Thursday, 26 April 2012

The most unexpected thing happened

With the big trip to Chicago behind me and the group from our church, I am so full of thanks to God for making Himself new to me in a most powerful and surprising way.  When I first suggested to our board that a group from our church go to Harvest University, it was not without some significant amount of trepidation.  After all, our church is not a part of this group of churches; indeed, it is practically unknown to most of the members of our body.  And although I was excited about what I saw God doing in and through this fellowship of churches, I didn't know if that would translate beyond myself.

I was thrilled that 9 people from our church made the commitment to come down to Harvest University.  But I still didn't know what to expect.  I knew that we would likely get great preaching and that our corporate worship would be uplifting, but I didn't know how it would affect either me or the group.  All I knew what that God would meet with us, probably in a most unexpected way.  And that's exactly what happened.

During the second main session, a video came up highlighting the story of a pastor within that fellowship whose daughter had suffered a series of seizures and was left with irreversible brain damage.  While that story was compelling, it was what came next that cut me to the core.  This group of Harvest churches rallied around that church in Calgary and raised funds to pay for a part time pastor to care for that flock while the senior pastor and his wife focused their attention where it needed to be.  Other churches flew out their pastors to minister to the Peacock family and also helped in the preaching ministry of this young church plant.  Thousands prayed.  In short, they surrounded this family and their young church with agape love.

I sat through the whole thing with a hurting heart.  You see, six years prior, I was in a similar situation.  I was dealing with the horrible diagnosis of severe autism for my oldest child.  I had just left the ministry in order to get him the help he needed.  I was lost, alone, hurting, and afraid.  I had Jesus, thanks be to Him, but outside of the encouragement of a few friends and family, no one helped me.  Unlike this fellowship of churches, my fellowship of churches didn't reach out to me.  No one so much as gave me a call.  I was persona non grata--out of the ministry as sure as if I had committed a moral failure.  I was even told by one search committee member of a church I had interviewed at (as I attempted to find a church here in Manitoba) that I was not to "use my autistic child as an excuse not to do my job".  It hurt--indeed, it still does.

But in the midst of all this the most unexpected thing happened: I got loved.  I got loved by my group.  I, who had brought this group down to Chicago to expose them to a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit, I who was the lead minister, who was supposed to minister to them, got ministered to by them.  I got held and hugged and encouraged.  And I got healed. 

I never expected to come to Chicago to get ministered to by my own group.  But that's exactly what I needed.  I needed to know that I am loved, not because of my position, but because I am precious in God's sight as a fellow child of God.  I needed to know that the Holy Spirit is moving in others--that His love is manifest in them too.

Thank you Bruce for being there for me.  Thank you others who prayed for me.  If nothing else comes from this week than this, I've already been greatly blessed.  But I know that God has more.  This love, this community, this fellowship in Christ is just the tip of the iceberg.  And I'm ready for more.  May this be my legacy and our legacy as a church: the love of Jesus Christ made real in our lives and to those around us.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Leadership training: the first step

Right now our church is embarking upon a giant undertaking: vision casting.  For those who don't know what that is, it is simply this: prayerfully determining where God wants our church to go in the next few years.  This conversation actually began during the discussions surrounding me becoming the senior pastor.  Many people asked me, "where is your heart for the church"? and, "what is your vision"?  I couldn't (and won't) answer that question in an exhaustive manner for two reasons: 1) I don't know the full scope of what the church should look like, since I am only one man, 2) It isn't healthy to have vision decided upon by just one individual--we need to recognize that we "have the mind of Christ" as a body of believers (I Cor 2:16).  But I do have a trajectory in mind: I want to see a church that is passionate about Jesus.  Biblically based, rooted in prayer, relevant to our community, and pursuing the fulfillment of the Great Commission.  That's what I long for.  I long for that for the members of my church, for my own family, and for the people God would have us reach for Jesus in the years ahead.

But how do we get there?  One thing I do know: we need the leadership of our church to be pulling in the same direction--pulling to where God wants us to go.  And so I have decided that the first step should be leadership development where we explore together what God has in store for us.  In recent years, I have found myself increasingly attracted to a group of churches where I see these thing happening, where passion for God is evident in a new and powerful way.  I am excited about the things I see and hear God doing in these churches, and I want our church to explore what it's all about.  This is a part of my "vision" for our church.  That is why I have booked a sizable group from my church to go to Chicago on April 22-25 for a Leadership Training Conference hosted by Harvest Bible Fellowship.  Although our church is not affiliated with this group of churches, I believe that we can take some great principles from these churches about how to be a faithful effective church for Christ.  And I hope that we can build some connections as well--connections that I have found personally to be spiritually uplifting.

So please pray for our group as we go.  Pray for spiritual renewal in all of our hearts.  And pray that EKBC will be a passionate, effective church for Jesus in the years ahead.

Below is a link to a video that explains what Harvest Bible Fellowship is all about.