Monday, December 9, 2013

Our Ridiculous Trip

On our trip through North and South Carolina was full of rainbows and ridiculous faith!  My sister is the conference treasurer for the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God.  If you go to the website you will see Colleen's face scrolling by you at the top.  She's the beautiful brunette in the orange top with a floral scarf.  She needed to take a trip to visit several young churches in North and South Carolina.  Since it's not a good idea to travel alone, she asked if I could travel with her.

Our first night was spent with our Aunt and Uncle in Charleston, SC.  BUT on the drive down to them on Sunday afternoon we saw a FULL rainbow.  We actually had to pull off of the highway because both of us were trying to get a better view!

We spent Sunday evening walking around Charleston with our favorite Aunt and Uncle.  I spent a lot of time with these two when I was growing up and they are very dear to us.  As we walked, and toured more of the city the next day, they were telling us about their church.  Their church is nicknamed the "social conscious of Charleston."  They are very outreach minded.  My uncle is a reading tutor at a local elementary school through a program his church developed with the school.  The amount of outreach they are doing is immense.  This began a theme on our trip.  I was soon to learn about amazing outreach at almost all of our meetings.

After saying goodbye to Charleston and our family, we headed to Hilton Head for another rainbow.  We had a few hours before our first meeting with the local church, so we took a long walk on the beach.  After we turned to head back toward our hotel we saw a small rainbow in the sky.  If you look at the picture, you can sort of see it to the left of the bright sunshine.

That night we met with a couple who are planting a church outside of Hilton Head.  There, I fell in love with their little granddaughter, but I also heard about their outreach to seniors of single mothers.  Because they know how difficult it can be for a single mom to provide all that their child needs when they head off to college, this little church is adopting these seniors and sending them off to college with towels, sheets, cleaning and laundry supplies and other essentials.  Throughout the year they will support these college freshmen with care packages.  Keep in mind, these is not a church that can even pay their pastors.  They are a baby church with baby offerings.  But they are spending those offerings in outreach into their communities.  This is the church that has partnered with the local Hispanic ministry.  They will share a facility and also occasionally share services in order to reach out to each other and their different communities.

At the beginning of this trip, I started a new devotional about Elisha called "A Tale of Ridiculous Faith."  It was at this first meeting where I heard the term "ridiculous" when talking about faith.  I was to hear the word ridiculous, or ridiculous faith every day after that.  God was telling me through others that our faith is meant to be ridiculous.  I was meeting these pastor couples who were working full-time, raising families, and being full-time pastors.  Ridiculous.  They were doing ENORMOUS outreach with a TINY budget.  Ridiculous.  They were seeing people come to Christ each Sunday and encouraging new and long-time believers to grow in Christ all the while dealing with everyday life.  RIDICULOUS.  There are days when I struggle to get out of my jammies.  I was so humbled by who I met and what I saw.

We left Hilton Head the next day and drove to Raleigh for another meeting.  The following day we headed to Asheville for another meeting.  Then the next day back to Raleigh for two more meetings and a boot camp.  Each time I met people passionate about planting churches to reach unbelievers and unchurched for Christ.  I met a man who's goal is to have a ministry in every prison in North Carolina, again, with a shoestring budget.  I met a woman who laughed with us and showed us the Joy of the Lord, only to find out that she, at around 30 years old, had been widowed in the last year and was a single mom.  But she told us about her joy and how she shares it with others.  I met another woman who is planting a church and feeding people.  Her weekly offering is small-small-small, but last month, she fed 650 people.  That is not a typo.  She and her small church fed 650 people healthy food.  She said she looked at her town and thought, "What do they need."  And she fed them. She said that by eliminating their basest needs they will then see their need for Christ.

Finally, Colleen spoke at a boot camp for church planters.  Some of the people we had met on our trip were at the boot camp, but there were also a lot of new faces.  People desiring to be part of the new thing God is doing.  Colleen spoke about setting up your finances in a Godly accountable fashion.  And then she spoke about Biblical Generosity.  This is the talk everyone needs to hear.  We need to celebrate that we are able to give to the Lord.  We need to give our tithe, but we need to give beyond our tithe.  And when we give, we should giggle as we're doing it.  Hooray!  We GET to give!

At our first meeting on Monday night, we were told that when it's time to give an offering the congregation stands up and cheers. "Yay! It's time to give our offering!"  At another church meeting we were told about one Sunday when a pastor watched everyone give their tithes and offerings.  When the offering was over he said, "OK.  We're going to do that again.  I watched you all give your offering with sour faces and doom and gloom.  We're going to give again, but this time, we are going to smile and give God praise."  He went on to say that they didn't need to retithe, but they needed to give a small something and do it with joy.

I came back to Pennsylvania a changed woman.  I believe in church planting.  I believe that the existing church needs to get behind church planting and begin to sow into it.  This is how the church grows.  If you would like to know more, check out the 20/20 website. And if you would like my sister to come and talk to you about Biblical Generosity and accountable practices in your church, let me know.  I can probably make that happen for you.

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