Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Beginning

If you have seen the movie "Facing the Giants", you know you can be just... amazed at how a church could produce something so .. WELL DONE! And it ministers to me every time. Perhaps it's because it reminds me of living on the church property at First Assembly, while Paul was coaching the boys' sports... and we were both so involved in those guys' life...

And this is a church that moved on to produce "Fireproof" - oh my gosh! Do you know how many marriages have hit turning points that saved their relationship after watching this movie? I've witnessed that with my own eyes!

So when Sis. Jo Gorder, a member of our church board here in Anchorage, said she was reading this book and was blessed by it, I had to go get it myself. I was curious to see how a church gets to that point. I was even more curious to see what kind of church produces such amazing ministry materials.

It would help to add here that our current church is rebuilding from scratch. In fact, up until we came here, there was really no worship team - just a pianist and a faithful singer every Sunday. Not because nothing else was wanted, but because no one else was really there to step in. Then Paul and I came, then another couple moved back to Anchorage... and between 4 of us women, we decided to try and start from scratch. It's been choppy... sometimes awkward, but always a blessing. My biggest blessing is getting to know these other 3 women better and seeing them bend and stretch to do whatever it takes.

My excitement comes in that this church is open and ready for whatever God wants to do. And the hearts of the members in the congregation have been prepared to love and embrace the harvest that the Lord will one day bring... to nurture them into discipleship. After all, they did that for Paul and me - not knowing what our ministry gifts or experience was, not knowing our income level... They didn't even know if we were saved or not! But they've cared enough to get to know us through out these past 2 months.

We have a plowed field. We can prepare for rain!

In the first chapter, the Pastor starts off at another church... where his authority is always challenged. Everything is an uphill climb for him, and he said he felt the Board was constantly trying to manipulate him and constantly undermining his leadership. And yet he wasn't willing to move because it was his comfort zone. Until the point where he found himself responding to the altar call of a guest preacher... with just his wife... Nobody else in the congregation even seemed moved. It was then that God showed him he was ready to move on.

Well, I've been in a church where the Pastor was a puppet on a string... and I haven't seen those churches grow. In fact, from what I remember that church looks exactly the same and does the same things they did for the past 8 years. Some things lessened, others improved... few individuals grew... but the church is still without much vision - and it seems that the vision the Pastor has for the church is not important enough for the rest of the congregation to really carry out.

Likewise, I went to a church that had an amazing organizational system. A lot of things were cut to make room for things that really mattered. Everyone submitted to the Pastor and his executives for the direction of that church... And it grew from a "Big Baptist Church" to 5 campuses across Miami-Dade County, having church meetings in movie theaters or school auditoriums... The greatest testimony to how God can bless full submission to leadership - even if it feels risky, or different. I get so blown away by this church that I kind of would like to insert a link right here to their website! In fact, maybe I will:

Christ Fellowship

There I did. I wasn't going to mention any names, and I won't (specially not for the disgrace of others), but this church deserves props. Some of the godliest young people I admire attend this church. And I'm not saying they are the only ones - there is a move of the Holy Spirit in A LOT of churches across South Florida and I can tell all by their FaceBook posts =) . But I just had to mention this one!

Then he goes to Sherwood Baptist church. A Church who has done the same thing pretty much for the past 75 years. And a church that had gone without a Pastor for some time too. And the transition is difficult, and he comes in needing to make a lot of changes. But the blessing here is that the church staff supports him - even if they don't like it or are not used to it. They were able to see that the Pastor has a heart for the betterment of the church and all of them were willing to submit to ANYTHING that would create revival. Anything that would bring an outpour of the Holy Spirit and allow God to move and do the impossible. They were willing to prepare for rain, no matter what the cost.

This is so the key. I think we'll see God move in more and more churches across denominations as the churches are willing to glorify Him instead of their traditions, preferences, and personal theologies. Michael Catts put it this way, "We had to be a 21st century church functioning like an Acts 1st century church." He made adjustments to the worship team to incorporate the music that would minister to the neighborhood that needed to be reached (they were a basically all-white church in a predominantly African-American neighborhood). He had to change the function of the Deacons and the Board so that more meetings were accomplishing ministry instead of fighting over budgets. He cut down on almost 60 committees that weren't functioning within the vision of the church to evangelize and grow... but he also made room for temporary ministry teams that can use their gifts to accomplish a certain goal and then be dissolved... freed up for the next thing that came up. His changes to the church made the church more flexible, and easier and quicker to respond to whatever task God put in their hearts to do.

I admire Michael Catts for having the courage to bring change to a church instead of simply being a hireling. I specially admire the courage of the church to desire God's glory so bad they were willing to submit and trust. And even though it came with a price, God honored their efforts and set them up for what was coming next.

And I get excited because I feel that this is exactly where our church is at now! It's a good beginning. I know that being plowed (as a congregation) doesn't feel good - and it can look very discouraging... just as it doesn't feel good for us as individuals to be pruned by the Master Gardener. But it makes room for a fresh start - for whatever God would want it to be.

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