Enjoying My Supporting Roll in God’s Story

Two years ago, a traumatic thing happened in our small town- an F4/5 tornado took out most of the businesses, tons of home including an entire neighborhood, and many lives were lost. This happened just over a year after my husband and I moved our family here to plant The Valley church.

We constantly pray for God to teach us how live missionally: to love the community we live in, show new ways of share His love right where people are at in their lives, and grant us favor so door will be open to lead people to Him. That night in April, God handed us just that, on a filthy, demolished platter perfect for serving the hurt and searching town He sent us here to server.

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The days following the storm, my husband and I were overwhelmed with the support from all the networks we had been apart of, long and short term. I was too much to keep up with. I often felt like I'd been given this huge responsibility and I was failing by not being able to manage all the help He was sending our way. Things have slowed down over the past two years...well, in comparison to those crazy couple months to after the storm.

This year as I scrolled through my archived private messages and "memories" on Facebook, I was overcome with guilt all over again. How I didn't answer some of the lost messages from friends and acquaintances, timeline post I wasn't sure I handed well enough, and most of all the lack of appreciation I didn't show those how fought through the pile off notifications to help us. I had high hopes of sending formal Thank You cards, letters of how prayers were answered, gifts were used, and just how very loved I felt. Even now, satan is making my insides hurt with remorse because I am so VERY thankful to be a minor character in this beautiful thing we are living.

God has taken these two years to reassure me that while we are all just supporting rolls, in God's story, that all points to Jesus, they're all important I have shared before that I often give up on things because I see someone else doing it, and likely way better. BUT God has plans and invites us to join the adventure of going on it with Him.  We aren't called us to compare ourselves to others but rather support one another's part in the story.

Don't become arrogant when God's story starts playing out in front of you.

That's where focus is changed from what's most important or players get pulled.

Don't forget that the sun doesn't revolve around you.

The ONE who created light without that sun is where our focus should remain so we stay in the light.

Keep at the front of your mind, that EVERY story in this world points back to Jesus; whether it's acknowledged or not.

I want to make sure the story I'm in gives all glory where it belongs.

I guarantee you that this high schooler in our town was organizing volunteers sent her direction way better than I was. BUT God sent certain people along my path in life for such a time as this. He ask that I play a part in their story involving my town.

I know many of the women who worked the Play Place with me after the storm could have run it better, shared our story better, and accomplished more. BUT God ask that I run with it amidst my poor relational, communication, and organizational skills.

I promise, there were hundreds of other kids in our town that could have offered input on the new playground. BUT God saw fit to have my daughter and I as part of that planning team.

From schools, trips, camps, ministries, neighborhoods, and places we've passed through in live all showed up when God was ready for things to pan out that He's been writing since before I was born. Do you ever feel like you're not playing the part you want in the story of life? Be encouraged! Every [seemingly] small part in a story is valued.

When God ask you to play a repetitive, type-cast roll, Say Yes! When God invites you to play an unexpected drop-in roll, Say Yes! Because you never know when your story will change and there will be a big BUT GOD right after your YES!

Enjoying My Supporting Roll in God's Story

Thank you, to at least 2 different countries, 14 different states, 37 different US towns, and MORE than 61+ different friends/acquaintances who shared a part in our Vilonia Tornado chapter through asking for prayer from their friends, collecting donations, sending necessities/gift cards/monetary support, delivered items, helped with clean up, and so much more! It's so humbling to be connect to each of you and really hope I didn't miss anyone. These are just the names I could find on my Facebook timeline and private message history not including my husbands:

  1. Brittany Thompson- Ervington, AL
  2. Kelsey Harris- Arkadelphia, AR
  3. Danna Magness-  Batesville, AR
  4. Morgan Smith- Batesville, AR
  5. Shadrack and Mellissa Black- Batesville, AR
  6. Amy Howard- Benton, AR
  7. Kathryn Doland- Bethel Heights, AR
  8. Jessica Colley- Centerton, AR
  9. Kim Stiles- Conway, AR
  10. Morgan Williams- Conway, AR
  11. Molly Jones- Conway, AR
  12. Janna Chaffin- Dalton, AR
  13. Cheryl Patterson- El Dorado, AR
  14. Craig Herring- El Dorado, AR
  15. Dana Rumph- El Dorado, AR
  16. Deedra Nash- El Dorado, AR
  17. Wanda Deason- El Dorado, AR
  18. Hannah Henderson- Fayetteville, AR
  19. Kelly Malancon- Fayetteville, AR
  20. Sally Acosta- Fayetteville, AR
  21. Johnathan Stoner- Floral, AR
  22. Brandi Shinn- Greenbrier, AR
  23. Cristin Jensen- Greenbrier, AR
  24. Terri Nicholson- Greenbrier, AR
  25. Amy Whisenhunt- Greenland, AR
  26. Cindy Brantly- Little Rock, AR
  27. Shane Harris- Little Rock, AR
  28. Samantha Grant- Magnolia, AR
  29. April Winn- Marmaduke, AR
  30. Cathey Griffin- Parker's Chapel, AR
  31. Fran Brotherton- Parker's Chapel, AR
  32. Heather Gilmore- Parker's Chapel, AR
  33. Jennifer McNab- Parker's Chapel, AR
  34. Rita Snow- Parker's Chapel, AR
  35. Rob and Amanda Waggoner- Parker's Chapel, AR
  36. Julie Beavers- Pine Bluff, AR
  37. Jessy Cutrell- Star City, AR
  38. Doreen Keim- Siloam Springs, AR
  39. Ashley Hall- Strickler, AR
  40. Anja Spadoni- White Hall, AR
  41. Candace Achorn- White Hall, AR
  42. Shannon Paldino- Orlando, FL
  43. Kate Stoner- Keokuk, IA
  44. Jam'e Brown- Wichita, KS
  45. Katie Archer-, Ruston, LA
  46. Rebecca Dorobis- Rockport, MA
  47. Patrick Sherrill- Alpena, MI
  48. Karen DeBeus- Hope, NJ
  49. Sami Roe- Midwest City, OK
  50. Scott Jenkins- Norman, OK
  51. Edna Cain- Sapulpa, OK
  52. Betty Lin-Fisher- Akron, OH
  53. MaryAnn Waltz- Milford, OH
  54. Kathy Metivier- TX
  55. Christine Hurt- Orem, UT
  56. Abigail Assam- Lynchburg, VA
  57. Heather Rennie- Aberdeen, Scotland
  58. Jenny Sim- Aberdeen Scotland
  59. Rachael Underwood- Insch. United Kingdom
  60. Betty Pennington- ?
  61. Justin and Crystal Murphy- ?

 Thank You for playing your part in God's story!!!

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On Andy Stanley and The Size of Your ‘Church’

I believe Andy Stanley's statement hit a cord with so many in a negative way because there IS an [element] of true in it and as most things that sting, it's because there's a hint of personal guilt.

*PERSONAL JOURNEY* October 14, 2012 Alpharetta - Andy Stanley preaches during the 9 a.m. worship service at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta on Sunday, October 14, 2012. Andy Stanley, whose father was the most powerful preacher in Atlanta, has now become the most powerful preacher in Atlanta. His North Point collection of churches has 30,000 members, and is growing.In his new book, "Deep and Wide, " he tells the story of growing up in the shadow of Charles Stanley, preacher at First Baptist, of the conflict that led to him breaking away to start his own church, and of his subsequent rise to lead the biggest congregation in the city, and one of the biggest in the country. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Stanley said:

When I hear adults say, “Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,” I say, “You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids [or] anybody else’s kids”… If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church. Instead… you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church. They go to college, and you pray that there will be a church in the college town that they connect with. Guess what? All those churches are big.

Read more of what Andy said HERE or listen to the full sermon HERE

Faced with the online outcry, Stanley apologized on Twitter, saying “The negative reaction to the clip from last weekend's message is entirely justified. Heck, even I was offended by what I said! I apologize.”

A wise WISE friend once told me something beyond profound when I message her about a big hurt someone had caused me with what they said. Fully expecting her to defend me, be upset with the other person, and tell me how right I was and therefore wrong they were she did something even better for me, in the long run.

She said, "Well, first I think you need to step back and see if there is any truth in their statement. Then you can decide if that truth means you need to fix something. If so, do it and move on. If there is no truth in the statement, move on without worry." Then she went on to give me her opinion like a sweet friend after being the spiritual guiding friend I needed first.

The question in this situation seems to be: Did Andy Stanley mis-speak OR call us out as The Church?

Don't get me wrong, I think there was a lot of false doctrine in his un-thought-out statements. That happens to the best of us when we're not careful.

  • "Church" isn't something you do or somewhere you go. It's the group of people who have become bond-servants of Christ. I so wish this one would sink in for us and a LOT of our misconceptions would be fixed.
  • 20, 200, 0,2000, or 20,000 are all just a number and each can serve a purpose in The Kingdom's work. Just like in business, there are benefits on both the sides of large and small.
  • The next generation doesn't necessarily need what a larger church. Not every large church is Bionically sound just as not every small church is.
  • Division by age, stage-of-life, gender, or any other qualifier is often the easiest way to manage large groups of people rarely the BEST for them. Maybe we could use RACE as an example here and see how that played out for us.
  • Mega/large churches are a fairly new commodity and it will take years to have any concrete studies on wither or not there are long-term benefits OR detriments. In reference to this specific topic, that means, we have no real proof if children will grow into adults who love or hate church [attendance] based on the size of their church.
  • If you are dragging your child to church, that highly indicates other issues...not with your church. Most studies indicate THE main factor found in those who leave the church is a hypocritical lifestyle lived by parents/those raising them. Meaning, living one way at home and another in front of others, ie The Church.
  • When you send your child to college, if you have taught them to group themselves only based on self-service and who looks, talks, sounds, etc like them, then of course, a larger church is where they will have the most likelihood to find such a group. But people become "dechurched", leaving church from mega and small churches.

If you were like me and initially offended by what Andy Stanley said, I think there are some questions that need to be ask.

  • Do you have the wrong view of what The Church is and what it's purpose is?
  • Are you proud of or embraced by the average attendance of your Sunday morning service? {either can be unhealthy}
  • Are you intentionally keeping your part of The Church small for selfish reasons?
  • Do you enjoy knowing 'everyone' and therefor selfishly don't care if you reach out to know [or MORE] people?
  • Are you living missionally {intentionally for The Kingdom}, chasing the lost even if that means you might have to share you church/christian club?
  • Is the effort to lead more people to Christ more important to you than the number of members your church has?
  • Do you worry about giving your children everything they 'want' rather than 'need', contributing to the entitled generation?
  • Do you attend your current church based on what it offers you and your family or based on sound Biblical reasoning?
  • Do you group you and others like a preKer sorting by colors, size, shape, and purpose when it comes to church and other facets of your life?
  • Are you bothered by small children "disturbing" the church service with typical childish behavior?
  • Do your children enjoy attending church service? Are they apart of The Church? What's the real factor there?
  • Is your church partnering WITH you [not for you] to train-up your children in the ways of following Christ?
  • Are you fully preparing your children to chase after Christ and His will for their future or are you guarding them in hopes of them leading a watered down, comfortable version of the 'christian' American Dream?

 

I know Andy's statements made me have to reevaluate a lot of this stuff. I hope you'll mull over both sides for you and your family as well. Your thoughts on the matter?

 

 

Related articles about the DechurchedMissional Living, and Church Planting.

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Missional Living with Littles

My kids are much better about choosing action over good intentions!

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They know there is a small window of time between the school bus dropping off neighbor-friends after school and evening activities each separate family has every night of the week but that doesn't stop them.

They understand that quality, meaningful, authentic time with their friends is better than the great intention of spending mass quantities of time with them somewhere down the road. The "it looks like it's about to rain", "I'm not sure if they're home", "they might not want to", "there's only __ amount of time" excuses just don't cut it in their God-given love for people.

I'm learning to put aside all my excuses and let them live in the moment, not wait for the perfectly planned playdate, greatly fashioned gift-wrapped treat, or ideal weather. Loving people should be natural. Loving is what we are called to do as we are living not a detailed ministry opportunity we suck all the life our of.

 

Love is dependability.

Love is bonfire-smoke-induced-tears.

Love is forgetting who's toys belongs to who.

Love is bandaging skinned knees from other homes.

Love is sale Easter candy oozing out of children as they laugh.

Love is hearing hurts from a once-stranger child under hushed shame.

Love is splintered bare-feet from racing flying actions figures in hand.

Love is stale hotdog buns with gobs of compensation ketchup.

Love is street ball with dog-slobber-coated basketballs.

Love is side-walk-chalk-covered-dresses.

Love is a guaranteed hug.

Love is availability.

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A Year {and a few days} After The Storm

No matter how much our town would like to NOT be known for last years tornado, it's now a part of our story and will forever define all of us in some way.

The valley {our church plant} lost our rented facility to the storm making it that much harder to ignore the fact that we will forever be changed do to a natural disaster. We've hopped from place to place, have exhausted members by working them to the bones, learned people's true heart and passion, and have most importantly Seen Christ. We've seen His heart and passion. We've seen His presence or absence in people when hard things hit and work gets hard. We've seen His spirit in every dwelling the Church has gathered, reaffirming that the Church is not a building!

A Year {and a few days} After the Storm

There's enough tragedy and struggles experienced this past year we could fill an entire book but rather than focus on the spiritual warfare, I want to focus on the places God's brought us through them:

  • Play Place
    free childcare for those parents working or volunteering after the storm
  • Service on the Slab
    praising Jesus for his sovereignty
  • Mom's Night Out
    stress relief for moms after the storm
  • Survived Super Summer
    our middle-middle child got to experience a 1st for our family with her broken arm {it was mostly fun}
  • Adopted a Dog
    Lulu the {almost 2-year-old} registered English Bulldog became part of our family
  • First Family Vacation
    water park and tons of free attractions in Bran son MO
  • Baby Dedication
    ELLIE! got to be the 1st baby dedicated at the valley church
  • Started Our Families Foster/Adoption Journey
    we've started the process of opening our home for foster care through the CALL ministry and DHS
  • Hosted our 2nd Annal Kids' Valentine's Day PARTY
  • Baptism
    Maggie has discovered what being a Christ-follower looks like for a year and announced this decision in baptism
  • Bought Land and Sent a Former Intern to the Ukraine Mission Field {short-term}
    financially these were the biggest outcomes of people's generosity after the storm that we never saw coming

I feel like the two biggest things that have happened over this past year are the strides in our community and neighbor love'n breakthroughs we've had.

After nearly 2 years in our community I feel like we've finally made some big strides in getting to minister in and with our community included but not limited to helping with the big KaBoom! Playground and cook out to celebrate the park. Those in the community are starting to recognize our name which is NOT the cool part but because they know us more, they are more likely to call upon us to help in needed areas. We are here to serve and are finally feeling like we're getting that opportunity.

We have also been plugging away at loving our neighbors all the while hoping they don't think we're crazy. Our most resent cook outs {just here in our neighborhood/our front yard} have allowed us to meet at least 2 more families. Just living outside our home on purpose has let us get to know our neighbors so much better which means they can know and trust us more which means we can love them in bigger ways. It's a beautiful circle! I truly believe its impossible, or at least much harder not to hate that which you know so well. Ignorance leads to hate; hate leads to avoidance, avoidance leads to ignorance. NOT a beautiful circle. Take the time to trudge away beginning the simple circle Jesus has called us each to, right were you are today.

Live, Learn, Serve Here, Go There in LOVE.

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An Open Letter to Our Former Youth Group

Dear Former Youth Group {an open letter to generation Xers and Millennials}

Dear former youth group,

I'm here to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry we told you not have sex, do drugs, or drink alcohol. I'm sorry we guilted you into devoting your midweek to our service rather than your God-given-interest. I'm sorry we taught you self-righteous religion rather than the true character of God.

Here's the thing. The Bible isn't a book mostly about YOU and what YOU should be doing. It's a book about GOD and what HE has done.

We unintentionally taught you that that every story in the Bible somehow points to you. We explained that your behavior was the ultimate dictator of salvation. Though we never would have come out and said it knowing it was totally false, we let you believe that your behavior swayed God in some way, good or bad. We painted a picture of God as a Santa-figure who sees you when you were sleeping, sees when you're awake, knows if you've been bad or good, so please be good for goodness sake.

The Bible does have guidelines for how life works best. Why wouldn't it. It's a story about the Creator and His creation. It's bound to come up because the story of God and what He's done is made even more amazing in light of how things were supposed to work, how we jaked it up, and how His genius master plan is going to redeem us even though we don't deserve anything.

Many of you in our youth group were coming to 'church' alone. You're parents weren't devout Christ-followers or even if they were, they were possibly relying on us to teach about God. Most adult use youth group like a public school, trusting that the fundamentals of "Christianity" are the responsibility of the staff at a 'church'. Because of that, I'm even more sorry we didn't show you complete truths.

Every story in the Bible points to Jesus. Not you. You're not supposed to attempt to find yourself in the stories of Noah, Mosis, or David. You're supposed to seek God and His kingdom. Every story whispers His name.

As I watch you grow-up, go to college, move, get jobs, get married, have kids I see religion failing you. No matter how much attempting to be 'good' you can handle it will always leave you empty. Life won't unfold into the christian-karma-crap we filled you with. Because of that you will run. You are running. You're leaving the Church in droves because morality has failed you.

I'm sorry I helped lead you to this place but now I'm hear to fight to lead you back to Christ. To show you His true character. Every aspect of our life bleeds the DNA of who we think God is. Your view of who God is the foundation for your belief system and you believe system determines your actions. Out of our love for you in our youth group, we targeted the only thing we could see, your actions, in an attempt to determine if you were a Christ-follower.

Maybe we had a savior complex, maybe we were just that ingnorant. Painting a picture of a self-serving, smoke and lights, hype and games, fame and fortune religion remorsefully. God's taught us so much over the last few years and we hope to chase down the dechurched generation that we had a hand in running off.

Sincerely yours,

Regretful Youth Pastors of Generation Xers and Millennials

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