I’m still trying to process the experience I had last week.
I’m trying to think of the best words to put on this paper, the most amazing story that will capture your attention, because I want you to have experienced the same thing that over 550 women did as we gathered to worship God, study His Word, communed with other believers, and be equipped to spread the Gospel.
I sit in this chair holding an empty bowl. It’s empty for a purpose. It has a crack right through the middle of it and a piece of china chipped off on the side. That’s me. I’ve tried to empty myself every time I come to this alter-chair. Here I am now writing this.
I tried to empty myself to be open and to listen to what God wants me to do for His glory. I went to this gathering with an empty bowl because I really didn’t know the reason I was given the gift to go. Oh, yes, I could hardly wait to see some of the women who have ministered to me in amazing ways and hopefully to get to even meet them face to face, but knowing God, there was much more to come from those 3 days.
But the week before I left, that bowl was anything but empty. Not only was the to-do list long before I left, but deeper than that was the evil one trying to steal my joy and excitement of going. The week before I left, my heart felt like it was holding a ton of bricks. My dad has not been well the past 8 months and just learned he has cancer. I got in a fender bender in the grocery store parking lot. Ugh. I thought my daughter was in danger when I got a text message from her. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced that fear. Even though everything turned out OK, the weight of the world’s darkness of abuse, brokenness, refugees, and people who are truly crying out for help in dangerous situations flooded my mind. I was overcome with uncertainties of the months ahead for our country and the world.
But I wanted to be overcome by the Lord’s presence. I needed my heart to be flooded with the Holy Spirit in that bowl instead of fear.
The night before I got on the airplane to go to Orlando, a close friend told me that Satan was attacking me. He was trying to do everything he could to steal, kill and destroy my joy and excitement of what I was about to experience. It was spiritual warfare but he was not going to win.
And he didn’t.
That night my soul breathed in peace and won a battle.
From the time I met my new sisters-in-Christ (and roomies) for the first time in the airport to the time I had to get back on the plane to go home, was anything but uncertainity. It was certainity we were to be there. Each one of us in each one’s context. For a reason. With purpose.
To be ushered to be disciples of Jesus.
To become united as the Body of Christ.
To join as an army of sisters who will fight for the souls of those who don’t know Jesus.
To break every chain because we’re an army rising up!
Simply because we’re in love with Jesus.
I can say so many reasons why this IF: Local Leader Gathering was so life-giving. To be surrounded with other believers around tables and in hotel rooms. Where they quickly become friends as if you’ve known each other for years. Where the name of Jesus is in every conversation.
The worship was the weight of glory. It wasn’t a performance. The songs were prayers and praise. Women were singing loud because God’s a Good Good Father and we have 10,000 Reasons to be grateful. The Holy Spirit was signing with us. We poured out our praise because His Breath was in our Lungs. In Christ alone we stood with chains being broken and hands raised high.
Prayers were whispered and proclaimed out loud. Knees were on the ground. Hands were holding hands that had never touched before yet could feel the power of the Spirit uniting each other. Tears were released. Sin was forgiven. Guilt was replaced with redemption. Declaration of freedom was sung. Affirmation to callings was given.
Words of truth and vulnerability were said on the stage and over meals. There’s one crucial point that ran through the words that were spoken those three days. The crucial nail that was driven into our hearts all pointed back to the nail scars on Jesus’ hands. I can envision those scarred hands reaching up over his head, reaching to the heavens, as he proclaimed,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Be a disciple. Make disciples.
It’s as simple as that.
There’s too many people on the road to hell. I get a lump in my throat when I sit down and really think about that. I want that road to be less traveled. There’s kids and adults being sex trafficked. ISIS – need I say more? Extreme poverty in 3rd world countries and in our cities. There are so many good ministries that reach out to people being persecuted by the enemies we learned about last week. Those ministries were all so good and I want to support all of them.
Yet we’re not to leave out the local church. At the conference not only were we encouraged to be disciples and to disciple others, but emphasis was also put on the importance of the local church. As Kay Warren said, Jesus put all his eggs in one basket – the local church – training the men in his life to reach one soul at a time as Jesus was.
After the gathering was over, I’ve been processing all I heard and experienced. For some reason, I’ve started asking myself, “Does it seem like the original purpose of many churches in the Western culture are falling through the cracks or being watered down because the focus becomes the extra resources, time, energy put into programs, numbers, and esthetics instead of simply pursuing Christ alone and how we’re to live as a disciple?”
What’s happened to pure and simple? What’s happening is that it’s emerging! I can feel it in my bones. All we need is Christ, and God’s Word as our armor. I’m seeing this as I hear more stories of people living unashamed for Christ and take the action of a follower – take on the action of Jesus – and being led by the Holy Spirit to reach out to others.
I believe when people become disciples, the desire to glorify God and have compassion for people causes them to naturally serve and grow in Christ’s Name. As Jenni Catron said on stage, people “begin to identify themselves IN CHRIST and get to know who He is to discover who WE are.” Being disciples is living with purity and simplicity.
When I heard Jennie Allen speaking at the beginning of the gathering, she said as Christ followers the method Jesus taught the disciples was to imitate him: making disciples and saving souls. It’s as simple as that. It always has been and it always will. Are we holy? Are we obeying God? Are we making disciples of the world? Those are questions she asked and I haven’t been able to get them off my mind since then.
I want to live a holy life in the presence of God. I want to obey Him. Those desires I’ve continued to have for many years but now I have a fresh passion to be a disciple and help make disciples, pointing people to Christ.
So, my big question is “Who?” Who am I to reach out to? Who are my people? That’s my prayer. God, make it clear to me. I know each day He gives you and me opportunities to be learner and to guide others.
Your children. Your neighbor. The worker at the Starbucks drive through every morning you stop by. A mom in the bleachers at the kids soccer games. A family whose child is in your daughter’s class at school, who can’t afford a car or to pay a cab, wanting a ride to church. A single mom who’s trying to balance life yet still reaching out to another women who’s in the middle of a divorce. A young woman who wants to be mentored and then willing to return the gift to another woman in her life. Together we can learn from each other and at the same time point them to Christ.
I feel those are daily opportunities. I agree with what Ann Voskamp wrote, “We are to make an influence to this world, and one individual, one soul can be your world.”
But Lord, if it’s something else where I need to take another step of faith show me where to take that step.
I thank God for the calling He gave me to reach out to women in Alamance county and host IF:Gathering 2015 and with His will, I’m willing and ready to do that again February 5-6, 2016. But I have a burden deep within that He is calling me to do more than to lead an event.
He’s asking me what I’m willing to risk. He asks, “Are you willing to sacrifice some of your personal time, energy and resources to be intentional to do whatever it takes to help guide others to a relationship with Christ?”
Nothing held Jesus back from speaking about God, his Father and the promise of the Kingdom to come. He was bold and unashamed and felt the urgency to save as many souls as he could in his years of ministry while on this earth. Time is getting shorter.
What about you? Have you been feeling the same way in the pit of your soul?
I’m so thankful God is teaching me with a learning curve – really with grace. All grace and love. May this urgency and burning in my belly never go away.