Tomorrow is Sunday, and I am eagerly looking forward to worshipping and fellowshipping with my new church family at All Nations church. I’m excited about introducing All Nations to Simeon and Heather who are visiting from Minnesota. I get just as excited about the two life groups in which Marion and I currently participate. I am loving the new friendships that are forming, and I am eager for the new assignments that I know the Lord is preparing for me.
Some of you may find it odd that I would find church this stimulating. Isn’t church supposed to be dull? Well, no. It ought to be wonderfully satisfying – but believe me, that hasn’t always been my experience. In fact, I haven’t been this excited about church in a long time.
As a young man, my hunger for the living God was kindled in the early 1970s, during the era of the Jesus people revival. In this atmosphere of spiritual ferment, drawn by the possibility of a transformed life, I began to seek the Kingdom of God. At first I had little understanding and some very questionable mentors, so mine was a long and convoluted journey with many detours, but God was faithful and eventually I became a committed disciple of Jesus Christ.
However, my next twenty-five years in the church were mostly disappointing. At first, I was attempting to serve God without really knowing him. My involvement in a liberal denomination with very fuzzy theology did little to clarify my understanding. Despite these handicaps, eventually I was led to a true relationship with Christ. My personal life began to change, but the church still mostly frustrated me. If anything, my frustration increased as my understanding grew. Marion and I did have wonderfully refreshing experiences at camps and prayer ministry schools, but I was hungry for a church that more faithfully reflected Biblical Christianity in its everyday life.
About fifteen years ago, after many years of struggle punctuated by just enough bright spots to keep us moving forward, Marion and I were introduced to a wonderful family of churches and ministries known as DOVE Christian Fellowship International (DCFI). Over several years, we came to see the DOVE network as our spiritual home. For almost the first time in our lives we weren’t just reading in books about the wonderful things happening in moves of God in other times and places. We actually saw the values of the Kingdom of God being embodied with integrity, humility and grace by leaders who really cared about us and were committed to seeing us succeed. Our whole understanding of church was taken to a new level, and we ourselves were changed in deep and lasting ways. We were hooked, and knew this was what we wanted.
Thinking that understanding a vision meant being prepared to implement it, we attempted to plant a DOVE church in a village south-east of Ottawa, but we ourselves still had much to learn about walking in Kingdom Christianity, and we did not succeed in gathering a leadership team that understood or shared our vision. We had fought to establish this vision but had found that we could not do so without committed partners who understood our hearts and shared our burden.
Eventually we laid down this attempt and moved back to Ottawa, where we had several good and fruitful years serving as small group overseers and intercessors in a denominational church. The lessons that we had learned during our DOVE years served us in good stead during these years, but even though Marion and I sought to be faithful and made many good relationships, I knew I was in a foreign land in terms of church culture. I gave my best and sought to flourish in the place where God had planted me, but it didn’t feel like home. I had been exposed to a church culture that had given me a taste of Kingdom life, and I would never again be content with anything less.
Little did we know that the Lord had been preparing us for something new, and everything was about to change. A few months ago, at a Paul Baloche worship concert, the message of one song in particular really caught my attention. I found that this song was on my heart over the next few weeks. Every time I picked up my guitar, I found that I wanted to play this song. Looking back, I can see that God was using this song to speak a message of hope over my life at this pivotal time.
Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You, we turn to You
Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You, we long for You
Since then, Marion and I have been in another season of transition on several fronts. We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we know something is changing, and we feel a sense of anticipation for the things that lie ahead. I love my new church family and hope is stirring again that we will have an opportunity to play our part in seeing God’s Kingdom established in our city. I don’t know what our particular assignment is going to be, but it doesn’t matter. We are full of gratitude at this door that God has opened for us. It’s so good to be excited about church again, and to know that God has a place for us as part of a Biblical community of brothers and sisters, working with a servant leadership team that understands our hearts and wants to empower each member to fulfill his or her God-given calling. We are experiencing the refreshing that the Scriptures speak of, and are looking forward to the day when all things are restored.