Today in the jail, after two hours of powerful ministry between the men one to another, they stopped and said they decided earlier this week to do something for me. They then stood around me, laid hands on me, and prayed the most wonderful, tender prayers of blessing I’ve ever heard.
I cried as I realized what they were doing, because they’ve learned – maybe with some of them for the first time in their lives – to give rather than always take or receive.
After months of mentoring them on “being” the church (see my blog, The Church in D Pod), they heeded God’s gentle call to new pastures. As a result, they now “get” it and wonderful life is flowing between them and from them – even to me!
How many church leaders – who so closely guard the microphone and the prerogatives of their front podium as they try to direct even God himself during their closely scripted and controlled Sunday services – have ever experienced the joy of being just one of many?
Do they realize they have no monopoly on the many spiritual gifts God wants us to give as acts of worship, to Him and in fellowship one with another?
If not, then they are missing the blessing of letting life and ministry flow under the prompting of the Holy Spirit – not simply from them, but to and around them.
Those men in the jail took a chance on God’s prompting by embracing “church” according to New Testament principles.
They were willing to leave the old and the comfortable behind.
In the process, they’ve learned to be participants, rather than spectators; to use their gifts, rather than being entertained by the gifted; to minister to each other, rather than always expecting to be ministered to; and most of all, to give rather than always receive.
They now know what it means to gather together to encourage one another under the leading of the Holy Ghost, rather than be titillated by some hyped-up Phony Ghost.
As I walked out of that jail, I thought about how the last several months of “being” the church with my incarcerated brothers – who are willing to take a chance on Christ becoming alive in them, through them and among them – has restored my soul and invoked God’s presence more than the last several decades of “going” to church.
Oh Church, I plead with you. Start hearing and sensing what God wants to do among us as He leads this new spiritual generation to new pastures. Life, and the sweet presence of God, await us as He simply bids us “come”.
Yes, the “new pastures” are different, and yes it means some of us old fogies leaving our comfort zones behind (including the old ways and the old circumstances where God use to met us, which too often have become little more than nostalgic, hollow shells of God’s former presence).
It means being vulnerable, and yes it means embracing change as we trust God and follow Him to those new pastures.
But I’m here to tell you that His new pastures have rich, green grass and still, cool waters.
God awaits us there, and so does the sweetness of His presence.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul . . .
~ Jim Wright