Day two of our conference was challenging to me. Let me dive right in and give you a few details to chew on as you go about your week. (I will wrap up day three soon!)
We began our day with Jeff Manion talking about “The Land In-Between.” Man, oh man, have I been in the land in-between. He talked about how Moses led the people out of the bonds of slavery in Egypt and to the land of promise. But there was this land in-between. This place not talked about. This place where you must trust, or lose what has been promised to you. Jeff’s challenge was convicting. Will you trust God enough?
He said, “the soil we most detest is the very same soil that grows the fruit we most desperately desire.” How true, only we typically don’t have this realization while we are standing in the desert. He related a story of one of his children. As he was talking, I was immediately taken back to the dark days when my husband and I were divorced. I didn’t like the place I was in for so many years. I didn’t like anything about the situation. But God used it mightily in my life.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, God was also working great things in my husband’s heart. He had the fun toys, nice clothes, and earthly pleasures, but he didn’t have happiness and joy. I was just the opposite. I was scraping the bottom of the barrel to make my house payment and looking under the couch cushions for mysterious coins to fill up my gas tank. But I was filled with joy. You see, I had something he wanted and he took notice. I chose to show love to him when he didn’t love me back. I extended grace without receiving grace back. I gave him respect without respect being reciprocated. It was the hardest thing for me to do for almost six years – but it was the best thing I ever did because God was using it to mold both of our hearts and mend a relationship that was shattered in pieces. Jeff said it best when he said that “God is at his best when life is at its worst.”
Will you trust God enough...to move?
On to my first breakout session – connecting with parents of preschoolers. We got a few interesting stats at this session and we were encouraged to partner with parents of preschoolers, which is just a no-brainer for me. These little minds learn more in their first five years of life than they do for the rest of their lifespan. It only makes sense to work with parents to make sure that they are learning about God in simple, tangible, real ways. As they grow up, they will have a great foundation as they dig deeper into the truths that have been poured into their hearts.
The thing that struck a chord was the testimony at the end from a woman at the conference. Diane is an older woman, married 50 years (impressive!), and she is involved in a church plant with her husband. They have about six preschoolers in their church right now and she was looking at the First Look curriculum. Does that seem odd to you? The speaker, Autumn Ward, took notice because typically the older generation is not interested in children and youth programming, especially the preschool children. Here is where the story gets cool.
Diane recognized the importance of pouring into the lives of these parents and was so convicted that she is using her personal money to purchase the curriculum in order to invest in the families of her church. You see, Diane has four grown children. And today, she is not comfortable praying with them or talking to them about God. She doesn’t want that to happen with these young families and she is making a move!
Breakout two was also inspiring. It was all about leading volunteers. Jeanne Stevens has a great story of faith. She and her husband chose to move – literally. She served on staff at Willow Creek Church for 11 years and then in Atlanta for another four years. She told us that her life could not have been more perfect. And then God tugged, as he often does.
He moved her family back to Chicago to start their own church – Soul City Church. This church is all about volunteers who pretty much run the place! And, though they are small, they are mighty. Just check out their blog and website. This is a church that moves.
Listen. Love. Lead.
Our last group session was led by Jud Wilhite and really caught my attention. He used Mark Chapter 2 as his example of people who move. It was his illustration that ministry is not always easy, neat, and contained. It’s messy. It’s complicated. It demands out of the box thinking to bring others to Jesus – like going to the roof. Jud reminded us that if we truly have the desire to be the church, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, then we must roll up our sleeves and deal with the mess. We can’t keep expecting someone else to help. There are a lot of people in our own sphere of influence who need us to walk alongside them and help them up.
So when was the last time you got messy for Jesus?
Do you see obstacles or opportunities?
Believe the impossible because God is a God of possibilities… way beyond what we could imagine possible.
Being challenged together...to make that move - D