith Bell and I would switch off each week. We didn’t have restrictions, we would just stand up to share what was on our hearts. Yet that is not exactly how it goes anymore. About half way into the semester, students started coming to us and asking if they could be the ones to share a message with their peers. It has been amazing to see the Lord work through people in this regard. Students who are nervous to talk about their faith are standing up and proclaiming what God is doing in their lives. Students who feel a call to ministry are getting exposure to preaching. It has been an incredible sight.

As for me, a pastor who has the opportunity to sit back and watch as these students are praising God in the middle of their busy and stressful weeks, I have been incredibly blessed by this ministry. It did not take long into Amplified for God to show me that I am not in control. Going into our first week, I had lined up a guest to come and kick things off for us, but she ended up canceling on the day of our first service. I went into panic mode, thinking that it was going to be a bust because this professional wasn’t going to be leading us. Well, the student leaders stepped up. Of course, they did an amazing job. It was exactly what their peers needed, and it was exactly what I needed. From day one of Amplified, God has been showing me that it is not about me. I have the opportunity to trust some younger people and remove myself from the equation. I make myself available, and I help when they need, but ultimately, they have taken over.

Amplified has helped me remember why I’m passionate about worship, too. On our last meeting of the Fall semester we offered Communion. This seemed normal to me, but I was reminded that the majority of the students there had never taken the Holy Sacrament. It was real and raw, and the best reminder of the grace that Christ offers all of us.

If you ever find yourself in Corsicana, Texas on a Tuesday night, please stop by. We welcome anybody and everybody.

Rev. Zach Stiefel is a Provisional Elder in the United Methodist Church where he serves as the Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Corsicana. He loves his wife, the Church, and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Zach is married to his wife Cheryl, who is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse in Dallas. They met during their time in God’s Country, that is while they were at Oklahoma State University. Together they live in Dallas and are enjoying being newlyweds.  Zach does not currently have a blog of his own, but hey, maybe this was the push he needed.