Thursday, February 12, 2009

An AMAZING Organic Church Experience

WOW!!!  It has been SO WORTH the wait!!

A little over three and a half years ago, God pulled us out of the institutional church.  At that time, we saw it more as Him merely pulling us out of the particular church we were attending at the time.  But shortly after that painful but most needed exodus experience, God planted a desire in my heart and a vision in my mind for something that I had no previous knowledge about.  He planted a vision and a desire for home church fellowship.  This wasn’t a vision for just any home church that was blossoming within me; it was an intense desire for an organic home church experience.  At that time, what I saw was a group of believers coming together in a home to worship and share the Lord together without religious boundaries, without self-centered agendas, without an order of worship or a church bulletin, without hierarchies, and without limits on how the boundless God of this universe can move and work in such a body.  I knew what I wanted, but didn’t know how to go about it or where to find it.

Lo and behold, the Lord brought a relationship into my life with a Christian sister who “just happened” to be involved in a home church fellowship.  She shared with me her experience, and I was thrilled to hear that there was actually such a thing taking place near me.  She let me borrow some of the books she owned about the home church concept, and I was astonished when I began to read them and within those pages to read what had already been planted in my heart and mind.  I wanted to jump in and be a part of it immediately.  But at that time, my husband, Michael, wasn’t so sure about it.  He wasn’t sure how it really worked or if it would work; he was skeptical.  So I waited, prayed, cried to the Lord, and waited some more.  Finally, Michael became willing to at least read a bit of the books which I had borrowed, that he may understand the concept of home church a bit better.  But even after reading some of the books he still wasn’t “convinced”; and he couldn’t really get into the authors’ writing styles. 

In the meantime, both of us agreed that God was not leading our family to go “church shopping”.  We didn’t have it in us to go from church to church on Sundays trying to find a “perfect” new church home.  Instead, on many Sunday mornings, we would gather our children in the living room of our home and we would have “family church”.  We would sing together, talk about the Scriptures and God together, and discuss any number of spiritual things.  This had its lovely moments and not so lovely moments as family life goes.  Mostly, they were good times.  After a while, our daughter begged for us to be together with other people; she longed for community with others, as did the rest of us.  Church community and fellowship with only the five of us was greatly lacking something.

I’m not sure how it finally happened, but one day Michael was ready to visit the church of that Christian sister who was already part of a home church fellowship.  We visited with this beautiful group of people for a few months.  But for God’s reasons (that only now I can understand) and through various circumstances that took place, God clearly showed us that we were not meant to remain as part of their fellowship.  It was sad to leave the fellowship of truly dear and beautiful brothers and sisters, but we knew that to remain among them would not have been the best of what the Lord had in store for our family. 

After our departure, we had more weeks and months—many months—of our living room “family church” times.  We placed ads in a local town paper trying to connect with other believers who may be interested in a home church experience.  From the ads there was one family who came to our home and began to meet with us.  We didn’t know what we were doing, but we both wanted the same thing.  So we met together, shared food and song, and talked.  But the Lord did not mean for that too last too long either or to be a strong attachment for us since this family lived in our town only for a very short time and they ended up moving to another city far from us.  So here we were again, alone. 

I continued researching the home church concept and trying to connect with other like-minded believers over the internet.  No matter how hard the loneliness became, or the desire to be with other believers, or how loud a tempting voice spoke enticing us that maybe we’d be better of going back to the institutional church and back to what for us would have been a “return to Egypt”, we continued to do one of the hardest things for man to do.  We WAITED on God.  We waited when we didn’t feel like waiting any more.  We waited when we were downright sick of waiting and wanted to rebel against the waiting.

Waiting on God can be quite a difficult thing, especially when you have a vision for something and such a fervent desire that it is like you can just reach out and grab it, but at the same time it is so far out of reach.  In my imagination I could see, taste, and almost feel the experience of what the spirit within me longed for.  But yet, it wasn’t possible to have it physically.  Things were getting pretty desperate for the whole family.  Our daughter was really struggling, not understanding this waiting on God and that He wanted us to continue to wait and not return to the institutional church.  Michael and I would keep checking in with the Lord often to see if maybe we should try putting the ads in the paper again, but a long time passed before the Lord gave us the go ahead to try that once more. 

One of the greatest things that God accomplished during our times of “loneliness” was allowing us to discover and enjoy a more satisfying and intimate relationship with Him.  What the human flesh can deem as loneliness is the platform for our spirit to know the fullness and satisfaction of an intimate relationship with God.  He used the time to strip us of things that desperately needed to be stripped away, and replaced them with a better understanding of Him, His ways, and His character.  I say another “WOW!” with regards to that work.

During those times, He also brought me to the death of my “Fears of Man and Rejection”.  Oh!  What a GRAND freedom from a terrible bondage has that been for me.  HALLELUJAH!  It has only been by facing those fears head on and experiencing God’s unending, boundless, and faithful grace and love in the midst of such events that He has been able to accomplish such a thing in me.  Does it still hurt to be rejected?  Of course it hurts my heart; I am a sensitive person.  But there is no fear that keeps me from doing or speaking as the Lord leads me to do because someone may attack or reject me.  Those fears no longer control who I am and do not cause me to hold back when I should go forward.  I have faced the fears and the many times broken heart head on and I have SURVIVED and grown STRONGER!  My victory is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Today, I am more concerned with needlessly hurting others instead of being hurt myself.

So three years after our exodus from the institutional church, we put out another ad about home church with a link to our website.  We had revamped our Discovering God Ministries website to include lots of information about the organic home church concept that people could read if they were interested.  All of a sudden God began to move things; and to move them very quickly.  What happened first after this set of published ads was that a Christian brother in our small town contacted us to let us know that he was part of a home church and proceeded to tell us about this fellowship.  We were delighted to hear such good news.  We began visiting with this fellowship to see if this was what the Lord ultimately had for us after all our waiting.  These brothers and sisters were another group of lovely people.  We shared songs, prayers, Scriptures, insights, and the Lord with them for a few weeks, enjoying their fellowship very much.

At the same time, I also received an email from Milt Rodriguez on behalf of the House Church Resource website stating that he was coming to our city for a home church conference.  He was contacting all the people who had filled an interest form on the website in regards to organic home church, and he was organizing a gathering of those people at one location, for one whole weekend, to offer help and wisdom in how to have organic home church.  Michael and I attended that weekend conference.  A group of about 30 people gathered together and met each other for the first time.  We told bits and pieces of our “church experiences” and our searching and longing for organic home church fellowship.  Milt offered us ideas on how to get started, some pitfalls to avoid, and encouraged us to go forward.  He went home at the end of that weekend, and we formed two groups based on our geographical locations.  On that Sunday afternoon in September began what I, at this moment, believe is where the Lord is deeply planting our family. 

An organic home church was born that September.  The type of church I have desired, dreamed about, and waited so long for is right here before my eyes.  We have been meeting on a weekly basis since that time.  We have spent the weeks getting to know each other and building relationships with each other.  We have told our life stories together, eaten together, played games together, had some tears together, sang together, prayed together, gone caroling together, questioned things together, discussed the future together, and on and on.  Has it all been perfect and without some difficult relational moments?  No.  We have also faced some difficulties together.  There are even those that began with us but have not remained with us.  The Lord has other adventures somewhere else for them.  In spite of any difficulties that have arisen, I am content and anticipating the Lord to do great and wondrous things, for I am not looking for “perfect”.  While we live in these earthen vessels, these imperfect earthly bodies and personalities which we all posses, there will be no such thing as a “perfect church body”.  But as we keep our eyes on the ONE Who is perfect, and as we are committed to allowing Him to do HIS work within us instead of having our own ways, it will prove to be a MAGNIFICENT experience!  It already has.  Instead of perfect, I believe that I have found a body of Christian brothers and sisters committed to loving and supporting each other as Christ loves us because Christ lives in us and among us.  As we come together and share Christ together, we will get the absolute joy of seeing God more clearly day by day.  We have only just begun and there is long path ahead to walk through.  But I am filled with excited anticipation of how God is going to reveal Himself, and what He is going to do all along that path.

As in all things in my life, may it all be for HIS glory!

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