Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Time to Push the RESET Button

Nine years ago we started meeting with a small group of people in our first efforts to establish a Church Launch Team that could help us minister to this community. When we say minister to this community, we're talking about becoming a part of the true legacy of the Church.

The Church built the first hospitals. The Church is still the largest single provider of health care in history. The Church was the first to fight for children and establish orphanages. Most of the first higher education institutions in America were Christian institutions. Every day, the Church provides food and water to millions of people all over the world. Even though it never makes the news, the Church has been on the scene or been first responders in every major disaster that has hit our nation.

The reason we want to train a new launch team is because we desire to be a part of that legacy. We want to get back to our effort to help the hungry students in Harrisburg schools. We want to provide assistance for single parent families. We want to to be a strong support to people like John and Kerry Shuey who are touching other nations for Jesus Christ.

We believe that the Lord has told us that it's time to push the RESET button. In September of 2004, we made our initial start. In September of 2013, we will make a new start. 

We realize that ever since most of our original plans fell apart, we have been trying to move forward anyway. Over the last nine years, the Lord has slowly and carefully brought together another group of people who are not only called, but they have been chosen. It's time to begin again, with a new team so, this Sunday, we will reset the ministry.

The first part of the reset involves taking on the mind of Christ as a church family. This is one of the scriptures the Lord has given us in order to reset the ministry. 

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. ---Philippians 2:5-8

The second part of the reset involves accepting our role and assignments in this community. This is a brief portion of a letter that our sister DeVata Davis wrote to us while we were in our month of prayer and consecration. It clearly gives us God's perspective of our ministry in Harrisburg.

DeVata writes: I work with the military. I see this picture of you continuing the undercover mission right under the enemy's nose.  You are still 'overcomers under orders' so even when you are crawling through mud into the enemy's territory, with missiles and bullets flying over your heads, you don't turn back. You keep your head down and keep quiet so that the enemy doesn't hear you gaining ground.  You keep crawling, commando style, through terrain that is not pleasant because you have to get into position to wreck havoc on the enemy.  

Because you are under orders from the commander in chief, you understand that this mission is far greater than you even understand. The commander in chief never gives you the whole battle plan and to not follow His orders could mean death to you (and a mission failure) that will impact the lives of many others as well. 

So, keep pressing forward with the vision God gave you until He sends you into another battle with a new set of orders.  

This Sunday will mark our official request for a new team. Only this time, we will be able to communicate, right from the start, that we are an undercover, special force unit. We aren't going to be in the spotlight. We will work behind the scenes.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Preparing for a Very Dark Time in America

You may recall that just a week ago we told you about an African country that closed nearly 100 churches. The president of Cameroon used some negative incidents and a few bad pastors as his leverage to close them. You may also recall that we said that we should expect this same strategy to be used in America to close churches.

We thought it might happen in a few years. We were wrong. It only took two weeks.

We just saw another alarming BREAKING NEWS posting. A measles outbreak in Texas is being blamed on Pastor Kenneth Copeland, his mega-church, and his teachings about faith and healing. Since some of the people who attend his church failed to get measles vaccinations, the media is blaming him and his ministry for the outbreak.

We can now expect the next step. Somebody, perhaps a State Representative, a Senator, or someone with great influence, will make a proposal to close the church and any other ministries that are viewed in the same way.

More and more, God is showing us that HE has been preparing Urban Life Church for a very dark time that is coming upon America. A lot more pastors had better start getting their congregations ready for home church gatherings and internet ministry.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Best Thing I Can Do

Last month, we gathered for a couple of Sundays in the home of the Whitlocks. Now I believe that it is time to nudge everyone back into their individual home group gatherings. That's the reason we have resumed following our bi-weekly Home Church Group Calendar and the downloading of material from the church website at http://www.urbanlife-church.org/family_friends.html.

Just last week, in a country in Africa (Cameroon), the president of that nation ordered the closing of nearly 100 Pentecostal churches. He cited the wrong doings of a few bad ministers in that nation. He used their inappropriate actions as the basis to close down churches. Since he used the military to do it, nearly 100 pastors and congregations had no choice. This past Sunday, hundreds of church goers suddenly found themselves forced to do what we are already accustomed to doing in Urban Life Church. They had to meet in their homes.

We should not be so naive and ignorant that we ignore the real possibility of this same strategy being used to close churches in America. With all of the uncertainty in our nation we have been seeking God about the right strategy for our church. I don't know how many pastors, in America, are preparing their congregations for this possibility. 

Right now, the best thing I can do is to teach, train and encourage our church family to seek God and stand up as leaders in their own homes. I want them to know that no matter what the future holds, they can keep moving forward. They have what they need. They can do this. They can rebuild, renew and restore their families. I pray that God blesses their home group gatherings in a very special way!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Maturing Process

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading my morning devotional from Oswald Chamber’s ‘My Utmost for His Highest’.  I've been reading this particular book for many years, but it’s still amazing how God can speak something new into my heart each year that I go through it.

This particular day’s reading led me to a profound thought. The Holy Spirit of God reminded me of the words of Jesus when He was twelve years old. You can find His response to His parents, who had been searching for Him for several days. Luke 2:49 records His response to them: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” The Bible goes on to say,”.…they did not understand His statement, but then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart."

After this, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Jesus’ words when He was a thirty-something year old man. In John 5:19 He says: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”

The twelve year old Christ was full of zeal and ready to go forth with God’s work, but He had a process to go through. The thirty year old Christ shows us the results of going through this process.

As a human being, Jesus had to learn obedience. The almighty God of the universe, while dwelling in human flesh, subjected Himself to earthly, human, flawed parents and Jewish leaders.

We must go through the same process. There are many 'twelve-year old' adolescents in the Body of Christ, who are out on their own, having pulled away from their spiritual family, and they are trying to be about God’s business. But like the boy Jesus, they need to go home. They need to submit to spiritual leaders, who are human beings, with flaws and failings.

Many adolescent Believers are in rebellion because they discovered the flaws and failings of their leaders. They felt that this discovery gave them the right to leave and start their own church or ministry. They felt it gave them the right to ignore the counsel and guidance of their leaders.

This has led to thousands of churches starting all over America. There are often three and four church buildings in one inner city block, in neighborhoods across the country. However, many of them are merely gatherings of rebellious and naive spiritual adolescents, seeking attention and affirmation.

We believe that the trials and tribulations of these last days will filter out the adolescents from the adults. There will be a distinction between the immature and the mature. The mature ones will be those who have submitted to the process and progression of Christ.

After submitting to His parents and leaders, the only thing the Bible says about the next 18 years of Jesus’ life was that He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)

That's why the mature Son of God, in later years says, "....the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner."
He moved from the boyish zeal to do things FOR His Father, to the mature Son who didn't do anything unless He was moving WITH His Father. I certainly want to be that kind of leader and I consider it an honor to be connected with people who desire the same.

Personally, I believe that many people went out and started their own churches, when all they really needed to do was establish a consistent time to meet with their family and friends to encourage one another in the Word and to pray.

Part of the maturing process of our church is our new initiative to bring together a team of people who will give our ministry the opportunity to reset and restart next year. We want to grow to the point where we are only doing what we see God doing and we're only saying what we hear God saying. We'll talk more about that next week.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

God Says WAIT

We want to share our most recent breakthrough and ask for your continued intercession on our behalf.

The last three or four years have been very challenging. In fact, the last three or four months had brought us to the point where we were making plans to close the ministry and move.

After more than 8 years of ministry we have only 7 members and about 10-12 in attendance. We were like: Seriously? Really? Seven members after 8 years? I’m a business man. I know when it’s time to quit. It’s simply not working. So we sent out an e-newsletter to state the seriousness of our situation and called a meeting with our church family to prepare them for the inevitable.

The meeting was held this past Sunday morning. We met in the home of two our most dedicated members, and we laid it out there for the Urban Life family. We told them that we have 10 months left on the facility lease and that this is now the official deadline for us to remain in Harrisburg. I took them through our journey from the day we started training our first team in September of 2004, through the day we opened (March 2005), our Bishop's first visit (Sept. 2005) to the closing of the first building (December 2005).

I took them through our journey in the years that followed and all the way to the present where we currently have only 7 members after 8 years of ministry. I told them our final prayer before the Lord has been: How can we continue in Harrisburg if we can’t build capacity? I told them about some of our journey in St. Louis; that after 8 years we had our own facility (paid in full) and a congregation upwards of 300 and still growing. I told them about our dear friends and colleagues, Pastors Frank and Robin King’s journey and where they were after 8 years. I told them I wasn’t just making a comparison about church growth, but I was talking about the level of commitment a pastor must have from a core group of people.

I told them there was no way we could sign a lease for another facility without a certain level of commitment in place. I told them I wasn’t blaming them, but if we can’t grow in Harrisburg, then it’s time for us to go.

Then I had Carol to share her heart and she just broke down in tears. Then they saw and felt how serious we were. They saw and felt how disappointed we were that things are not coming together.

Well, they responded. One person pointed out that, first of all, the only people in attendance for this meeting were the official members of Urban Life. So God had set up this meeting to happen this way. They each declared that they were not going anywhere because this was the first church they have ever gone to that was not religious and abusive. They began to testify of the things God has done in their hearts and homes.

Then they gave some surprising feedback. They said they’ve been inviting people to come and they have also been surprised, disappointed and frustrated that they never come.  One person expressed her frustration that their own family, even after all these years, still have not made a decision to even visit or join the church.

Of course Carol's mom talked. She said, "I just see God in this. We needed to go through this so that we would see who our committed members are. Now you know who you can work with." They gathered around us to pray for us and the prophetic began to flow. Carol’s youngest brother, Michael began to exhort us by saying, “You brought the prophetic word to us. We have never had that before. You were the one that God sent to us.”

It was obviously being communicated: Don’t leave us!

Then each one prophesied right out of the scriptures.

Isaiah 54:17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.
John 10:28-29 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Carol’s cousin, who walks in a strong prophetic anointing, prayed last of all She prayed: Habakkuk 2:3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. Then she prayed, “Lord, we need a strategy. During this time of fasting and prayer, God is going to give you a strategy.”

Even as she was prophesying the Lord was speaking to me to gather THIS group together on a regular basis to pray. So I told them that is the first part of the strategy. "If we are the core group of this ministry, then we have to pray, and we have to do it together, and we have to do it on a regular basis."

It may seem obvious that we could have started with this group all along, but it wasn’t until recently that even this group could attend on a consistent basis. Nearly every person in our church family works on nights and weekends.

So for the first time in 7 years we were able to set a schedule. So that’s what happened after we laid it all on the line. I must be honest and say that I did not expect this. Our extremely negative experiences, since we moved here, told us that they weren't going to respond at all. So God has clearly spoken. God says wait. God says He’s going to give us a strategy. I don’t know any more than that, now. I’ve finally stopped trying to figure out how one event or prophecy is going to lead to the next thing that God has promised. All we know is that He clearly said WAIT, and He clearly said that He will give us a strategy.