A Faith Journey of a Branch
In my recent travels through England and Ireland I was blessed to participate in an event that was well beyond what I expected. As part of my journey of discernment in which I am seeking to discover God’s will for my life I assisted in facilitating a seminar with Inspire and One Mission Society. The seminar was taught by the Inspire team to help One Mission Society missionaries understand how to build bands and missional communities as well as how bands can help build the Kingdom. In just four days I witnessed some amazing moments and even saw the Holy Spirit move. Indeed, it was a great four days spent in true journeying fellowship.
I think that no matter how much we look forward to an event there is always a bit of anxiety before we start. Indeed, this is especially true of people in ministry. The fact that we have to pack a bag travel by plane and/ or motor vehicle to our destination many many miles from the people and place we know increases that anxiety. Add on top of that not really being energized because your work is being resisted or there is major trouble back home and things just are not as smooth as we would like. Traveling to a new place to hear anyone speak on any topic can seem like the last thing you want to do. I can admit that in some small way that was my emotional and mental state Monday 8 May 2017.
Our first day of the seminar really got going in the best possible way. It is always good to worship the Lord together when we are strangers to realize that we are actually brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, the Lord was in that place. We praised God and then we broke bread together at the Lord’s table. Singing and breaking bread are at the heart of Christian fellowship. It reminds us that despite our personal issues or language barriers we are all children of the King.
But, even as we worshipped in Christian community there was still the heaviness and weariness from ministry in a broken world upon many several hearts. Our first night also included another important element and that is prayer. I had the great privilege of praying for and anointing several individuals. The thing that struck my heart the most was that each one of these people I prayed for was so worn out and ready to leave their ministry field. I could see and feel their exhaustion and it was not just from traveling to be at this seminar. Indeed, their exhaustion came across as both physical and spiritual. There was a dying heart of faith and love.
So I came to England as a pilgrim rather than a tourist. I came to England to see a glimpse into the heart and soul of Europe and England. I can say that though there is much to be downcast about all over this world the heart of Jesus beats vibrantly still in England and Europe. Why? Because I have seen the hearts of about twenty-four missionaries passionately seeking to do the Lord’s will in Europe and other parts of the world.
The beauty of fellowship bands is that they are not another formulated plan driven ministry initiative. Rather it is a commitment to discipleship which nurtures one another. It is setting aside our leadership and other ministry hats to do fellowship and discipleship together with trust and intimacy. We who journey together in these small bands bring us to deeper faith and love. Because we grow deeper into faith and love we are then able to live more into our inheritance now with our brother Jesus Christ. For sure, we are able to shine brighter because we do discipleship which starts and ends with abiding in Jesus Christ.
One phrase or statement sticks out more in my mind than any other from those four days. Phil Meadows said, “Instead of planting churches to grow disciples why not grow disciples to plant churches.” You see the subtle but important shift there? Making disciples is actually what is important. John Wesley was not the first to use the bands neither were the Moravians whom inspired Wesley. This goes all the way back to the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. How many churches did Jesus plant? How many disciples did Jesus teach? We need to think carefully about the correlation between discipleship and the ministry of the universal church.
On the last day of the seminar I watched in total amazement as this small group of people began a three and a half hour long prayer session. Everyone in the group was prayed over while hands were laid and oil placed on their heads. It was a beautiful moment that lasted three and half hours. Truly the Lord was in that place and continues to be in our hearts and minds.
I would say that at the end of this seminar a shift of hearts and minds occurred. The physical and spiritual exhaustion I saw at the first of this seminar had faded away. Not because of an emotionally charged experience but because of bands. Not because of a perfect system or plan but because people allowed themselves to participate in intimate discipleship. Indeed, when we approach God with true humbleness then we find the Kingdom is truly at hand. We see small miracles. We see the Kingdom unfold before and within us. We come to better love God and neighbor.
The work of ministry is abiding in Christ. The Christian life is abiding in Christ. Discipleship is thus also abiding in Christ as Christ abides in the Father. When we do this abiding then we are in the Kingdom as disciples and friends of Christ. When we abide in Christ as Christ abides in the Father an ever amazing and miraculous life happens. Indeed, as Christ followers we are to seek out more than the ordinary life. We should always seek and encourage the life miraculous that comes from abiding in the presence of God. Jesus Christ is the vine and we are the branches.