Reveal the Encounter Issue 3

What things will God bless?  This is the question I repetitively seem to be asking myself, not only in ministry, but in my own personal life as well.  In the midst of trying to discern the future of our church and ministry, I had to keep asking myself this question.  The reality was that we couldn’t do this by our own power, and the only way to get God to bless this local church was to do things within the will of God, because we need His favor.  When we follow God’s will, we are pleasing God, and I believe that’s another question that we can use to analyze and put our actions to the test, “Does this please God?”  So often, I believe there’s this unspoken understanding that if the church is doing it, if a pastor is for it and it doesn’t “technically” contradict Scripture, then it has to be God’s will.  I wonder how many times we try to write things off as God’s will when God is really sitting in heaven and screaming at us to stop!

As I began to pray for God’s will at Rose Hill in the fall of 2019, I had to accept that God’s will is so much bigger than Rose Hill.  While Rose Hill has an incredible legacy of ministry, it is also just a very small piece of the great work.  God’s plan, God’s will, is to have this whole world restored, and Rose Hill is a piece of a much larger plan.  Now, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean to demean or belittle the impact that one local church can have in the world, but we also have to remain humble and keep a proper focus on the big picture. We must keep a balanced understanding of our uniqueness and the greatness of God.

So, where did Rose Hill fit into God’s will and plan?  This line of thinking led to some very uncomfortable realizations, realizations that I knew would meet resistance and unhappiness when I shared them with not only my local church, but any small church facing a difficult journey of decline.  While I knew that our happiness was secondary to God’s will, happiness is a large contributing factor to the human nature and dealing with mankind.  We naturally want to do things that make us happy, whether we are “born again believers” or not.  We don’t want to forget that just because God has made us a new creation in Him, we are still human, and to be human is to desire the things that make us happy.  Sometimes God’s will and happiness go hand in hand, but sometimes the enemy makes sure that happiness is the farthest thing away from God’s will because he knows that it can deter us.  Unfortunately, I believe that we have many Christians and churches who are doing what makes them happy and not God.

If you haven’t noticed already, trying to discern God’s will isn’t always the easiest thing, and when God spoke, He didn’t just lay out some plan to “save our church”. God laid out a new way to start being the church.  I had to let things go and create an atmosphere that would empower not this one vision, but the vision of all believers.  God gives us all unique talents and abilities, a unique way to look at the world.  This uniqueness inspires how we live out our calling as a Christian.  Yes, we are all called to live out our faith!  You don’t have to just be called into vocational ministry to receive a calling.  This new model of ministry that God was laying on my heart would empower the local church members to no longer be spectators but active participants in the mission of God, the mission of building His Kingdom.

But, first we had some things that needed to be removed out of our path so that we could focus more clearly and wholeheartedly on the Mission.  We, like so many churches in western culture, had been so focused on doing “church things” that we couldn’t be the church.  We were exhausted and building the Kingdom took a backseat.  But, God began unpacking this vision as a way to minister and be the church that could work in any community and situation if believers are putting their call to participate in the mission as a top priority in their lives.

I began pouring myself out into this vision, reading everything I could and attending trainings like Church Plant Essentials because we weren’t just revitalizing the church, we were starting something completely new.  I shared with my board that God was working out something big in my heart and I scheduled a weekend vision casting with my leaders a couple of months later, right after the holidays.  I just knew that this vision would change their lives and the church forever.  I won’t bore you with all of the details of the vision casting and church business that had to be taken care of, but I can tell you that in the end the church voted and agreed to pursue this vision.  The courage and strength of these believers was incredible.  Their willingness to change and see beyond themselves was at the root of all we were doing.  A few months earlier, all I could see was the word “close” but now I saw hope.  However, they always say when you open yourself up to the movement of God in your life, be prepared, because God can shake things up more than we ever imagined and that’s exactly what God did as we continue through this story.

In the midst of this vision, we would sell our building, invest the money, live off the interest so that money and facilities were no longer a concern.  You might be reading that last line and be saying, “What!”  Some would argue that we need a “church building” in order to be the church.  But, at the very core of this vision, we have to ask ourselves what the church is and what the church’s purpose is.  The church is not a building, it's not something we go to, it's something that we are.  The church is the body of Christ, He is the head.  So, by asking ourselves what Christ cares about the most, you can find what Christ wants us to care the most about.  Christ cares the most about us, mankind, God’s Creation.  Our vision and focus needs to be others and not a building or programs focused on current believers comfort and entertainment.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this was very hard for everyone involved in Rose Hill, we were turning everything we had ever known upside down.  

This new vision for Rose Hill was all about making people, and only people, be our primary concern and focus.  This shift in ministry would require us to change our name to something that reflected our mission and heart, not just our location.  We would choose to start doing ministry in a way that was all about going out and encountering people where they were and in such a way that they could be impacted and encounter God through us.  We didn’t need big buildings or facilities to be the church, we just needed a hub so that groups could coordinate and meet wherever and whenever the people are.  Our church voted to do all of this when most of this world would have looked at our aging congregation and said that this group would never accept to do these things.  They would say that this is too radical and extreme to do after always doing things a certain way.  Yes, this new model would take away some comfort and entertainment, but it would change us from looking at a few people as “select” and to us all being called into ministry.  After all, isn’t God’s message about surplus and not scarcity?  If we are going to be focused on doing ministry according to God’s will, shouldn’t it be based in the Godly principle of surplus?  I read recently in a book on microchurches by Brian Sanders that the entire traditional ministry model we were struggling to save was built on scarcity.  We traditionally say that we need a building, but if you’ve ever looked to buy or rent a building, its definitely not an atmosphere of surplus but scarcity.  We also say we need an educated or licensed professional pastor, but those numbers are shrinking as well.  Let’s face it, vocational ministers have always been the minority in church membership.  I feel like I can say this next part being a fully vocational, educated and licensed minister.  Maybe, the pastor’s role needs to be reimagined in the modern world and church?  I say this with thousands in student loan debt and my entire income coming from the church, but its not about my happiness.

If we want to be a church of surplus, then let’s use the surplus, people, to build a church of more people.  I know that some are probably struggling with this thinking and talk right now.  I know some may be angry or saying that this is just wrong.  But, we also have to admit that the way we have been doing things isn’t working, and if we look at the New Testament when the church was growing leaps and bounds, there were no fancy buildings and educated pastors.  There  was just a bunch of people living a normal life that had been touched by this mission and message of love and grace, a message of surplus.  All they knew was that others needed to hear what they heard and experience what they had experienced.  If it was good enough for them, why isn’t it good enough for us now?  As I have been saying,  I believe when we follow God’s Spirit in our lives, incredible things happen and incredible things were about to happen for this group.  But, just as the whole church voted and got behind the vision on March, 1 2020, COVID-19 hit our world two weeks later and our world would forever be changed!


Sharon Gray - July 14th, 2021 at 1:58pm

Good thoughts Pastor.

Cathy Spencer - July 14th, 2021 at 3:58pm

Thanks, Jessi for giving me a heads up on Wayne’s blog - I love you two. Yes, I’m your aunt and love you for that reason! However, I love your commitment to the Lord, your tenacity to be what the Lord has called you to do and be. I love how you have and continue to be open to be and useful to our Heavenly Father and the guidance of Holy Spirit - my pray is that this fact will never change. My parents would be so happy over this they wouldn’t be able to contain their joy.

I pray for this biblical venture, for Sharon and Sam, Pat, Belinda and Ron those who have come into the fellowship since I was with all of you. I’ve never heard or seen anything like this, yet I understand what you, Wayne, are saying people who are in spiritual need are not heading for the nearest “church” building. Building attendance is bad! I’m seeing how I can be the one God can use here in my community. COVID shut us in yet, the Lord is showing us we can be out and about. He has promised to make ALL things work together for good, Romans 8:28, I am seeing how our gracious, all-knowing, all-powerful God cares about us and those who are still wanting to be introduced to our God. Thank You Jesus for showing me!

Thank you Rose Hill family for your acceptance of me during my visit at Parker’s graduation. I pray🧎‍♀️🧎‍♀️ daily for all of you. 🥰 Cathy