God bless you and let us open with a prayer –
“Heavenly Father, I pray that in the same manner and Spirit in which I write this today it is received. May your wisdom fill the mind of the reader (James 1:5) in order to edify your body (His bride John 3:29).”
As a businessman/entrepreneur I have spent much time creating and delivering strategies. It was for a season the reason for my employment. I had a God given ability to be able to strategically see all the moving pieces at once. I thank God for His gift and have come to learn that He blessed me in this manner for His purposes…not mine (Rom 12:6-8). That lesson took a lot longer than it should have. My pride and ego would not allow me to fully empty myself for God to fill me. I would be a liar if I did not disclose that while I am better than I was; I am still further than I wish. So keep me in your prayers.
A couple of weeks ago I was in search of a church or building where we could begin services for the Elisha Project Ministries (EPM). In October of 2012, Brother Mark and myself were in the middle of a season of fasting and prayer for God’s will for EPM (Romans 12:2). It was at this time that we heard from God and were given the vision of establishing EPM as the next phase of EP. In order to carry this out we would need resources that we do not have in the natural. Due mostly to the holiday season this mission took a backseat for the latter part of the year.
In January of 2013, while in the middle of a 31-day fast God impressed the matter again on my heart. So on a cold New England Monday (my usual day of rest) I set out to find a building that would suit his purposes. I didn’t tell too many people what I was up to because of the DOUBT that sometimes emerges.
Oftentimes, when God gives you a word you have to remember that He didn’t share it with the world. God will put a dream on your heart that is too big for you on your own…but with God all things are possible (Matt 19:26). When you go from friend to friend looking to drum up support (as well intentioned as they may be) what you usually find is doubt, resistance and fear. It may be masked in sage advice, but when we see in the natural we can only draw from our past experiences. So stay in God!!!
I saw no less than 5 properties that morning and made all the necessary calls. As I was on my way back to the office I came across a big, old church right smack in the middle of where all the drug addicts and alcoholics (AKA our brothers and sisters) like to mingle. In fact, we had previously sat on those very steps on a few occasions to feed and minister to them. I had always assumed that the church was abandoned due to its lack of presence on that avenue. The windows were boarded up and I never saw people going in or coming out. As I looked closer rounding the corner, I noticed a name and number for the presiding Reverend. I committed the number to memory and dialed it immediately. To my surprise a woman answered the phone and I inquired about the church’s status. She informed me that it was indeed a “living church” and that she would have the Reverend call me directly. The feeling that washed over me was one of joy and confusion. Nevertheless, I awaited his call and kept looking.
The following day I received a call from this servant of God and we set up a meeting at a local coffee shop for the next day. The meeting went splendidly and he was very much on board for this vision God had placed on my heart. It was a vision for a different kind of service. God had made it as clear as I could hope for that He was asking for EPM to be a Saturday service of prayer. That He was looking for EPM to bring both the people that serve at EP and the people we serve together for prayer. Now this was not and is not to be another fellowship time for coffee and cake. This is to be a time of opening our hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving…a time to bear each other’s burdens (Gal 6:1-2) in the most basic of ways. A time set apart regardless of denominations, income levels, social standing, or tenure in God’s army. The vision does not call for DI-visions based on doctrinal nor political beliefs. The vision does not even call for a Pastor (as much as that may bother some…and at one time would have not sat well with my ego). The vision calls for servants of God to kneel together and seek Him in a true and humble way. The leader in this vision would be none other than the Spirit of God.
As I spoke to this servant I could no longer hide my joy or zeal. So there we were in the middle of Dunkin Donuts (one denominational and one non-denominational servant) praying and praising God like we just received the fire of Pentecost (Acts 2:3). He assured me of His commitment and notified me that before we could go any further I would have to come and meet the BOARD…the LAY LEADERS OF THE CHURCH!!! Now, for a brief moment my zeal was on guard. But I remembered the words of our Lord and Savior, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isa 41:10
Then one Sunday morning Brother Mark and I set out to attend their church services, worship with them, and meet the BOARD. The services were spirit filled and there was much joy and love for God. We worshipped as we do anywhere we go…with the Love of God on our hearts and praise on our lips. After the service we were called to the church library to meet the BOARD. The board was comprised of a Lay leader (responsible for all things having to deal with the body…up to delivering a message in the absence of the Pastor), an Operations leader (responsible for all church activities, partnerships, etc.), and a Building manager (responsible for the building and everything to do with that). So the stage is set for you to better understand. We sat directly across from them leaving the head of the table positions (Luke 14:1-14) for the Pastor and the Building manager. The Pastor opened up with a word about His vision and a parable about Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Matt 14:13-21). He asked the leadership team if they remembered how the disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowd away for they did not have enough food to share with them and the hour was late.
Side note: Brothers and sisters please do not live in a place where you think that you do not have enough to give. As long as there is breath in your body…you have more than enough to give!!!
They didn’t respond to the Pastor and I am afraid they missed the significance of his question. He turned over the meeting to me so that we could share our vision from God with the last instructions being, “I am testing you all to do the right thing as this vision is in keeping with vision God has put on my heart for our church.”
I’d been praying throughout this time and was ready to speak. I spoke about the way we were led to their church. I mentioned the fact that we thought the church was abandoned (maybe not the smartest course of action, but the Pastor had already referenced it thrice). We spoke about the evident need in the area and how we were not trying to recruit people for our church, but instead would hopefully add to their congregational numbers…as there are many in the area that are un-churched.
As my exhortation (parakaleo) came to an end I waited for their questions. The Pastor thanked me and asked the Lay leader to speak first. He quickly thanked me and explained how their denomination had many rules and regulations that they had to enforce. After some more official speak, he deferred to the Ops leader. I was still praying. The Ops leader tried to defer to the Building manager but the Pastor stepped in and ordered him to speak his mind, as he was integral to the church.
The Ops leader than started to explain that he was unsure of how we could be successful since he has been working with THIS population for quite some time (in his secular job) without success. I then recast the vision explaining how my focus was bringing people closer to God through prayer and as such, did not intend to offer any wrap around services. This gave him the out that he was looking for and he ceded his time to the Building manager. This is where it gets interesting.
The building manager proceeded to share a story about a homeless alcoholic man in the community that he himself had been ministering to. He explained, that although much time had passed he had not broken through; although the man had attended church a couple of times. He than explained how prior to making a decision he was going to need EPM to put together a strategy for the delivery of services. He explained that it should not be difficult for us to draft a 3-point plan outlining how we intended to reach people. Than he would review it and see if it were a good fit for the church and the building. (I was reminded of the scene in the Godfather when Don Corleone refuses a partnership with Sollazo and tells him that he has no problem with him carrying on with his vision as long as it doesn’t interfere with his own interests…I digress).
He then reminded me of his Pastor’s sermon that morning about Zacchaeus the Tax Collector climbing (Luke 19:1-10) the tree in order to see Jesus. Thus referencing the fact that people must want to change in order for it to work. Just as his homeless man would not come in the church unless he wanted to…well, what could I say there? Except that if it were not for the fact that Jesus on his way to Jerusalem took the detour through Jericho…there would be no Zacchaeus story to speak of. Jesus provided an opportunity for Zacchaeus to make that decision. Just like He provides the opportunity for each and every one of us to come to HIM. We must facilitate for the presentation of that opportunity.
Mr. Building manager was unfazed by my retort and again explained how the outlined strategy would allow the church to make an informed decision. There was no call for prayer…just planning. With nothing to lose I thought that I would leave them with the fact that “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Rom 12:5
Brothers and sisters, I am a man that knows how to be under authority…”For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” I proudly served in the Marine Corps and have attended and led many a leadership training…all that to say that I understand the need and time for planning. I also understand the time and desperate need for prayer.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks that we have created ourselves (Christians) is this need to be like the world in our approach to spiritual problems. I have been as guilty in the past as anyone. Instead of talking with the elder and his wife with a Ph.D. in the Holy Spirit we flock to the board members that have the graduate degree or the VP of this or the other; or dare I say, the largest checkbook. Always looking at their resumes with our human eyes as any other secular organization would.
God said, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
I challenge all of us to try and see with spiritual eyes and the next time someone comes to you with a vision…don’t ask for a 3-point plan…ask them to pray with you. While you are both on your knees crying out to God be silent, and let that still small voice speak to your heart.
There is neither plan nor committee that is going to bring the latter rain and next revival to our land. There will be no marketing plan to grow your church. There will be no weekend Worship concert that is going to reach the youth in your communities for lasting change. There will be no excited sermon that is going to compel people to come to the Savior.
Have any of you spent 3 years walking with Christ through the streets of your cities? Watching Him perform miracles and signs…of course not. Although the apostles did all of that those things Jesus ordered then to do nothing but wait for power.
“Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.” “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” Acts 1.8.
Isn’t that His vision and plan for His kingdom? Is He not our Leader?
Less planning and more prayer for that power from on High in the form of the Holy Spirit…that is what is needed today.
God bless you and keep you hungering and thirsting after righteousness…for only then can you be filled.
To date, we have not provided the 3-Point strategy. However, we will share it with you at this time:
1st Point – We will open the doors.
2nd Point – We will welcome people in with his Love.
3rd Point – We will close the doors.
The rest is up to the Holy Spirit…we just serve here…we are not in charge.