It’s a week late, I know, but I thought I would post in written form my thoughts from our Dec. 30th meeting. I really felt let of the Lord to do a short year in review talk, then worship, then a good old fashioned prayer meeting to get us ready for the new year. “What? A Calvary Chapel that didn’t have a Bible study on Sunday?” Yes, I know. Earth shattering. But in a way, we did have a study. Seven little studies that we prayed through. You’ll see what I mean. So, here is what I yacked about.
My expectations coming in to this church
It’s been a whole year since things transitioned around here. Because of the nature of what went down I expected to find a group of hurt, angry, grieving and confused people. There was some of that, but not nearly to the degree I expected. I expected the place to be like a trauma room for a while. It wasn’t. What I found instead was an eagerness to move on and to grow. There was a kind of excitement actually. People were wanting to heal and move on, so that’s what I focused on.
The plan to start with
Instead of focusing on the hurt and suffering, we focused on the Healer, the Counselor, the Comforter; the Holy Spirit. I did an 8-week topical study on the person, purpose, and power of the Holy Spirit. It was loosely based on Chuck Smith’s book, “Living Water” which is a very good and practical treatment on the person and gifts of the Spirit. After that we launched into a verse-by-verse study of the book of Acts. We called it, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” I wanted to see the Spirit in action in the lives of ordinary people like us, people who are wholly given over to Him. Using Acts 2:41-47 as a model, I talked about the three key ingredients to a healthy, well balanced church. Those are; the word, community, and prayer/power. Everything a church needs and does is built on those three things.
The progress we’ve made
As my family got connected some to the community of Forest Grove we quickly learned that there are three basic perceptions of our church in the general public. When we would meet people and tell them what church we are with, one of three things would happen. #1. Because of the very public nature of what happened to bring me here, those who saw it on the news or read about it in the papers would say, “Oh, that church.” #2. If people didn’t know about us through the media and have never heard of Calvary Chapel, they would say, “What kind of church is that? Where does it meet? How long has it been around? I’ve never heard of you.” The church has been in the community for 10 years and most people have never heard of it. #3. People who have lived here a while and have heard of Calvary Chapel would say, “There’s a CC in Forest Grove? I never knew that.” The need became apparent to re-plant or reinvent ourselves in this community. It also became apparent that most people who are looking for and going to a church that already is what we want to be are going way out of town to get it. Now, I’m not about trying to steal people from other churches or anything like that. But when you are driving 10 to 20 to 30 miles out of your home town to go to church, there is a disconnect happening.
Attendance and growth stuff
When I got here I decided that the church needed a new feel. I won’t get into the “why’s” because that can get kind of sensitive for some people. But the reality is that the vibe wasn’t connecting with the community, so things needed to change. Decorations, style, the worship, the name of the church, the leadership, the web site, the list goes on. As is to be expected (a) we lost some people or (b) some people left us, however you want to look at it. Over the course of the first six months we would have visitors in spurts. Like, three or four families would show up all at once which would almost double our numbers. Then, they wouldn’t come back. I would get the occasional email or phone call inquiring about what we had in the way of child care and youth programs. I kind of felt like a store with people calling and asking what products we had. Kind of sad. After all of that, we are down to a solid core group of people who are individually growing closer to their Lord, which is exactly what we wanted.
Healthy, and well balanced?
After a year, how are we doing in our three ingredients? The word – we are doing better. Hopefully people are reading the word everyday. We are getting more intentional about discipleship. People are growing from the Sunday studies in Acts. Community – this is probably the area we have grown in the most. Before, no one really knew anyone else. In a church of 50 that’s hard to achieve. Now people know each other’s names, their kid’s names, and we can hardly get them out of the doors on Sundays. Exchange Groups (home fellowships) are helping in this area as well. Now that the cells in the body are becoming more connected, they will begin to function together and interdependently, instead of independently. Prayer/Power – this is our weakest area. You can’t have the power of the Spirit without prayer. If people are really praying, the power of the Spirit will be evident in our lives. It just ain’t happening quite yet. We are looking for that spring of living water, that river of life. We’re getting there.
God is in the business of changing people’s lives. That won’t happen without the power of the Spirit. Instead of the church coming up with programs for people to get behind, the Spirit can/will/does inspire people with a desire to reach out to others with the gifts He gives. The church can get behind that. God has a heart for the single parents, the skaters, the rich, blacks, whites, latinos, democrats, republicans, gay, straight… Pacific University is the heart of our town. It’s a small private school and students come from all over the world. It isn’t just an opportunity for outreach, it’s an opportunity to have our own missions school. We can reach in there, get kids from all over saved, and send them back as missionaries to their home countries. How cool would that be? We are praying for a worship leader. We have a new board and are in the process of training up leadership from within. The finances are tricky. The giving is amazing with the number of people we have. If we want to have any kind of presence in the community (like an office or small meeting space of our own) then I need to get a full-time job to free up those funds from the church. I’m open for that and am looking, and seeking God’s will in that of course. I’m really just looking forward to the body being the body, and seeing what the Spirit will do as we continue to yield ourselves to His will and ways.
The prayer meeting
Basically, the idea of a corporate time of prayer was foreign to folks in the church. So I couldn’t just open it up for a free-for-all time. As I had been preparing people for this time, some expressed their fear of praying out loud in front of others. I did my best to take as much pressure off as possible. It seems that some kind of structure was needed, so I sought the Lord and was directed to seven passages of scripture to pray around. I asked different people in leadership to take the lead on these verses as we prayed, and gave room for others to pray as well. So here is how it went. I read the verses, shared briefly why they were relevan
t, the specific person chosen in advance prayed about that topic, and others had the opportunity to pray if they wanted. At the end of the meeting people were very jazzed by the whole experience, even if they didn’t pray out loud. Probably the best feedback I got was, “I wanted more. We need to do that more than once a year.” For me, that was mission accomplished. here are the verses we went through and why they were relevant.
1 John 1:9 – It’s important to have an understanding that we have need forgiven of our sins and cleansed from all unrighteousness. That’s how God sees us now. That gives us boldness. That gives us assurance of our ability to boldly go before the throne of grace. Our righteousness is at the right hand of the Father.
Luke 11:13 and Zecharia 4:6 – God wants to give us His Spirit. His Spirit is the only way anything can be accomplished. We need to ask, seek, and knock for it, expecting to get it from our good Heavenly Father.
Acts 2:41-47 – A glimpse into the daily lives of those first Christians, their habits, their growth, their impact on the community around them, and how the Lord added daily to them.
Ephesians 4:11-12 – God has gifts and roles for us. We need to get a grip on those and then let Him work through us in them. We need them as a body.
Ephesians 6:10-18 – As we get closer to the Lord, and as we try to advance into enemy territory, the enemy will fight us. We need to have our armor on and know how to use it. Our families, the unity in our families, weird things will will come up to disrupt our growth. We need to be on guard.
Philippians 4:19 – We need to always be looking toward the Lord to supply what we need. We need to expect it from Him.
Ephesians 3:20-21 – We need to reset our expectations. If we expect God to do little, then He will do little. If we expect Him to do big things, He will de exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think. How big is your God?
There was a great sense of unity at this meeting. It was very refreshing. People are growing. Our fellowship, our body is growing together We are becoming that healthy and well balanced church. What’s next? Growth. New believer growth. Back-sliden Chistian growth. We are seeking God to bring people to Himself. If believers are looking for what we have, then they are welcome. But we don’t want to be another stop on someone’s church-hopping. We want to see transformed lives because there are plenty in our little suburbian fringe town/farm town that need transformation.
Bring it on, Lord!