Wow, what a week. Well worth it and absolutely amazing. I definitely was in the presence of God. But here are the responses from my mind and heart as I sit in the Ohara International Airport.
1. On the surface. My first impressions honestly as I walked up to the building were “White & Wealthy.” A lot of white people and a ton of money. I’m not sure that’s their fault, but it was just my honest first judgment. I didn’t go bitter nor was I looking to pick a fight (I mean, sure I wish God used me to do what great they’ve done, but you can’t help but get a first impression). The whole week I was overwhelmed. I was blessed to go to a Christian college, and while it reminded me a bit of that, it was exciting to see adults get that blessing as well. It’s hard to see so much money and such little diversity upon first impression, though.
Everything they do is quality. And they yearn for it. They are constantly asking and wanting honesty throughout. EVERY person I met, whether volunteer or speaker or whoever who was on the Willow side of things was fabulous. By that I mean kind, loving, considerate, not about themselves and truly a blessing. The only negative run-ins I had at all were with people from other churches speaking or even vendors from other companies. That speaks loudly. We were there 5 days. No egos, no pride, simple genuineness with joy.
But that’s all the surface stuff. God spoke to my heart and I pray it will take affect in my hands and feet this week and beyond. Vision for me personally, a lot of ideas and healthy critique of our church, great fellowship with my brother Mike and a rich, rich time.
2. Revealed. Among was was Revealed (the one conference was called Reveal) to me include: the different places people are at in their journey (including myself) and how it’s not just a pre-Christian and saved place in your walk with the Lord.
The diagram they gave was this:
Exploring Beginning Growing Centering
So often I feel like I’m either trying to get people looking at Christ so He might save them or bring people do this DEEP relationship with Christ. It’s tough to reach everyone, but if I consider these places where people might be it helps in giving them next steps (and next steps is so crucial, too). What’s more, I know I am in these different spots even in my own life! So often I think I’m centering, but I’m really being an infant in my faith. Understanding this–a combo of Purpose-Driven and Four Spiritual Laws (my opinion)–helps me as a leader and a child of God redeemed by Christ to help my brothers and sisters at VIctory and Pathway.
3. Evangelism and Scripture. Speaking of helping, I’ve been renewed and freed to share the gospel with people. It is the hope of all the world. Jesus is it. Relationship with Him is what it’s all about. We can’t grow people if they’re not in a relationship with Jesus. And they can’t get in a relationship with Him unless we introduce them. I live in a holy huddle and I’m sick of myself for it. I thirst to be a beacon of light to all. God has made me a pretty genuine person and I have nothing to fear but my own ego. Today I let go. I believe Jesus can save anyone and everyone needs Him; today I live like that.
It was awesome to hear that the biggest need AND WANT in churches is getting people tools and thirst and training in getting into the Word. It’s not deeper preaching, but better equipping. Simple, practical steps are it. From the pulpit, from small conversations, in emails, on blogs and more. I am so glad this this week I read a TON of my own Bible and truly feel that was one of the most vital parts of the week. I must have read on average 60 minutes each day at one point in time (most often at night, which is not normal!).
4. Community is vital. I believe more than ever that lifegroups are the life of the church and unless people are in them they are not experiencing the truest sense of life in the church. I am blessed by friends and family in which to do this. How I long for others to know that level of community in which they can be part! And how I desire for my own groups and relationships to go to the next level. Accountability is vital.
5. Blessed Wes. I love my family. I am so blessed. My kids are beautiful, special, remarkable and unique. Seeing them on skype was a nasty tease, but one that was worth it for those moments of refreshment. And I am so blessed by my wife. What a partner. I can’t believe how good we have it. I’m excited to see what God might do in and through us during the next 10 years. I feel a deep sense of call to really focus my ministry at the church and take a step of faith–faith I don’t think I’ve ever stretched to before. In the midst of a scary economy (based on the world’s view), I feel a strong urge to ministry in a new way. A way out of my comfort zone. A way out of my normalcy, but a freedom to do what God wants to in our community. I don’t know what it means and even if it might happen in the next six months, but it’s vital to our life here on earth and beyond. Yet that calling in the church pales in comparison to the priority my family has in my life. They are #1. And this week affirmed it. I need to care for them. Yet in my caring it has to be a laying them at Jesus’ feet and let Him do it. I’m a bit apprehensive with a call because of what it means in terms of money. But that’s why I know it’s out of my normalcy zones.
Truly an amazing week. A week I think I needed. A week in which God spoke. A week in which I know will make a difference in my life for years to come. Can’t say exactly how. But I really sense it will. Thank you, board at Pathway. Thank you, Mike. Thank you Willow. Thank you most of all, Jesus. I don’t deserve it.