Reveal the Encounter Issue 5

Are you ready to see God move in this story?  Are you ready to see Hope show up?  I know I was and I will have to testify that when God shows you, you are never disappointed.  You may be reading this story and wondering how a pastor could be so depressed, how a pastor could allow things to get to them in such deep ways.  Aren’t we supposed to be so spiritual?  Well, I have news for you.  Pastors are human too!  We struggle too!  We get discouraged and depressed from time to time.  What we try to model for others is what we should do during these times.  We should lean into God during those rough times and surround ourselves by Him and His family, the Church.  I was seeking Him more than I could ever remember seeking Him and when the Spirit decided to pour out, He didn’t just pour out a little bit, our cup ran over!  Now, I will have to admit that it wasn’t what I thought.  So often God’s blessings aren’t what we think, but they are incredible all the same.

The reality of the situation had settled in and depression started to take over.  I was battling not only how I would share this with the church, but what it could mean for our personal lives and ministry.  I reached out and met with my district superintendent and gave him the “bad” news.  We both knew that meeting with the church board would have to be the next step.  We knew that how we presented where we went from that moment would make all the difference.  I began to work on how I would present this heartbreaking information to the church.  I didn’t have a clue how they would react to this news.  Would they just walk out and leave everything?  Would they argue and not accept that there was nothing we could do?  Would they accept it with grace and seek God during the midst of it?  Thankfully, I can say it was that last one.  I have heard horror story after horror story about how different churches’ leadership have acted and reacted to situations like this.  I really could never have dreamed that what I am about to share with you, happened.  I’ve been asked if I forced my board or coerced them in any way, and the answer is simply, no.  This group of individuals simply acted out of the grace and love that can only come straight from God.  Don’t get me wrong, this news came as a complete shock to them because the general feeling was that the church was in the clear after selling the old facility.  I mean, wasn’t that the whole point of selling and relocating, to save the church?  This wasn’t supposed to happen!  We had been willing to do the unthinkable and follow God’s will.  We had been trying to be Spirit filled and Spirit led.  Why were we being forced to make these decisions?

The reality finally set in that there was nothing we could do.  We could ask these questions, we could be angry, we could be upset, but in the end, we had to accept the reality.  As we looked at our options, every one ended with individuals leaving for some reason.  Rose Hill moving forward as it was would require all current members to stay and keep participating because if any one left, it would make it financially unsustainable.  Also, we just simply couldn’t financially afford any of the options because the majority of our money was from the sale of the building and it could only be used certain ways.  Remember, we can only use this money to build a building, fix a building, pay off debt or invest in a church plant.  We began the journey to seek God for what He had for us, not what we wanted, but what He had for us.

After a very long and painful board meeting we parted ways with the plans to reconvene at the same time the following week.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much time I spent in prayer during these few weeks, let alone how much all the others on our board spent.  I knew one thing, if this was the end, I wanted to end well!  I remember standing in front of the board that next week and shared with them my heart.  My heart was telling me that the Kingdom was bigger than Rose Hill, my heart was telling me that building the Kingdom had to be at the top of our priorities.  Any decision or movement had to be something that would please God.  So often we do things within the church that we think pleases God, but in reality it’s an unpleasant stench.  I know that the mission of reconciling this world to Himself is God’s mission and the things we do to help accomplish that mission would have to be pleasing to Him.  I also knew and shared that my job as a pastor, their pastor, was to help as many individuals stand before God one day and hear the beautiful words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

I wanted this church to leave a legacy, a legacy that would not only build the Kingdom, but inspire and encourage others to seek God’s will and not our own.  Let’s face it, the church in America is in decline!  So, I began to dream and seek God’s direction.  It was during this point that God shared with me that this church already had a legacy.  We didn’t need to try to leave one, we just needed to renew it and see it through to the end.  Rose Hill had been started by a group of individuals who were Kingdom minded.  They wanted to bring God to a place where He wasn’t.  In 1938, a group of individuals met under a brush arbor in an area that was formally known as Rose Hill, or commonly known to the locals as bootleggers hill.  They were threatened, they were persecuted, but this group endured and 83 years later, countless individuals had come to know the perfect, pursuing and enduring love of a Heavenly Father.  Just like us, this group had nothing but faith and a love for God.  They had loved others, just like God loves them.  They had wanted others to experience the same incredible thing they had experienced.  They had started a Legacy of Love.

This Legacy of Love is exactly what we wanted to continue and honor until the end.  But, we also understood that if we truly honor this legacy, it wouldn’t be the end of Rose Hill.  Rose Hill will continue in the lives of all those it has and will touch.  The legacy of Rose Hill was more than a building, it was having the heart of God.  This legacy was a way of life and not just a group of people meeting at the same time every week.  The conversation began on how we can honor and strengthen this legacy all the way to the end.  The church board was asked to give one word that they think of when we say legacy and the results summed up the following months to follow.  The responses were: unforgettable, generous, abundance, blessing, help, missional, hope and long-lasting.

With this renewed energy and direction, we set to work.  We first made the decision that we needed to directly replace ourselves.  We didn’t feel right about leaving a hole in ministry.  We decided to fund a church plant.  We realized that we had the foundations of a church already, Encounter Church of the Nazarene.  This was the church name and model that we were looking to transition ourselves into after we relocated.  Encounter didn’t need a building, just a base of operations.  Encounter Church was sitting there, just waiting to be picked up, believed in and ran with.  Rose Hill would sponsor this church plant and anyone from the current church who wanted to be a part of it could join in or we would simply embrace one another and part ways to follow where God was leading us individually.

Now, I do want to share that this last part is easier said than done.  We have a tendency to stay within our direct and local communities.  But, isn’t that problem with the current American church being missional?  We want to stay in the comfort of our current group and we forget about all those who aren’t in it.  My family has been forgotten and hurt by so many over the years when we experienced, “Out of sight, out of mind”.  This is and was nothing that was ever intentional, at least we don’t think so, but it is the reality.  Even a lot of church ministries are all about going out and bringing people back to our area of comfort, our community.  What would happen if we built a church that was never about our comfort or bringing others back to our world of comfort but instead, we continually moved out to bring The Comforter to them? What if instead a church was formed out of the mission?  Being missional means giving yourself away, but we so often associate missional with growing yourself.  Maybe, it’s time to reassess what being missional is all about. Alan Hirsch has made the philosophies of David Bosch very popular in the western culture church.  Hirsch and Bosch say that we need to make Christ the center of everything so that our mission can be derived from Christ.  Once the mission flows from Christ, then we form the church around the mission.  Our churches should be built around and focused on Christ’s love for others, giving ourselves away.  We wanted this to be part of this Legacy, so there would be no hard feelings if others felt that God was calling them to something different.  We wanted everyone to realize that we were all apart of something bigger than just our local church and to be Kingdom minded, not just thinking about our own kingdom.  

The decision to fund this church plant answered where I was going in ministry and what I was doing but we still had a lot of questions to answer.  What would happen to everyone?  Would everyone stay?  Where would they go?  What we were going to do with the rest of our money from the sale of our property and all the items we had in a storage building waiting for a new facility.  No matter the questions or concerns, this first step and decision was huge in the future of the church, but there was still so much to do.  God had shown up, hope was present, but God wasn’t done with us and the legacy either.  The cup was being filled and it was about to start running over.

1 Comment

Sharon Gray - August 10th, 2021 at 2:04pm

Great read Pastor! I’ve read all 5 blogs now & await #6 ! And apparently Yuri is able to tap into Encounter & have it translated. So he emailed that info & that you had contacted him about a ZOOM meeting between the two of you. He has access to Zoom & says you haven’t set the date yet. I hope his ability with English will be sufficient for you both to understand each other. Let me know if you need my help at all. God bless you.