Several years ago, God began to stir the hearts of the people at Hill Country Bible Church Southwest to join Jesus in the ministry He was doing in the lives of the people of our community. The Holy Spirit worked in our church to strengthen our desire bless our city with the grace, truth, and love of Jesus. This work of God in our Church became especially evident when, with our lease coming to an end in November 2010, the Elders and Staff began praying that God would move our church to the place where we could be the most effective in joining Him in His mission to bless our city.
As we prayed for God’s guidance for our future church home, a team of people was formed to explore possible locations ranging from office space to local schools. As we prayed our way through this process, God grew in us the desire to meet in a school because of the way that neighborhood schools are places that reflect and shape the heart of the community they serve. As we pursued different school options, both private and public, one school, Boone Elementary stood out surprisingly as a unique opportunity that God had put before us.
As we sought to discern God’s direction as to the best way to join Him in serving Boone the Elders committed to a time of prayer and fasting as they sought God’s will and direction. The Staff, Elders, and their wives met together to discuss and pray about the possibilities for future church home and timing God had for us. Some concerns were raised, and yet everyone was unanimous in belief that moving our Sunday worship services to Boone Elementary would be the best way for us to join God in blessing our city with the grace, truth, and love of Jesus.
Almost immediately after that decision was made, God began to raise up people to serve in the new opportunities that He had made available to us. People came forward with a desire to serve our church; with transition planning, with liaison work, with logistics, with set-up and tear down, with financial gifts for the school, and many more. God also began to show us very practical and tangible ways that we could bless the faculty, teachers, and students in ways that ranged from helping with landscaping and mowing to paying PTA dues.
Through this entire process God had made his direction and His presence evident and I want to record as much as we can of what we have seen God do. I wnat all of us to be able to be encouraged by what Od has been doing in our midst. What I would like you to do is to add comments to this post recording any of the ways you have see God at work in and through His leading us to Boone so we can rejoice together in God’s goodness to us.
Believe it or not, I actually went to college. What now seems like a long time ago, I studied Bible and missions at what was then Columbia Bible College and what is now Columbia International University. One advantage to having attended a college that specializes in training missionaries is that I have the privilege of knowing a number of people who serve God around the world. I find their perspective on what God is doing in their corner of the world, as well as their outsider’s perspective on Christianity in America, very enlightening.
So, after having a number of conversations this month about the influence of Muslims around the world and the way that influence is being perceived as a threat by many Americans, including American Christians and those claiming to be Christians, I asked for some outside perspective. I contacted Keith Martyn, a missionary who is working with Muslims in another country, to give me his perspective on the recent displays of fear and anger toward Muslims here in America. This is part of his reply:
I am encouraged to hear your heart and your concern about so many aspects on this issue. There is definitely a deep misunderstanding and many differences between the people who claim to follow each of these respective religions. This, in turn, produces many not-so-helpful responses on both sides. There are many aspects to this. Cultural, social, economic, ideological, spiritual, etc. I don't know if I can offer anything new but here are a couple of thoughts that come to mind:
God is LORD over all and loves His people with their good in mind (Romans 8:28) therefore we need not fear (should not) but rather we must believe that God will ultimately glorify Himself through even the most tragic of events. Those who have a relationship with the Almighty God of the universe need not be characterized by fear.
Satan will use everything he possibly can to create enmity and deceive so as to kill, steal and destroy. He uses Islam to blind and hold in bondage over a billion people with the damnable intention of keeping souls from salvation in Christ and facilitating their eternal torment. Therefore, as true followers of Christ (not as followers of a mere religion) we must stand against Satan with the spiritual weapons God commands us to wield, standing firm against the real enemy while, as Christ's Body, responding with love and truth to those he holds in darkness. We must educate ourselves about Islam and its adherents, being careful not to see them as the enemy but rather as lost souls from whom God is calling many. Rather than taking a confrontational approach and debate with Muslims, we ought to focus on Christ and His teachings, miracles, sacrifice and resurrection. Share Christ with both Christians and Muslims.
Muslim extremists have followed their interpretation of the teaching of the Khuran and murdered many people. Human beings are naturally outraged by this and rightly so but we ought to allow our God-ordained/authorized government to respond to protect the citizens under its care while corporately uniting in prayer and demonstrating our love to Muslims. Most Muslims themselves condemn and distance themselves from extreme forms of Islam and we should acknowledge that distinction through understanding.
One of the things God has done is to being many people from the Muslim world to America that, right or wrong, still has the reputation of being one of the strongest Christians nations in the world. This presents an amazing opportunity for Christians to show the grace, truth, and love of Jesus to Muslim neighbors and co-workers. However, this opportunity is being undermined by the fear and/or apathy that is spreading among Christians in America.
I especially appreciated Keith’s points that:
- Those who have a relationship with the Almighty God of the universe need not be characterized by fear.
- We must educate ourselves about Islam and its adherents, being careful not to see them as the enemy but rather as lost souls from whom God is calling many.
This is a good reminder that Christians are called to respond to all people, even those who see themselves as our enemies, in love. A love the displays God’s heart for the lost. A love that does the work to understand people who are different from us and applies the wisdom to God to know what we can accept, what we can adapt, and what we must avoid in our relationships with them. In short, a love that is shaped by the Gospel. I am praying that God will give us this kind of love for our Muslim neighbors and coworkers so we can have the privilege of being a part of His plan for the Muslims He has placed around us.
I wonder how many times the disciples were asked that question as they told their friends where Jesus was taking them. I wonder how many times they asked that question among themselves when Jesus was vague about their destination. I wonder how many times each disciple thought to himself; “What am I doing?” as he followed Jesus.
I hope it was a lot because I certainly ask those questions a lot, and the implications of my journey with Jesus has not been nearly as risky as the followers of Jesus in the New Testament. The experiences of the New Testament followers of Jesus were adventuresome to say the least. Mine are once again taking that form.
A lot has happened in the 5 years since I became the Sr. Pastor of a church. Much of it has been turbulent. Yet, through all the turmoil Jesus, the builder of the Church, has been putting together an unlikely band of surprisingly adventuresome people and He is leading us deeper into the adventure of following Him.
The Bible shows us is that when a group of people join the adventure of following Jesus at least three things happen.
- They gain a deeper and more personal relationship with God because getting in over their heads makes them more dependent on God, more focused on God, and therefore more aware of the personal presence of God.
- They experience the joy that comes from being personally involved in the things that God says are most important.
- They grow closer together because in looking to what is bigger than all of them, they look past the things that divide them.
As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves:
“Friendship must be about something… Those who have nothing can share nothing, those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.
It is my hope that this blog will serve as a travel log where we can record and remember our experiences as fellow travelers on the adventure that God has set before us.