Monday, February 18, 2013

Coming out of the Prayer Closet...

Less than two years into our marriage, the Lord began to stir something in WJ that would change our lives forever.  After many years of study, separation and sharpening (as in iron on iron), his focus shifted from 'going to church' to 'being the church'.  This shift had been cultivating for many years, but it wasn't until Goose was a baby that it became an active effort on his part to dive into the 'why we do what we do' mentality... WJ had attended The Call in Nashville, TN the summer of 2007.  Two weeks later he traveled to Peru to visit a close missionary friend.  This was his turning point.

Now get this picture in your head:
 At that time, we were youth & young adult ministers in the worship center where my DAD was pastor.  Yeah.  I also helped lead worship every week, published the newsletter and was my Dad's closest help, just behind my mother.  I remember thinking, "Lord, how do I submit, run with and support the searchings of whatever is happening within my husband while I am still trying to be sensitive to my parents' ministry?"  Commence a long, drawn out struggle within my heart. 

Why the struggle?  Three reasons:  
1.   My dad was Pastor! Dad=Pastor & Pastor=Dad.  Were we really about to resign and walk away and I couldn't even explain why?  No, this wasn't happening.  I was comfortable right where I was  thank you very much!
2.  My mind was closed.  CLOSED!  I took everything that WJ introduced to me as going against everything I knew; and I did not know how to process this information.   Iron sharpening iron... poor WJ.
3.   Skeptical? Understatement. I thought questioning our methods and traditions would blaspheme anything I ever knew of my life as a believer. This was a lie of the enemy.  But sadly, it took many years before I realized this. 
In our transition from 'going to church', it was a stressful time. WJ had only begun to see what might be our journey in the near future.  It wasn't as much that he knew where we were headed, but that our past practice wasn't enough anymore.   My biggest fear was the huge valley of division that I felt growing between where I had been to where we were going, blindly obedient.  For me more blind than obedient.  I felt so torn.  I had so many questions, but they were not the right ones.  I was more worried about the journey, about what others would think.  And what were my parents going to think?  I had planned to live 1.2 miles from them for the rest of our lives!

So, how did I start embracing this journey with WJ? I focused on what I should do as a wife. One simple principle guided me in this transition:  SUBMISSION.  

My deepest anxiety lied in what my Dad's opinion would be about all of this.  Yet he calmed all fear with one statement.  I can hear his words even now, "I trust that you know His voice. Obey it. It's all about Jesus.  My path is not yours; go, find your own."  Although they could not totally understand what we could not totally explain, my parents were very supportive.  Dad and I later had a conversation on the importance of trust.  I told him that my anchor had been his teachings about following the voice of the Holy Spirit.  We also laughed about the quick lesson of submission that had ensued.  After all, our vows on our wedding day were not traditional.  Where you go, I will go. I had NO idea God would require this of me, literally
So, I dove in head first and scared.  But when I began to ask the right questions (who, what, when, where and why) the Holy Spirit began to answer. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. After many months of study, discussion, and challenging questions between WJ & myself, more questions arose.

1.  Maybe the way "church", as I knew it, was not the complete pattern set forth in the book of Acts and throughout the New Testament. 
2.  Maybe more practices had evolved from tradition than the heart of the Father. 
3.  Maybe there was more to the teachings on the Church, the Bride... THE BODY. 
4.  Maybe the enemy had used man's good intentions of 'not forsaking the gathering together' to take the focus off of what mattered most:  Jesus & Community.    

Simply put, we had to step from where we were to see where God was leading, and to truly see this from a different perspective.  For a while now, that journey has been the wilderness.  He knew I needed to sever what existed; this had to be broken and poured out so that only what remains is not of me, but Christ.  It has happened.  It has taken years, but it is evident; so much so that I don't even recognize that young wife who was lost and worried, fretting over the past while chasing the future.  I now see that this wilderness has been for my good but it's been the toughest thing I've ever faced. 

Enter Frank Viola and his list of books.
I began with The Untold Story of the New Testament then moved on to Rethinking the Wineskin, Pagan Christianity and ReImagining Church. While it blew me away as to the origins of our traditions and just how far we have drifted from the NT pattern, one thing remained. Jesus and His definition of the Church. His bride.

Viola's early works rocked the mindset I had toward the Church and how She was intended to function (look) today. I now fully support and believe in a more simple way of worship, more focused on community than on the propaganda that has threatened to overtake our society in regard to the Sunday/Wednesday goings on of local believers. WJ and I have sought, ARE SEEKING, an organic expression of the Church.  Yes, I still hold to the belief that believers should meet together.  I do! However, I now believe that there is more to this experience than pulpit to pew.  [The other end of this spectrum has also been distorted in the movement of those who have the 'postchurch' mentality.  This mentality is not what I am talking about, introducing or supporting.]
There is a pattern to follow from the New Testament. It is liberating yet it holds believers very accountable to, and for, other believers. The first century church was a community. They ate together, prayed together, lived together (in some cases)... Frank Viola has written an in depth series of books (mentioned earlier) that discusses this in much detail.   

So, in stepping off the stage, so to speak, I have realized the importance of embracing the 'priesthood of all believers' (1 Peter 2:9-10).  My intentions are in no way to bash the workings of western civilization and it's religious practices.  I do, however, hope this causes you to ponder "why you do what you do".  Be able to truly know that you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing.  I also wanted to shed light on our journey these last few years, in case anyone was wondering.  wink.

So many questions have been answered, yet many still remain.  There is much to this and I feel we are only scratching the surface.  I am very thankful for the willingness of my husband to be transformed.  I have learned much in the last few years.  And recently felt the need to spend a little more of my day in thanks to God for bringing me out into this desert's time to go deeper.

I am beginning a 30 day journey, very similar to the turning point that WJ had many years ago. 
It is time to let "all that remains" be the truth of Jesus' true vision for the body. 
It is time to fully pursue the work/example of the early Church. 

A baptism of sorts this is...It is time to honor and outwardly acknowledge the submission to this journey...a journey that truly is the will of God for us. 

If you are wondering about any of this... the old, the new, or the in between of what Christ has for us as a community... please leave a comment.  I will respond.  I've also linked certain words/phrases in this post to sites online that will give more detail; simply click the highlighted words. 
P.S.  I hope to read this very soon. The newest book by Frank Viola
(co-authored by Leonard Sweet)..   

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