Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Year's Recap of Salem Downtown Fellowship

One year ago I was meeting my street friend at Starbucks, and I thought it was just a conversation between herself and I.  But the people around us joined in our conversation agreeing, "Yeah, we should follow Jesus."  I realized here was a community of people!  Immediately I asked them what they thought it would look like for God's Kingdom to be manifest on the street.  A year later, this is still our formative question when we visit.

Janet, wife to John, the facilitator for the Perspectives course, came soon after with me downtown and we have become ministry partners.  There is no way I could have done this without her.  We hold one another accountable to carrying out the missionary principles we've learned in that course.

This community of people on the street are a mix of religions and backgrounds, but they all show up to take care of those in need.  When someone is thirsty, they buy a drink.  When someone is hungry, they've brought cookies.  When someone doesn't have what they need for homeless living, they find a way to help them out.  They help them fill out job resumes and refer them to people who are hiring in Salem.  All of this Good Samaritan work was already happening... what was missing was a sense of authority in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to transform souls.

I queried if they believed that we have the opportunity to be the church not only in a building, but here in real life.  Our daily lives now count.  The gospel speaks to every situation.  We are learning together how to proclaim the gospel to one another's lives.

Last Thanksgiving our group decided we would put on a meal for ourselves and a few of our guests. We held it at Salem First Baptist Church in the CLC Cafe which faces the Skate Park. Unfortunately, word got out at the UGM and there was a line outside the door! Somehow we fed 60 people that day, when we had only planned to provide for 30!

During that meal I came across an old friend from when I took the Foundations course with Pastor Greg. I remembered his name instantly! After getting saved and coming to our church, he ended up homeless because his criminal record made him difficult to hire.  We were so glad to see one another again!

We have experienced two supernatural healings this year.  One was a friend who went in for symptoms of pancreatitis, but as he was having tests done, his condition cleared up as we were praying.  Another was with a friend who has stage 4 COPD.  He also has a series of other chronic concerns.  All of his chronic conditions except one were completely resolved (he still remains slightly low thyroid), and his ability to absorb oxygen through his lungs has improved, not worsened!  We have prayed in faith for God to demonstrate His power in physical trials.

We have seen three people surrender their worldliness to Jesus.

A man has admitted over time that he has been coming downtown for seven years to gamble after fighting with his parents.  He grew up Methodist and last week had a new song on his lips.  He changed the words from the hymn, "At the Cross"...

At the cross at the cross
When I first saw the light
And He took all my gambling away
It was there by faith I received my sight
Now I'm happy and joyful everyday

He continues to admit how every time he has the temptation to gamble, he literally imagines how he has laid this temptation at the feet of Jesus and He leaves it there again.

Another 22 year old young man would cry every other time we saw him because he longed to be part of his father's life.  He had been seriously abused by his mother and hasn't seen his father since he was 8.  We prayed and I met separately with him and his girlfriend and proclaimed that God's plan was to reconcile all men unto Himself, and you too must be reconciled to God.  He laid the problem before his Heavenly Father and now consistently admits, "I know that God is going to help me, and I don't feel like I need to call my dad's phone number constantly."

A 22 year old woman has been discipled this last year through two fistfights on the streets.  We have met with her separately and the whole downtown community has taken part in proclaiming the truth to her that our aim is to glorify Jesus, not be known for hosting trouble.  She has seen God work powerfully for her.  She was banned from downtown during our Thanksgiving meal, but we prayed and respected the law.  She called her police officer and asked permission to attend SFB during our meal outreach, and he permitted it!  This meal was so important to her and so was being with her people.  "I just love to walk through the doors of my church," she said of SFB, "I can feel close to God here."  She consistently brings her friends to church services and dinners.


Two men have taken the gospel vibrantly back to their families.  Their grown children and grandchildren have visited our group and brought snacks to help serve the hungry teens that come by.  They've confessed their distance from God.  They are talking about attending church once more, and their God-given dreams that they've put off.  One son went back to Court Street Christian Church and arranged to walk with his daughter through the waters of baptism.

"The bread man."  A year ago we didn't know his name. Like clockwork at 3 pm he stops and honors a member of our group by delivering a slice of great harvest bread. He would never say a word and never stay. One day, he actually stopped and talked! He shared that somehow his bike wasn't stolen, and while he didn't give God the glory, I have a feeling he knows! Now, whenever he stops he gets a hug and I ask, "Do you have any more amazing stories to share?" He reflects, and finds something of blessing in his life... and then walks away.

Janet and I marvel every time we depart.  It's as if our God-radar is on for life, and He is bringing ministry our way no matter how mundane the day might appear!  We are giddy, besides ourselves.  If we were working out of the flesh of good intentions, there is no way people would be coming to Jesus like this!  But Jesus has given even women authority on earth to obey the great commission.

On Thursdays we pray-walk downtown, past the Statesman Journal, the Capitol, the Courthouse, etc.  Janet impresses on me that nothing of His Kingdom happens apart from prayer!  On Tuesdays we meet one hour early so those who have interest in kingdom living can orally become acquainted with the biblical narrative. We have shared communion right on the street. We are raising one potential elder who belongs to this community. There is an energy and excitement. All have asked me what church I go to, and they have spoken deep respect for SFB and our pastors and inquire about our service times. Most importantly, Janet and I are not the only ones passionately following Jesus. Having tasted and seen that the Lord is good, they meet as ministers of the same whether or not she and I are there.

I am learning about bold faith. I am learning not to be discouraged when our group is small or seems to become more ungodly or there are no salvations. I am learning how to proclaim the gospel to all of life.  Ephesians 3:14-21






Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Possible Faith vs. Impossible Faith

What is possible faith?  What is impossible faith?

Possible faith - When we trust God to do something that human beings can do, but may not do by their own self-determination and strength.  We're insecure and we're gambling that we can succeed in the trial, so we pray.

Impossible faith - When we trust God to do something only God can do.  It is just like a dead person who comes back to life four days after dying.  The clinically deceased coming back to life four days later is impossible even by today's technological standards.

What are some possible prayer requests God can supply?

Raise money.
Build buildings.
Feed and clothe those in need.

Stuff from the ordinary of life.  The ordinary matters obviously, and we need God's attention there too.  When He takes care of these things for us, we are happy and we get to glorify Him.  Unfortunately, faithless humanitarian organizations can also do these things.  The amount of money the average Christian tithes to their church is just under three percent - which is identical to how much the average American gives to charitable causes.[1]  Possible faith can plant doubt in both saints and the watching world about what really is at work - human will, or God's will?

What are some impossible prayer requests that God must do for us?

Forgive sins.
Raise the dead.
Regenerate the soul of a man into a new creation in Christ.

This creates in me a thirst for the impossible.

Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”  And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee. Mark 1:27-28

We have been hearing lessons learned from the megachurch movement.  New buildings do not equal new disciples of Jesus.  This is why the main thing must be the main thing.  Disciplemaking- meaning making followers of those who are not currently followers - must be the focal point.  At times we all need material goods in order to represent God well and bless others.  But I've noticed how material stuff actually changes the relationship we have with God and with people - it makes God feel used, it makes people feel something short of dignified.  Disciplemaking actually costs very little, if no money at all.

Those who are called to serve Salem must go after the lost.  There is a gate marked "impossible" calling us out of where we often attune our time and energy.

"But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Mark 2:10

Jesus accompanied His movement with impossible requests being fulfilled.  Does He expect the same for us?  Yes!  He expects the impossible, not only the possible, to be done among those who make disciples:

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.  1 Cor. 2:4-5

Demonstration of the impossible.  Something bigger than what humans can possibly do.  This is how Jesus taught God to us.


Lord... if you do not fill my cup it will be empty!



[1]  Cheap Church: Learning the Labrynth of Bi-Vocational Living and Church Leadership by Hugh Halter





Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Unexplained Healing

Listen to this!

  •  This Soul on the Street has been mentioned before in our update posts. He is an older man. He has a chronic illness in stage 4. After routine blood work, his doctor scheduled him an appointment.  Usually the doctor adjusts medications over the phone but this time they asked him to come in face to face to discuss the results.
All they wanted to do was tell him good news!

He was told he would be chronically anemic -but he is no longer anemic!

He was told he would be chronically low potassium - but he is no longer low potassium!

His blood pressure and cholesterol came back perfect!

He has been hypothyroid for years and years and they cut his dose to 1/3!

But that's not all.  He had another appointment leading up to last week regarding his chronic illness.  Today he told us this:

"For two and a half years I have gotten no worse in being Stage 4.  This is a progressive disease, so the fact that it has not worsened is atypical.  Today they told me that I have actually gained back some of my function.  I'm scoring better than I did two and a half months ago!  I know this is because God is still trying to show me that He has plans for my life."

A year ago I tuned in to the webcast of the Verge 2013 conference in Austin, where I watched this video:



It changed me.  It changed what I wanted, out of being a Christian and serving Him.

I have been looking to pray specifically for God's restorative miracles in the lives of the Souls on the Street.  It has been hard at times to pray with faith and with the authority the Father gives us because of the Son of God.  There are waves where the Spirit has made me obedient.  I am just thankful that sometimes my prayers resemble the Christianity I see in scripture. Ephesians 1:20-21; 2:6,

He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named.... ...and [He] raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus....  

He is sharing this dominion over every spiritual force, freely given to us through faith in Jesus Christ. Unbelievable!!


Jesus, Praise You!  You are the King.  I long to see Your power, I long to see you glorified.  God without you we can do nothing.  We can ask You for our needs, we can share Your Words.  But only You give the increase.  Thank you for being there in the spaces between our prayers.  Thank you for keeping our hearts on course.  Please continue to show Your might through real people, real stories of transformation.  Thank you for meeting my needs specifically this week as well!



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Prayer as a Woman Giving Birth

Kinda hilarious how coarse the Bible is, sometimes, right?  T.M.I.!!

Lord, in trouble they have visited You,
They poured out a prayer when Your chastening was upon them.
As a woman with child
Is in pain and cries out in her pangs,
When she draws near the time of her delivery,
So have we been in Your sight, O Lord.
We have been with child, we have been in pain;
We have, as it were, brought forth wind;
We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth,
Nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen.
I am absolutely filled with wrong attitudes like these!  This kind of prayer was self-focused.  There is nothing wrong with asking for God to help; the point is that this was the bulk of their relation with God.  The by-product?  They had all the pains and symptoms of a woman about to give birth, but what they delivered was bodily gas.  No baby.  Eew!!

How many times have I labored with no fruit?  Something is missing.  John 15:8,
By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
I am constantly using my busyness for God to "make up" for something lacking in me.  Eew!  It just isn't about me!   Christian tasks are not meant to fill in the gap left by my failings.  Matt. 5:20,
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Not hating lands, homes, possessions, even our own children and spouse and parents for the sake of the fruit in Jesus Christ will leave us with impure motives.  I repent, a lot!  In my heart, these repentant prayers go something like this: "God, I know You walk with me through this suffering.  In the meantime, will You act in power for my friend, for this city?"

We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth.
Nor have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

The loud noises of labor pains built expectation of impact in the culture.  This scripture describes a kind of Christianity that does not impact beyond its own people-boundary.  We will not give birth in the world if we wait for the city to come on to a church campus to be exposed to Him.  We must have sojourners from our city walk with us through life in order to give birth.  But we need more than just sojourners from the city.  Isaiah 66:7-9,

'Before she was in labor, she gave birth;
Before her pain came,
She delivered a male child.
Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day?
Or shall a nation be born at once?
For as soon as Zion was in labor,
She gave birth to her children.
Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?' says the Lord.
If you've grabbed some sojourners - meaning - some unbelieving, post-Christian people, that's awesome.  You've made them privy to your labor pains of life lived for God.  But there's still something left wanting.  To give birth without labor pains, that is what I long for.  Out of all of life's struggles, bearing fruit might be the one effortless pursuit.  I'm ready!  What in the world is this??  It is a reversal of God's curse on Eve in Genesis 3.  Zion is citizenship in the Kingdom of Christ.  Though our ultimate experience of easy birth will be in the Kingdom of God, I believe that if we press into this Kingdom promise, with an eye on the city, He will give it to us today.


Jesus, forgive me.  I want fruit, and I'm spinning my wheels.  This is not what you designed.  Can you let me enter in to effortless fruit bearing?  By the grace stored for me in Christ Jesus?  Teach me to make my life small, teach me humility.  Help me to glorify you.  Teach me to abide in Your love so that I will bear much fruit.  I trust you to do as your Word says, and I am so happy to watch you at work!  Help me to remember to stay in Your love and joy!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Prayer Walking

Galen Currah from People of Yes has made himself accessible to us.  He recommends prayer walking as a way to start a church plant.  He has said that many times they pray to bind Satan in a neighborhood and that hungry people ready for the gospel will receive it.  Many times people have exited their homes, approach the team who is prayer walking, and ask them questions about God.

This person of peace, this Gospel seeker, begins a whole new church plant with his or her entire network of family and friends.


We haven't been prayer walking lately but hope that as the weather turns for the better we can do it more regularly.  I hope to boast in God and not in ourselves.  I am not awesome, or a great Christian because of the religious things I do.  I want to continue to write about what God does.  I write to invite and encourage.  

Do you believe that you have the power within you to start your own church?  It's true!  Will He not give you the power and authority to do exactly what He commands?  Of course!  Jesus commanded us to go make disciples who make disciples.  This is a church - a community of people whose legacy is obedience to God.  This is what these street Christians are looking for; this is what they believe in the depths of their soul.  It is why they are on the street.

On the People of Yes website it says,
The irony of our age: many people who avoid the big brick church down the street crave precisely what Scripture requires… 
  • Warm, relational atmosphere, serving one another in love (1 Cor. Chapters 12 and 13),
  • Lively music that everybody sings (the last two Psalms), 
  • Interactive discussion of God’s Word (the many New Testament “one another” commands such as “teach one another” and “exhort one another”),
  • Experiencing Jesus’ Presence rather than merely learning abstract truths about Him (1 Cor. 14:24-26).

Father, please be with us today.  Show us your presence.  Show the people on the streets of Salem, your Presence.  Let us enjoy who you are.  Let us see who you are.  Let us have ears to hear.  God, cause those who are willing to repent to be joined to us, and us joined to them, in the joy of your Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Authority for Women, Part 5

If you decide to live in limbo land like me, with one foot in the church door working complimentarily with appointed overseers, and another foot in high rebellion for the sake of righteousness, I will warn you it's miserable for awhile.  You're "discipling down," you're "discipling up."  You're calling people to get out of the system and plugging people back into the system.  Nobody likes you.  Nobody understands why you're both angry and loving at once.

Why stay?  Why bother them?  Why bother yourself?

KING JOSIAH HAD AUTHORITY

As King, Josiah had all the authority he could want - what he wanted to know was God's opinion on how he should next lead the people.  Even those in authority need assurance, they need inspiration, they also need revival.  They need someone outside the structures of what is, to speak the truth and to demonstrate it.

It is good for tender hearts to be collected in trust and love.  Although "discipling up" can be the most difficult kind of love to give away, it is the most rewarding.  If you want to be faithful to the church as you embrace a calling others cannot understand, I will hold your hand as you grit your teeth.  What you are doing is the most noble kind of thing.  Thank you for your leadership when no one else comprehended it.

The members of the Body need one another.  Overseers need the truth, because they bear a heavy burden.  They are godly people too, who, if exhorted, will be thankful for someone bold enough to promote God's will, and godly, powerful leaders like David and Josiah recognize it in women like Abigail and Huldah.

FOR WOMEN WHO FEEL GOD POINTING AT THEM

Start now with God's authority, and obey.  The approval of overseers comes later after you get your ball rolling.

Yes, on paper Jesus was respectful to send healed people in to the system in the prescribed ways, back to the very ways and rulers who were rejecting Him.

But what was most deeply on Jesus' heart?  What is this really all about?

Is it all about the lost?
Is it all about the backslidden?
Is it all about my personal calling?

Actually it's not about any of those.  Significance and purpose is derived from the church.

(Just as what you found you tolerated at church drew you to lead in Christ's authority, the church just goes to show you it gave you the direction in mission by pointing your hope back to Christ.  You wouldn't have heard your calling if you hadn't hung out with fellow worshipers.  How clever is Lady Wisdom!  See how we catalyst-types learned to be annoying?  We learned from the best!  We learned it straight from the Bride of Christ herself.)

We have got to have a love for the church.  It has to drive all that we do.  We don't win lost people if the church has lost its vibrancy.  We don't win the backslidden if the church has lost its vibrancy.  Our personal calling doesn't have its complete impact if the church we depart from has lost its vibrancy.  We don't lead our children well if their bigger picture of what it means to be a Christian, in the local church, has lost its vibrancy.  It is through the church that Jesus is accomplishing His mission.

One lone hero, one great rogue Christian visible to the world at large isn't enough to win back the culture to Jesus.  If all of us don't make it, none of us will.  Ephesians 3:10,
...now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places....
Calling and authority must be wielded in such a way to mobilize the larger body of Christ.


Authority for Women, Part 4

Huldah proves I don't need to be a lot of things in order to serve Christ.  Gender ought to be irrelevant, as should probably a lot of factors such as a seminary degree.

Part of me wants to cry, if God gives authority to do that which He calls us to do, what are we waiting for?  And yet at the same time I'm contradictory, I'm desperate to warn that it's not that simple.

I have had people tell me I care far too much about what people think who don't understand what God has called me to do.  They are usually those who've discovered that authority and power come directly from God Himself.  They're outside the usual church structures doing what they love, speaking back to me in limbo land.  They don't like me.  They're frustrated that I don't just keep it simple and obey Jesus.  They don't get why I stay.

I have had people tell me I care far too little about what leadership believes is important.  The way this is verbally expressed in church culture (not specific to my life) is "Well you may be called to do that, but I don't know if you can do that here."  So their best recommendation is to skip around churches in town, looking for a backer.  Yes, that obtains unity and peace for God's people.  But the ends do not justify the means (unfaithfulness).

Nobody likes me because I don't accept either of those.  It is absolutely wise not to ruffle feathers of godly men and women.  And yet it is godly to ruffle Kingdom feathers.

"DISCIPLING UP"

Remember Zacchaeus?  He hung out in the tree, gathering who Jesus was for some time before he had a change in heart.  This is typical discipling, "discipling down."  But leaders need time to take things in, too.  They need to have time to listen and observe.  Overseers of church need "tree-time."  They are no different.

On paper, consider Jesus.  When he healed people, He commanded them to go show themselves to the priest, as prescribed by the laws of Moses.  He commanded others to follow all the laws, be approved to enter society again through the God-ordained channels.  His ultimate passion was blessing the people and blessing the community of God by sending back people made well.  Yes - He told them the truth about God's commands.  However He still had respect for God's leaders.  Many of the leaders rejected Jesus, but not all.  Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, two temple authorities, eventually joined this Kingdom movement.  His respect bore fruit in the leadership.  We call this "discipling up."

Women are very familiar with another scenario they are often called, to "disciple up."  1 Peter 3:1-2,
Wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the Word, they without a word may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
Consider Abigail.  She had a husband who was a fool.  She was accustomed to being sought out by the servants in her household to bridge the gap of her husband's poor choices.  When she heard that David was nearby and in danger, she was quick to bring in true righteousness.  Nobody told her to do what was right; she did it under the authority of God alone.  She went out to meet David.  Did she tell him what to do?  No way!  She bowed in respect and waited to speak.  Even David had lost his head and was making the wrong decision.  And while Abigail saw that and wanted to stop it, she was quiet and submissive as many times as a man decided to take the lead.

Let's evaluate the wisdom of the counsel "you can do that, but you can't do that here."  It teaches us to be unfaithful to our local assembly.  Where would a godly wife be if she didn't remain faithful to an unbelieving husband?  Where would Israel be if Christ put away His inheritance for another nation who would say yes to Him?

This is why I believe that there are scriptures such as "women should be silent at church" and "I do not permit a woman to teach a man or be in authority over a man."  I believe that women are not in authority when a man shows up, ready to lead.  During those moments, a woman's godly response is to respect the leadership and authority given by God to men.  It is part of MY sanctification to remain in unity with the church in which I was born.

But that doesn't mean I'll forget my calling.