Last night, we had one of our best times of “participatory church” as we seamlessly shared a meal, partook of communion, fellowshipped and ministered one with another — and none of it depended on me!
The last several weeks have been very emotionally and physically exhausting for me. On top of my best friend dying, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my various professional and counseling commitments while concurrently experiencing a particularly bad bout of chronic fatigue from my autoimmune condition.
As yesterday morning dawned, I started feeling anxious because I just wasn’t feeling up to “overseeing” that evening’s fellowship. I was empty, and felt I had nothing to give. As the day progressed, however, God kept gently assuring me that our unassuming fellowship wasn’t my church and it wasn’t my responsibility to insure that ministry happened.
Logically, I already knew that. But attitudinally it is easier to take the man out of the “podium church” than it is to take the “podium church” out of the man.
It is hard sometimes to fully shake the “podium church” impulse of thinking that I am the sole proprietor over the flock that God has entrusted to me, and that I must insure that we put on a good “God show” each week so folks will keep coming back.
By 6 pm, when people started arriving, I had finally chilled out and felt at peace over not needing to have a teaching all prepared and ready to go, and not needing to be the spark that made things happen. In other words, God had me right where he wanted me — empty, needy and unable to get in the way of what he wanted to do!
My fiance took over the meal preparation as she put some of her great, home made pizzas in the oven. Others, without being asked, started pitching in to help with this and that, while greeting each other and excitedly catching up on what was happening in everyone’s lives.
As we ate, one of our young men in his mid-twenties took the initiative to lead us in communion. He gave a beautiful, impromptu encouragement, lasting about 10 minutes, about how no one hates his own body and how we are the body of Christ. Thus, Jesus loves us and through communion he strengthens and nourishes us — his body. It so ministered to my own soul and spirit that I teared up listening to him.
Others then started sharing what God had been showing them and doing with them over the last week, and again it was right all relevant to my struggles over the last several weeks.
One of our mom’s in the faith, who’s also a strong intercessory warrior, shared how God’s been showing her that much of what passes for intercession and prayer these days is really just projecting our own fears and anxieties onto God (which is OK, but we can’t stop there), rather than getting through to the heart and mind of God so we can advance his agenda.
That too deeply resonated with me, given my self-consumed crying out to God lately for him to sooth my angst, rather than seeking his will.
Through the evening, God used his people — one after another — to unknowingly minister to me and to assure me that he cared for me and that it was his good will and pleasure to be my provider, even though I don’t understand the who, what, when or where of how that will happen.
Towards the end of our time together, I again teared up as I shared a dream I had.
I’m not a person who normally dreams. Maybe twice a year I’ll have a dream that makes an impact on me, and that I actually remember.
But the other night I dreamed that two of the young men in our church, years from now, invited me to come minister at a conference they had organized in their own country. They did it to honor me as someone God had used, now at this time in their lives, as a spiritual father.
In my dream, I stood in the back of the conference and saw the precious fruit their lives were bearing as others treated them with respect as men who, in turn, had become spiritual fathers. In my dream, as I watched them interact with others at the conference, I realized that they had surpassed me in the faith. And I felt so humbled, grateful, honored and complete.
Last night, I began to taste some of that same precious fruit as I saw God increase, through others, as I decreased. I saw that it truly is not all up to me. My role is simply to walk in whatever measure of grace I have at the moment, and to let God bring others into their own gifting and grace.
The ministry that occurred last night was some of the best we’ve experienced because I was able to lay aside the impulse — despite logically knowing otherwise — to assume it all depends on me. In fact, rather than me ministering, much of the meeting was others unknowingly ministering to me as I admitted my own limitations and let them come forth.
Now that’s authentic church!
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