Hello Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Welcome back to the fall…well not until September 21, but given the beginning of school for so many of us, welcome back. I knew a minister from another tradition that claimed we are all so hardwired from starting 12 years of school each September that the proper greeting this time of year is “Happy New Year”.
Nevertheless… welcome back. Over the next few weeks, we will cover a variety of topics here.
- A conversation on the faithful tithing church, a series that will begin with Al McPhedran from Fort Saskatchewan, AB.
- Some wonderful sermon notes and themes from the Baptist World Alliance gathering of the 400th Anniversary celebration in Amsterdam
- An exciting update with Tom Lavagne in church planting
- Items for prayer in our midst
Today, I want to share a personal story and then ask some questions of each other.
About six years ago I was struggling with staying in full time Christian vocation. I don’t know how to express that better as all of us are called to the full time Christian life and service, but not all are called to be “set aside” or to paid service…I trust I am clear. Frankly, I desperately wanted out of local church ministry. I was clear about what God should do in my life…He just needed to catch up to my plans for Him in my life; (if at this point my friend, you do not know I am being facetious it is better you stop reading now and come back next week…better for both of us). To cut a long story short, I was at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, England (the mother church of the Alpha Course) and they asked for those needing prayer to come forward. I knew I needed prayer but felt (for reasons beyond reason) embarrassed. I finally shuffled forward, and was introduced to a man who would pray for me. I told him I wanted prayer to leave “ministry”. How’s that for stacking the deck?! The poor man assigned to me just started talking about nothing in particular….ignoring, it seemed, the specifics of my request, he just rambled on for a couple of minutes before finally saying: “Let’s pray”. I closed my eyes wondering what this experience would be like and at least expecting he would ask the Lord to buck up and acquiesce to my request to get out of ministry. But no. This man was a listener to God in the way I wasn’t and didn’t want to be. The first words out of his mouth were “Lord, help Jeremy to choose the harder path”…. I was extremely annoyed. Actually far worse than that; I felt unsupported and betrayed. Here was this wealthy, Ralph Lauren-attired, nicely coiffure business gent with no, let me repeat, no parish experience, asking God to make my life more miserable than it was. But, guess what? He was right. He was kind, he understood, he had listened to the Spirit, not to me. And God gave me the strength to take the harder path. I went back to my church and sometime in October of that year, in the middle of a sermon I was preaching, looking at a particularly challenging person in the congregation, God gave me a profound spiritual awakening and a deep love for that congregation that I had never possessed before. I had finally succumbed to the love of God and His love through me for my church. Two weeks later, I received calls from two organizations (the CBWC being one of them) to apply for a new position. The first time I was called I ignored them. The second time I applied.
Why am I telling you this story? Many don’t like this type of newsletter. I have often been told to tame down my stories. I began this letter by re-assuring you that there were other topics coming. I tell you this story because when I was in London again this summer, I went to Holy Trinity Brompton to be prayed for (on another matter). I didn’t go for any other reason but that I needed someone to pray for me, someone I trusted, someone that didn’t need to know me because the Spirit would tell them all they needed to know to pray for me. Here are some questions I am asking myself and I am asking each of us.
- When you need to be prayed for, where do you go, to whom do you go?
- Does your church offer opportunities for people to be prayed for or are your staff the designated folk to do that?
- Where are our supports in life?
- Where would we go if something catastrophic happened to us? (this is often different from the previous questions)
I am deeply thankful for colleagues that I can go to for prayer as well as my wife, our daughter and son and my parents. My church regularly offers prayer for folk. I just want to start this year well; who prays for you, is there regular straightforward opportunities at church and elsewhere? If you’ve got any stories to share, send me an email.