This past week my home church – Shades Mountain Baptist in Birmingham – celebrated their annual Global Impact Celebration. And I missed it. For the first time in seven years I was not be able to attend even one session. As friend and former Shades worship associate, Logan Creasy, posted on Facebook Wednesday night, “I’m not there, and I miss it! Seeing 30+ missionaries and church planters from all over the world come together with that local body to celebrate what God is doing throughout the nations is encouraging and life to my soul.”
I remember my first GIC. Melanie and I were in a season of ministry transition. And God had placed us as members of his body at Shades. During GIC we were singing in the choir. Michael Adler is the worship pastor at Shades. He calls the songs that anchor the worship service “big rocks.” That year two of the “big rocks” for GIC were “Fear Not” and “Never Once.”
The Wednesday night service for GIC is my favorite. The church welcomes and celebrates her mission partners with pep-rally-like enthusiasm (see photo). As the missionaries enter the worship center, the church is cheering. Celebrating them. Celebrating what God is doing through them. And encouraging them. Many are serving in difficult places. They are faithfully sowing the seeds of the gospel. But often the soil is not ready to receive it (Matthew 13:3-9). Many of these faithful servants come to GIC needing encouragement. And they find it.
That night the choir sang, “Our hearts will not be troubled. Our God has overcome. Our hope will not be shaken. Look what the Lord has done. Fear not, our God is with us. Emmanuel redeeming love has come. Fear not, we have a Savior. And nothing is impossible with God.” We sang to encourage our mission partners. “Nothing is impossible with God.” But I was the one who was encouraged to Fear Not as I walked through that season of transition.
Churches in Transition
Today I find myself in a completely different season of ministry. I guess Believers are always going through transition as we are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. But today I am working with churches that are in transition. Many are stuck. Some are struggling. Others are suffering. They need to remember to fear not.
Last weekend I had the privilege to spend about three hours with one of these struggling churches. In January I spent a weekend with another. Both needed encouragement. They needed direction. They needed hope. But more than anything they needed the reminder to fear not!
One reason that so many churches are in transition is that they have taken their eyes off of Jesus. Like Peter walking across the waves, they have become fearful. They have looked at the wind and the waves instead of looking at Jesus. They need to remember, “Fear not! We have a Savior. And nothing is impossible with God!”
Life on Mission
When I take my eyes off of Jesus I grow fearful. But I also lose sight of his mission. One of the many reasons I enjoy the Global Impact Celebration at Shades is that I am encouraged to live on mission with God. I get to see what God is doing all over the world. And I am reminded that he has called and commissioned me to join him in places that are close and places that are far away.
Churches experience similar results when they take their eyes off of Jesus. Not only do they focus on the wind and the waves and become fearful. They also expend their time and resources on keeping their head above water. Maintenance becomes more important than mission. They turn inward. They no longer live on mission.
In my work with stuck and struggling churches I point them to Jesus and his mission for his church. In one meeting with a church planning team, they asked what specifics I would recommend for their church to get back on track. I answered, “I don’t know. But Jesus knows. So we are going to ask him.”
God Is Up to Something BIG
Jesus does know. And he is up to something big. As Logan Creasy continued in his Facebook post about GIC,
Shades – God has such a grand desire for His glory and the fame of his Son Jesus among the nations, that you cannot even begin to grasp. And he wants you to play a role in it. GIC isn’t just about loving on those men and women, though you will do that, and do it well. He has sent those church planters and missionaries there to stand as his representatives that your God is up to something BIG! Celebrate them, but see in their faces the call to join your God in the greatest mission you could ever give yourself to. He is calling you to join in. So, over the next four days don’t sing small songs. Don’t settle for small prayers. Don’t give partially. Don’t preach small sermons. Don’t have small conversations. Instead, open your hearts to the wide open spaces that God is calling you to as you become the vibrant, life-giving community of our God and King to the nations. Dig in, keel down, scream out for your mighty God to move powerfully. He. Is. Worth. It!!!
Yes, I missed GIC this year. But I missed it because God is up to something BIG in my life and ministry. And he has called me to join him on this grand adventure of bringing revival and revitalization to his church.
On Sunday night of that first Global Impact Celebration the choir sang,
Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with usKneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in usScars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can sayNever once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
As I think about these words I am back in the choir loft on Sunday night of GIC. Tears are streaming down my face. Not because I am sad. But because I get to be a part of what God is doing. And as my former professor and New Orleans Seminary president, Dr. Chuck Kelley says, “There’s an ancient Hebrew expression for that. WOW!”
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