We had such an awesome church service today. I absolutely leave every Sunday saying, WOW that was the best sermon ever! I just leave with so much love for God and just leave passionate! I always leave smiling so big and I search for other faces to see if anybody is feeling what I'm feeling. I wonder, was I the only one that felt the power in the room? Am I the only one totally feeling God at work? Am I the only one totally fired up for what God is doing in this church and this community!? Each week it keeps getting better and better. I don't know if it's just me that is changing and so I am feeling more connected, more alive, more intune with the Spirit. Or maybe God really is just working on a lot of hearts in the church and making His presence more and more known. I don't know what has changed about church, but it has just been so so awesome and getting better every week.
I have to admit, I was never extremely involved in church growing up. I always went on Sundays and was always a part of the youth group - but until I found Southside, I can really say I never found a church that felt like home. I grew up in an evangelical free church...and to this day I can't really tell you what that means. And then in high school I started going to an extremely small Baptist Church that met in a little christian school in New Jersey. Although I had very close friends & family at both churches and loved the fellowship and am thankful for that foundation I had.... Southside is home to me. It's a medium size church - about 3 to 400 people go regularly on Sundays split into 2 services. And it's just full of loving, merciful people who love God and know how imperfect they are but how perfect He is. It's an open church wanting to reach out to this laid back beach town. I am proud for Raymond to be growing up in it and I'm excited God has lead us here. I am excited for what God is doing through the church! We have some really incredible ministries!!
I always yearned for a church that was full (rather than empty) of people, that was passionate about Christ and that was DOING things - not just the same crusty old thing every week. Because there is nothing crusty or old or stagnate or boring about Christ at all! He is opposite of that! I believe God has answered my prayers by leading us to Southside. Pastor Kelly right now is doing a series called, "Under Construction" and I can't even explain how perfect this timing is. It was perfect timing for where I am.... trying to find a way to get more involved, trying to figure out what specifically I can do to help further the gospel.
I always knew deep down that church wasn't about Sunday morning. But really that is all church was for so long to me. Most of my childhood, church was about me. What *I* could get from the sermon. What *I* would feel during worship, etc. etc.... and I am beginning to realize that Sunday morning really is to worship God and to bring Him honor through learning about Him, focusing on Him, praising Him... Second to that, it is also a time of fellowship and a time for encouragement, to just be with other believers... to love and uplift each other; but that is second to God.
I have learned that Sundays are not the purpose of the church though. My ultimate and defining purpose as I say on the "about me" is to be with God, to know Him, to align with Him more and more....but my earthly purpose....and the earthly purpose of the church is to spread the gospel of Jesus Chrst. Our specific mission statement at Southside reads something along the lines of.....To help people become fully devoted to Jesus Christ. It's not to fill a pew on Sunday mornings but to go out and share Jesus with the prostitutes, drug dealers, athiests, liberal college professors, homeless, self-righteous christians, just WHOever at all God puts in our paths during the "normal" days of our life. It's showing people by our love and mercy that we KNOW there is nothing better about us than them....except that Jesus alone made us righteous and eternally saved.
I have a long way to go in this area --- and I'm going to be extremely vulnerable right now and say that I can honestly say I've never "witnessed" to somebody in such a formal manner that I was right there when they made the decision to ask Jesus into their hearts. I do believe that God has used my words, my love, my forgiveness, my encouragement to plant seeds in others that could be the catalyst for them to seek Jesus Christ out or just to know Jesus better.....but I am not sure I've been a good and faithful servant. I often wonder, have a made a difference to anybody God? Have you used me in some way at some point? Brandon says I'm too hard on myself and that he is sure I've indirectly helped many people on their journey to be fully devoted to Jesus Christ. But the choleric personality part of me wants to make SURE I'm doing whatever I can for God. It's not about getting a tally of people I've lead to Jesus.... I don't want to know a tally or know names...but I just want to know that when I get to heaven, I can say I did whatever I could to bring others with me, ya know!? Maybe Brandon's right though and I shouldn't worry so much about who specifically I've helped....but I just think about the lost a lot because I've been given a heart that really thinks a lot about eternal things. I really am scared for the people around me that will go to hell if nothing changes. I have so many friends and peers around me that don't know Jesus. I can't imagine going to heaven and finding out ___ went to hell and I never mentioned Jesus to them. But it's hard because I can't push Jesus on them at all ya know? I have to just allow Jesus to work through me first to connect to them, to love on them and then when the trust is formed and when the time is right, God will allow them to ask me a question or lead us to a conversation where I can specifically talk about Christ, ya know?
As I've been on this spiritual journey in the past few years..... the point I seem to be at right now, or in the past 3 months or so, is to find out how to be more directly involved. I really do yearn to be used. I think so many of my frustrations and things in the past weeks is that I am impatient. I want to be used NOW. I yearn to use my talents and gifts and all the lessons God has been giving me. But I have to have patience! I am a work in progress. "Rome was not built in a day" sort of thing. I just have to take teeny steps daily to allow God to work on me. I have to trust that God is at work and that when the timing is right He will slam wide open some doors for me. I still have to do what I can to be Jesus right now, where I am, exactly as I am in the here and now...but at the same time look forward to more responsibility and different roles that will be given to me as I progress in my faith and wisdom and love. I have to be patient as He, the great carpenter, works on me.
I really do just want to share Jesus with others....and I have felt a tugging to serve my church or a specific ministry in a more organized and deliberate way. So I am so so excited about this new series the pastor is training us with! AND I can't WAIT for this weekend. Our worship arts/ creative arts team is so awesome! This Friday Saturday and Sunday we have our Easter drama entitled STAND Live the Life. Written by a church member, based on the book Live Like a Jesus Freak - it talks a lot about what our modern day christian life should be like. It will talk about the persecuted church as well in some scenes, from what I hear... I have been asking friends and family to go, I hope they will! I have been praying for this to be a blessing and a powerful way to spread the gospel throughout this wonderful city! We are having ministries and missionaries coming in from all over the COUNTRY to share with us what they are doing and asking others to get involved and support them. They will all be in the fellowship hall for people to talk to and get inspired by and I just pray that people are stirred to STAND up and get out of the pew and onto "the streets". I pray that I will find a specific ministry/mission that I will just know God is calling me specifially for.
But to tell you the truth - I think I have an inkling of what my ministry calling is right now....and it's to help believers, especially new believers be encouraged to be involved. Since I've been that person sitting in the pew going to church every week and wanting to be involved but not knowing how...I want to help those people! I want people to know they are special, unique and that we want to hear their wonderful unique story and the special talents they bring to our family! I want them to know they have a special role to play and that they were brought to the church for a reason. THAT really is what my passion is right now! I realize that the lack of involvement in church is not always a lack of desire but a lack of knowledge of how to get involved, fear, fear of rejection and fear of not feeling accepted. I want to help church members, especially new members feel like an important and accepted part of the church family. I want to help others get connected quickly and fully to the church once they join!
One way I have been working on doing this -- is revamping our church website. I made this 5 page word document on changes to the website and how we can/should be using it as an awesome tool for the church. From the perspective of visitors, members and church leaders. I gave it to the guy who does the actual designing/editing of the site and he seemed to like it. He loved the new organization outline/flow. I was so so excited that we might be able to get this done before our huge performance this weekend where so many visitors will be coming and finding out about all the ministries/missions we are a part of...but I'm discourged because we hit some snags. The webmaster is in France for a semester and is swamped with work. He also is having some issues with the html as it was given to him from the company who designed the site. and I really don't know anything about the actual HOW TO of websites so I can't help. I am just good at the flow/organization/marketing and analysis of visitors and such. So at the same time of being so so so excited about the upcoming drama and all that's going on - I'm frustrated. The website won't be of good use at all. I see how absolutley incredible this website can be and this church can be -- but it's like it's SOO close but just not there. I wish I could help. I wish my ideas could be incoporated --- it's like the same issue I'm having at work with nobody giving my ideas a chance...ahhh :)
So I'm just praying. I just pray for God to keep closing doors if I'm not supposed to pursue volunteering my time and ideas in these areas... but if this IS my ministry - to be a support for the church and for helping people find areas to be involved in...for helping the church get organized and be the connection between church & people....then I pray God will help me realize that and will open doors for me!
PHEW! :) another long post. Raymond is awake now so time to go. But if anybody actually does read this -- I'd love to hear some feedback. What ministry/missions have you been a part of?! What causes you to STAND!?