“Healthy churches have an outward focus. Healthy ministers and church leaders do too. Inward-looking churches think about their own wants more than the world’s needs. Insulated and cut off from what God is doing in the world, they often wind up devouring themselves from within. . . . Keeping an outward focus can help prevent us from being worn down by the demands of ministry. Interacting with the lost helps us … jump into the flow of what God is doing as he continues to seek and save the lost.” (Renewed, Leigh Powers, pg 163-4)
For the past two years, we have met weekly for prayer with a small group of Christians in our last church. Prior to our weekly prayer meeting, we had a weekly Bible study with many of them. For one of the Bible Studies, we ran Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God. For those who had taken the course and then transitioned with us for the prayer meeting, they were excited to pray for the community and for how we could, as a church, become involved in what God was already doing around us. It was really hard for some to wait.
Those same people left the church when we did. They continue to meet with us for weekly prayer and also for gathering together on Sundays.
We recently had two outreach events into the community. They both went well and stretched those who participated a little bit and got our name into the community. We are not stating that we are a “church” but rather a “community”. We had a worship service though, this past Sunday, and it was open to the community. No one from the community came, and though that might seem discouraging to some, it didn’t affect our group in that way at all. We all loved our time together, in a rented facility in the community, where we worked together to set up and tear down. It was the first formal service (with our worship trio and sermon) that we’ve had together since the last service at the end of February in the church we all came from. And that was so healing. It was a formal transition into something new and different and somewhere that felt more professional and community focused. Our home has been and will continue to be a lovely place for ministry, but our home is in a summer village about a 12 minute drive down the highway from the community we are wanting to serve. By renting a community facility, we are not only financially supporting the community, but are in a much better place to welcome them into our fellowship.
Last week (Sunday to Tuesday), my husband and I were leading worship with another pastor-couple we are friends with, at our last denomination’s annual Pastors and Wives’ Retreat. It was a goodbye of sorts for us as we have no idea if we will be back there again next year but it is doubtful at this point. The retreat went so well and we heard from so many who said that it felt different and was their favorite one that they had gone to over the years. It was our favorite too.
I had a wonderful healing time there and one conversation especially brought so much freedom and opened up some areas that needed healing. (Thank you, Amy!) I had thought that my emotional well had dried up a bit but during that particular conversation, which involved SO much crying – full-on ugly crying, and praying and seeking and just being lovingly supported through it all – I obviously had a lot more grieving and healing that needed to happen through tears.
It didn’t take long before I was feeling the pinch of a difficult relationship situation that began about a month ago and has yet to resolve well. We were heading into our second outreach event and service and I was finding myself very distracted and emotionally/spiritually strained. I prayed and forgave and processed what I could with God. We had our event and then our service and out of it, I was so blessed. It was taking my focus from inward to outward and the physical component (handing out free water bottles to the community during the main fair day) just forced me to stay present in the moment and I found myself enjoying the distraction and connection. The next day was filled with the service and again, I had to stay present.
On Monday, I talked with my dearest friend of 41 years, who is a Spiritual Director. She asked me a question about the difficult relationship. “If you could just pick up your chair in that (situation) room and move it somewhere else… and think, ‘What is the gift?’ What gift is God blessing me with in this difficult circumstance’ What would it be?” And there was no pressure for me to answer her, but I had already been thinking of it earlier that day when I had another dear friend over for coffee. I was saying how the impasse in my relationship with the other meant that someone else was getting the time and attention that were usually given to me; and how that was far more important. My SD friend continued with that theme in her response, talking excitedly about what a blessing that was – to have a break from the usual relationship communications and the forging of new strengths between the other and someone else. It was wonderful to be understood and affirmed through it all. It gave me even greater freedom to let go. I had finally reached a resolution for the inner-turmoil that had been tormenting me for the past month.
It also led me on a deeper path… realizing that the rejection I was feeling had been piled on since age 3 (nearly 4) and that deep layer was visited with my friend and then processed. Yesterday morning, I awoke with another realization about it all and was able to not only grieve more but forgive more. Those deeper memories and the grief-work required are happening and healing is here. I am on my Road to Healing.
I would love to somehow seque this but there is a thunderstorm starting up outside and I’m concerned about my electronics during a storm… so will end this here. Thank you so much, for those who have been praying for us. For me. It makes such a difference. God is answering in amazing ways. ❤