Tuesday, May 20, 2014

240 Months Ago....In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Has it really been 20 years? The calendar says so,but it sure doesn't feel like it. It was 20 years ago today (at 12:21 p.m.) that God started me on a path that has lead me to where I currently am. 

Twenty years ago, I was sitting in front of Mid-South Electrics on lunch break.
I was finishing up a book, The Open Church, and my heart was filled with all kinds of emotion. The gist of the book was that the church no longer functions in the way it was originally designed to. That in today's church setting, there is one voice (the pastor) who decides the function and vision for the church. The author used verses from Scripture that spoke of everyone participating by having a word to share, a song that should be sung. Some would bring an encouragement or a prayer need. It would literally be an "open church".  The author was not calling for a leaderless church, but rather one that truly valued the voice of those who were present.  I remember as I read this book, God stirred something in me and I wanted to be a  part of something like that. I wanted to be a part of a church where everyone had value and could find the vision to do what God was calling them to do. A place where they could be equipped to carry out their part of the Kingdom. I wanted to be a part of such a church. 

I remember finishing up the book, closing it, and then saying this prayer: "O God, I want to be a part of that kind of church." I haven't received very many answers from God that came as quick after I finished that prayer. "GO and start one." Foolish me shot back equally as quick. "I don't want to start one, I want to be a part of one." IT was like a divine ping pong game for the next few minutes. God would speak and I would counter with some lame excuse. Finally it dawned on me ( I never said I was fast to understand). He wanted me to start a church. Oh, horror of horror's. I can't start a church. But as quickly as that thought was filling my mind and heart, another one came.
It was to be a home church. You were to invite 15 couples (He actually gave me a list of names).  It would be a time of worship, prayer and sharing. Hopefully something would happen during that time that would encourage us all to move forward in our journey with God. 

I called my wife and shared with her what had happened. We were currently "church" nomads, as God had lead us out of the church we had been at for 14 years. We were currently going to a new church plant that was still in the birthing stage. Having an understanding of spiritual authority, I knew that if indeed God is calling us to such a work, we had to have a covering. We had to be under someones authority. So I drove over to meet with our current pastor. I shared, with great enthusiasm, what had transpired on my lunch break. My pastor was not as excited as I was. He explained that, at this time, this was not a good idea. Our current church was still trying to find itself and it's mission, and to start a church within a church would be very confusing to some. It was seen as more of a divisive work.So he turned me down to be our spiritual covering. Another problem was that I was not formally trained to be a pastor. I couldn't argue with that, but that did not lessen the call that God has given to me. I asked my pastor if he would bless us and release us. He agreed and did so. I did not want to leave on bad terms but I knew that this was something I had to do. 

There was only one man that I knew of who might provide the covering we needed.......Jim Bentley, pastor of Gadsden Vineyard Church. I called him and explained what had happened and what God had told me to do. Jim was more than happy to be the covering. In fact, at that time, Vineyard thrived on small home groups which they referred to as Kinships. So, Vicki and I had our covering to see where this dog was going to hunt or not.

Over the next 4 weeks, Jim provided us with everything we needed to get this group off the ground. He questioned us as to where we thought this work was headed. Where would it be in a year? Two years? Why do we think God picked us to do this? It was wonderful, as I needed someone to prod me and help me understand what lie ahead. 

The kinship continued for over three years. Little did I know that this was the school that God had placed me to learn how to pastor. Those who attended our group began to look to me to help them with their spiritual needs and physical problems. Debbie Handy came along and taught us how to worship. How to hear God and then act on what you heard became the norm for our group. 

So everything I currently do....
My place as pastor of Vineyard Recovery Church....
As staff pastor at Rapha.....

All came about because God spoke on May 20, 1994.
You see, all this I've written about today....
It isn't about me.
It's about a God who is faithful beyond our comprehension.
It is about a God who has a greater vision and purpose.

It is about a God who loves us more than we can fathom.
It is about God!

God on you


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