I could hear the phone ringing before I unlocked the office door. I grabbed the keys and added my purse to the pile of books and files already in my arms. As I fumbled through the door, the message machine finished it’s warm greeting. Then a pleasant voice said, “This is Sheri from Detroit. Please give me a call. We need more copies of the information packet for the retreat this weekend. Maybe you could overnight them. Just call me when you get in. Thanks.”
I smiled. Another item to add to my to-do list.
My decision to volunteer at the pastor’s office put me in the middle of a significant move for our denomination. Young adults were coming alive to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Older adults were beaming with new hope. New life was evident. In the next two years, our office supplied the materials and training. We helped plant forty new congregations. We called them Contemporary Christian Centers.
Pastors as far away as Australia, Canada, and England were considering forming CCC’s. Groups were popping up all over the U.S. Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Ohio, Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, California, Arizona, Kentucky, and Missouri.
The office was never quiet. The copy machine ran nonstop, printing new materials. The phone rang and rang. People called asking for information, prayer, or requesting a workshop. My original commitment of three days a week became six.
When I was home, the ministry spilled over. There were more phone calls. I assembled booklets on our kitchen table. Legal pads sat beside my chair in the living room with planning for the next challenge before us. My body was present, but my mind and heart were in “the Lord’s work.”
Somewhere in all the excitement, I forgot God’s counsel. The ministry in my home needed equal time. But I loved what I was doing and believed it was God’s will.
With all the requests for ministry from so many places, we needed a way to bring them together and relay the information at the same time. Our small handful of volunteer staff could not keep up with the demand.
We prayed and decided to sponsor several large gatherings in different locations in the U.S. We invited people for a weekend or a week. We offered educational classes about how to start a center. And we added worship celebrations, preaching ministry, and prayer. Those in our office did most of the planning.
The first gathering was held in 1986 at the church college in Iowa. I didn’t go but heard all the good reports. The next year we went to Ohio for a weekend event. Three hundred and seventy-five people came. That summer we gathered at a church campground in Missouri for a week. And again, attendance was in the hundreds.
The church headquarters loved the growing response of young people. This is the group they’d been trying to reach for some time. They decided to assign three of the apostles to oversee the ministry and be part of the events with us.
One of the first things the apostles asked for were materials. “Do you have anything in print we can use to inform the rest of the church about what is happening?” We didn’t. The CCC’s also wanted up to date information about what was going on in the other centers.
We decided to print a newspaper for mailing. We called it, “The Vision.” Our skeleton staff did all the writing and editing at the office. Several women were our photographers. Costs for printing and distribution came in through local businesses. We let them put ads in the paper in exchange. Each edition took days to put together.
Once all the copy was right, a local printer ran off three thousand for us. The papers came in bundles of two hundred-fifty. We mailed them to various regions, where leaders distributed them to the people. Demand for the ministry grew.
At the same time, I was allowing it to overtake my life. Never had the church been so exciting. Lives transformed before my eyes. Daily I heard testimonies from around the country of what God was doing. Addicts were getting clean and rising to minister life to others. Families reunited and marriages restored. Salvation and healing were manifest every time they met. This is what I’d been looking for and knew was possible. But, I’d forgotten God’s counsel about my home needing equal time and heart.
In 1988, we put three week long events together. There was one in Pennsylvania, Iowa, and California. We called them “Jesus 88.” I didn’t go to the one in Pennsylvania but carried a full load for the event in Iowa. I was in charge of registration, housing, and transportation. There were also many materials to get ready. Almost four hundred attended with their families. What a week.
We were rejoicing in the move of the Holy Spirit. He showed up in every activity. Believers were praying in faith for each other and saw healing and deliverance flow. Some were so overtaken by the presence of the Lord that they appeared ‘drunk.’ Others fell to the floor unable to move when the Holy Spirit came over them. Were we reliving Acts 2:15? While I’d seen this in other meetings outside the denomination, I’d never seen them in ours.
The young people and older generation in attendance were buzzing with excitement. But there were some who questioned if this was God. They were also uncomfortable with believers praying for the sick. Weren’t only the priesthood supposed to do that? Later we found out church headquarters sent people to observe the event and report back. We heard some rumblings of discontent, but we still had one more event for the summer.
In August, we held our last Jesus 88 in Santa Cruz, California. As we made plans, I continued to press God for answers.
August 5, 1988 – Lord, I asked you where the journey was leading us, and You said, “Death.” At first, I shrank in horror and fear then I realized it was the death of self. Oh, God, You know us better than we know ourselves.
“To do My work, you must die to your work. You must be willing to lay it down and wait on Me. Fear not for I am and will refine you and the others. Out of this will come My army. It’s only just begun. Trust and rejoice for the time is near.”
Jesus 88 in Santa Cruz was a great week. We all came home excited about what was next. But the undercurrent of unrest increased. Along with it, I had a growing sense of guilt. My home and family needed to be a priority but, how could I find the balance? I cried out more and more for God’s direction.
When God filled me with the Holy Spirit in 1978, my eyes opened with a new perspective on the Word of God. When I read the Bible, I saw many things in the doctrine of my denomination that didn’t align with the truth. Over the years, I went to the ones in charge. I asked questions, but they weren’t able to still the growing storm of ‘Why?’ that raged within.
“Why can’t believers pray for the sick? Why do you have to be a priesthood member? In Mark 16 is says ‘those who believe will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.’ Why aren’t all the gifts of the Spirit manifest in the church? We say we believe in them, but where are they? Why do some of the prophetic words coming from the leaders not line up with the Word of God?” I persisted with these questions and more, but the answers I received left me puzzled.
I’d been wrestling with God about these contradictions for ten years. But, in the past six months, the questions came louder and more frequent. For years He told me to stay in the church. There was a purpose yet to be accomplished. So, when these concerns increased, I felt sure the enemy was the one needling me.
Then I asked God again on September 12th, “Where are You leading us?” this time He said, “Freedom.” I was shocked.
Freedom from what? I asked.
“Freedom from the box of information and intellect that was placed on you in early childhood.”
But Lord didn’t they provide discipline, structure, and security.
“Yes, but your security is to be in Me, and your structure is to be in My Spirit. I am the builder, and you are the material. The plans are Mine, the dimensions, and functional aspects. All are Mine. Yielded to Me and Me alone.”
Little did I know God was already ahead of me putting things in place to show me the path. In less than a month, one of the biggest changes in my life would occur. It would set me free but, also bring more struggles with Mike. God’s ways are not always pain-free.
~~ How About You? ~~
Have you ever prayed for something and received what you thought was the answer? Then you discovered to move on the answer stirred controversy with those you loved? Have you noted their unrest but decided to press on, hoping they would catch up?
Remember what I told you about God telling us we were moving, and I immediately put a for sale sign on our front lawn? (Hurry Up and Wait) Well, once I get hold of what I think God is saying, I act on it. But sometimes, especially in the past, I don’t wait for further instruction. This is where problems develop.
Solomon was known for his wisdom. Here are a couple of things he wrote:
Proverbs 19:20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.
Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the man that heareth Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors.
Have you experienced tension in your home about something you believed to be God’s plan? Regardless of how much you may enjoy your choice, stop! Take some time to be still and wait on the Lord. Sit at His feet and be willing to listen to His counsel. If He speaks, write down what He says. Take what you hear to the Word and see how scripture aligns with your circumstances. Go to God and ask Him for the names of others you can go to for prayer about the matter. Submit what you are hearing to them and ask them to pray and share with you their counsel.
Proverbs 15:22 says: Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.
James 1:5 says: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Do you want to spend the next twenty years with tension in your home or are you willing to hear God on the matter?
In the midst of the mess, you will discover His love.
I’d love to hear your story or how this piece effected you. Please leave a comment. Thanks.