We have been reflecting at church (The Shepherd’s Fellowship) just how faithful God has been to us and felt compelled to share it with others to document the movement we have been seeing of God’s faithfulness. Part of this goal is to celebrate what He has been doing but also to serve as a testimony of what happens if you hold to His Word and claim it for yourself. Let me explain…
About 14 months ago, we went through a very challenging situation at our church. It’s one of those things were everyone feels hurt, confused, and challenged. Some left, some considered but stayed on to see what would happen, and others committed to being here as we followed God through some tough choices. At that point, the church was struggling financially, feeling the pain of separation of close friends, and the outreach to the community around us came to a halt as we pulled in to communicate and love through the healing of the group. It was a very challenging time but they do come and God does lead us through them.
As we started to emerge from that period of healing and started dreaming again, I came across a Scripture that hit me with a new passion…
“You do not have, because you do not ask God.When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4: 2b-3
Challenged by this truth, I discussed with our church that we needed to bold not just with our vision as we moved back into the community but with our prayers too. There was a new plan of praying each week (and throughout the week) hatched where we prayed for four things …
– That God would grow our church (Motive: God loves people and we want to be used to reach people for Him and not because we want a big church to look good within the community of Marion.)
– That God would grow our resources (Motive: That we would be faithful in our worship in all ways including our tithes and offerings and through this, God’s provision would be in the “storehouse” to do the ministry as He leads us but not so we can just have a ton of money or spend it on non-kingdom building goals)
– That God would grow our spiritual depth both as a church and individuals within the church (Motive: That we would be maturing in the faith and our relationship with Christ and not just trying to have a Sunday morning church that is immature and ineffective in our lives and in our families.)
– That God would grow our influence within the community (Motive: To be impactful not only in our four walls but to be used to minister to the hurting and lost in our community including those who have been hurt by church or Christians before more than a face on a billboard or for how good our church building looks.)
Now that we are down the road a bit, let me share what GOD HAS DONE!
– We are enjoying so many new relationships with people coming and calling The Shepherd’s Fellowship home! As a small church, we have never really grown past about fifty people in our Gatherings. However, at this point, we are averaging about 75 people any given Sunday and close to 100 calling the Fellowship home! The best part, these are not just numbers to put on some report, these are real people building friendships and love through Christian community! This is not just through Sunday morning Gatherings but also through hanging out together, camping out, working together, and spending life together! Many people who are finding community did not have it before and our walking out of lives where they felt alone, abandoned and adrift when it came to Christian community. I love the heart in this community and pray for God’s protection over the unity!
– Our resources are more free than they have been in six years! As more people embrace financial faithfulness (as well as other areas of faithfulness in their lives). we are seeing testimonies in their lives as well as the church’s that we celebrate. God has always done more through us than what made sense for a church our size but this latest movement has been awesome to watch.
Now, we are not rich in the world’s eyes but we have been able to reopen the practice of giving 5% of all general fund giving straight to outreach and missions (a practice we had to stop 14 months ago when everything hit). Also, we have been able to start new practices of designating 2.5% of all general giving to the kid’s ministry and 2.5% of all general giving to the youth group. We have been able to support old goals and start new goals in compassion and outreach that before were a challenge. We have needs arise that at one moment we were wondering how God would provide and then before you knew it, the need was provided for! He is a faithful God!
– The spiritual depth of our church and individuals is growing by leaps and bounds! Why does that matter? It means lives are being changed as people are experiencing the depths of God’s love and truth!
I read so many articles and books for pastor’s who are ready to give up because of feeling like they are burnt out. They all say to try to find a situation here or there to hold on to where you see God using you in someone’s life so you can hold onto that when you think all your effort is for not. I have been in those seasons and know how tough that is. However, that is not the season I am in now and I am so thankful!
So many people are making new choices, struggling with old ways because they see there is more to be had, tough real conversations with people seeking for more, and I couldn’t be more pumped about it! I love the beauty and mess of real life with real people with the results we see when we let God lead! Awesome!
– God has opened the flood gates of being able to make an impact within our community! When it comes to relational outreach, I love seeing our folks bringing friends and loved ones because of life change they are experiencing. When it comes to outreach, God has blessed efforts like our Mother’s Day Sunday, VBS/ Soccer camp, and I trust He will do the same with our upcoming “Back to Church” Sunday on 9/16/12. When it comes to helping others in need, we have seen great stories through the food pantry, Leapin’ clothes ministry, nursing homes, the fund raiser for the Marion homeless shelter and the like. I love when people say “I’ve been hearing about you and/or your church and it just seems there’s a lot happening there”. This is not for ego sake but because that is the result of God using us in a thirsty world and drives you to want to do more.
What a difference God makes in 14 months when His children desire to be used and just say yes to Him! It wasn’t too long ago that things seemed so bleak but through Him, the life is radiant! I still miss faces and relationships from before and those doors are still open but at the same time, God blesses us when we follow Him and I have learned a lot of lessons concerning that truth through this path.
So all this to ask, what are you struggling with? What do you crave to have that you have not asked for yet? What are the motives behind those wants and are they holy? What do you need to be more bold about in your prayers? What new motives do you need to adopt?
If you want prayer support, touch base with me and I’d love to pray for you! Please be in prayer for us as well. While I loving the joy of unity and passion right now, I am not unaware to Satan’s ways and challenges will come again. We need God’s protection on this as well. Also, as humans, it doesn’t take much to lose focus and let our motives to become worldly again….. pray that our motives stay Spirit centered…. that’s our prayer.