Yesterday a good friend of mine, a brother in Christ lost his long battle with cancer. His life and death have been the thoughts of my mind and reflection my soul. We met for 2 years every Friday at the WH where he encouraged, motivated, prayed over me and held me accountable. He was a tangible example of God’s grace to me, an undeserved gift. He was a sound board onto which I would bounce my visions and ministry directions onto and off of for reflection.
A few weeks ago I asked Larry and others in ODC to respond to four questions to assist me in gauging how effective my leadership in ODC has been in making disciples and as a church in the eyes of those who are members. Here is Larry’s response to those questions. As you read them, you will understandwhy I will miss my Friday mornings with him.
What has happened at your Church since last year?
The house church is operating effectively and determinedly as one; tested by fire. A discussion of metrics such as membership numbers and finances is probably in order, but I can't help with that. I can say however, that people in the margins, whom Jesus called "the least of these" are hearing the Gospel. They respond to the Good News because it is the power unto the salvation they desperately need, rejecting addictions and personal failures and sorrows. I have observed that a cross dresser or a drug addict will get the same love, spiritual care, and plain spoken truth as a retired Service member, an insurance agent, or a housewife. People from all walks are also responding to Monday night community meals at Terranova's Italian Restaurant, and coming to house churches with stories of how they have been hurt or ignored in traditional churches.
I have fewer insights (or desire to access any that may be available) with regard to specific demographics for growth, dollars, baptisms, etc. than Gary may be able to reveal in pastoral consultation. Instead, I can offer an observation that reflects the words of our Lord, who told us that the world will know us in that we love one another. The following metrics are transparently observable:
* Grace, peace, and forgiveness readily replace obligation, guilt, or religious demands
* Sacrifices are voluntary
* People are submitting to one another in love
* The community is being served in love with evangelism, meals, prayer and developing friendships
* Blessing and care for one another is passionate among the brethren
* Jesus is glorified in every situation; even in our failures and befuddlements
* The equipping of the saints is ongoing. Evangelism, spiritual gifts, and healing, are sought with new zeal and
supported with prayer and study of the Word
Where are you now as a member and a church?
As a member, I'm a wide eyed observer who loves the grace and love that we all enjoy. Before God, I must state that my most important role is to be a friend to Gary; to pray for him, speak the truth candidly, support his efforts when he is on track and kick him a little when he is off track or when he's consumed by any anxiety or non-productive emotion. So far, my kicking skills are diminishing from disuse. I have also begun to disciple a few men in the fellowship whom the Lord has pointed out to me; an act of mutual submission and encouragement to good works. Normal Christian stuff.
House church is alive and well. The numbers fluctuate, but they are all but inconsequential for the discipleship training that is central to the work that Gary is doing (discipleship is for the willing, not the gold star earners). Some new converts fall away from fellowship to the allure of their old sins. Many return, some don't - or haven't. Some will come back with new strength; new resolve but under the threat of scolding or shunning. Mature Christians are welcome and valued for their insights. So far, the wolves have been kept at bay. It is a time of peace and personal growth with a focus on our Lord Jesus alone.
Where do you want to be?
I want to see what we are already doing to increase under the influence of the Holy Spirit, continuing to trust less in our plans, preparations and expectations than in what He produces. I believe that this is a season of equipping, but we dare not stop as equipped people to rest in our laurels. Instead, having freely received, we must continue to freely give of our gifts, inner healings, and insights to a hurting community.
What is holding you back from reaching your goals?
The work is not ours, but Christ's, so what would hold us back? Could we fail? Of course we could. All it takes is sin, lies, bitterness, backbiting, wolves with false doctrine creeping in as brothers, or any number of things that the scriptures warn us of.
We could also find ourselves 'held back' by our own anticipations. If our goal is numbers, we will find disappointment at the door often enough. If our goal is to honest, pure time before our Lord Jesus, empowered by His presence where two or more are gathered, we do not fail, but rather participate in and yes, rejoice in low numbers as part of Gods design on any given week. We are the servants that sow, but God forbid that clever speech should bring the increase.
The thing I fear most is trying to act or perform like a "church" instead of HIS church, the body of Christ, made up of those whom He has called out loudly.
On the other hand, the implied question appears to be, "What could be done to help?" Resources are always needed by Gary for his ministry and it hurts me to see his struggle from lack of financial support and other resources. It should flow down in support this GOSPEL INSPIRED, FIRST CENTURY MODEL of ministry that is still as much on the fringes of the American church experience as the desperate people it so often ministers to.
Again, I will miss our discussions and his encouragement. It was a tangible example of God’s grace. Take time to reflect and prayer over this: To whom am I an encourager and a tangible sign of God’s grace? Many of you reading these blogs do not attend ODC. You all have pastors, priests, mentors, ministry leaders, friends, family who need ‘Larrys” on there life. Who are the people for which you can say, “Before God, I must state that my most important role is to be a friend to Gary; to pray for him, speak the truth candidly, support his efforts when he is on track and kick him a little when he is off track or when he's consumed by any anxiety or non-productive emotion.”
Please share any reflections from this blog in the comments box below.