Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Breadcrumbs

I have to admit that I have had mixed emotions about this church plant. While there is an excitement to see what God is going to do, at the same time there is a frustration wondering how His plan for me is going to unfold in the days ahead. Sometimes the situation reminds me of the Israelites and the story of their release from bondage in the book of Exodus. While they rejoiced in their freedom, they became easily frustrated when they did not understand how God was going to move in the midst of their wilderness experience. The wandering, the wondering, and the waiting became more and more challenging. I can relate to the Israelite's struggle. One of the most difficult parts of this journey for me is having a space to worship, yet not having a congregation to serve. However, I realize that this seemingly "slow" process is really moving in accordance with God's perfect timing. Lately He has been focusing my attention on people and places that are leading me to where I need to go. A couple of examples are worth mentioning. After I graduated from Gordon-Conwell, I would regularly return to take part in what are known as pastor's forums. These are all day events with a guest speaker focused on equipping pastors with tools as they face the various challenges in ministry. At the end of each forum, participants are invited to give feedback on an evaluation form and indicate topics of interest for future forums. One of my frustrations was the lack of forums focused on the unique needs of women pastors. Year after year I offered feedback regarding women in pastoral/leadership roles. Sadly, there was no indication that my feedback was seriously taken into account. However, a few weeks ago, the seminary sent an e-mail announcing that there was going to be a two hour forum bringing together women pastors for a time of support and encouragement. The guest speaker is one of my former professors who was also a mentor during my time on campus. I couldn't believe my eyes! It was an answer to prayer and God's perfect timing. Another example came from a husband and wife team who are church planters and had met with me some months ago. After our meeting I did not feel ready to move forward but they told me that they would provide whatever help I needed in the future. I reconnected with them and was sent two e-mails of interest. The church planters would be coming down in November to the church where my counseling practice is located to speak about the challenges of church planting. Additionally (and this was a real blessing) he and his wife will be hosting a one day conference at the end of September in the Boston area bringing together women church planters! I never really thought about women as church planters and had assumed that most church planters were men. These examples are what I call "God's breadcrumbs." He is encouraging me to follow the trail and attend these conference opportunities that He has opened up for me. And if I follow, I will not be led astray but rather led closer to God's unfolding plan. Bread plays a significant role in the Old and New Testaments leading individuals into the very presence of God. The Israelites were fed with the manna God gave them in the desert. (Exodus 16) Additionally, they were commanded to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread which commemorated the exodus. (Exodus 23:15) The writer of Ecclesiastes encourages us to, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." (Ecclesiastes 11:1) In other words we are to be adventurous accepting the risks that in due time will bring benefits. Bread was important enough to be a part of the Lord's prayer, "Give us today our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11) Jesus declared that He is the bread of life. (John 6:35) And of course the most powerful symbol for believers is found in the celebration of communion with the bread representing His broken body on the cross. (1 Corinthians 11:24) So, I am encouraged and determined to follow the breadcrumbs. In sharing my thoughts over lunch with a pastoral colleague, he encouraged me with these words, "Keep following those breadcrumbs and don't let the birds eat them up!" Amen!
Peace In Christ,
Pastor Sheree


Monday, September 2, 2013

The Harvest

As we continue on this journey towards a new church plant, we are frequently asked, "What is the name of the church?" We end up most times shrugging our shoulders and responding, "We don't know." Last Sunday, I filled the pulpit for a colleague who was away on vacation. We had been attending this church when God's call came to move on and establish this new church. In sharing with the congregation that this particular Sunday would be our last and God had a new mission for us, there was enthusiasm mixed with sadness. Inevitably, the question arose, "What is the name of the church?" Sadly, our response was the same, "We don't know." That afternoon my husband and I began discussing possibilities about a church name. He suggested a few names that really resonated with me but I wasn't sure which one was the best. We had just finished lunch and were disposing of our trash when I accidently dropped an apple core on the floor and some seeds fell out. As I looked at the seeds the name, "The Harvest" seemed to stand out. Scriptures began to fill my mind, especially Jesus words to the disciples after He had spoken to the woman at the well in John 4, "Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (John 4:35) The image I had in my mind was focused on the whole process of planting, watering, and harvesting. This is similar to Paul's admonition of the Corinthian church as the believers were arguing and divided about who they followed, Paul or Apollos. Paul tells them, "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe---as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:5-6) Additionally, there is the Parable of the Sower which is too lengthy to include in this blog but can be found in Matthew 13. The more I thought about the process a seed undergoes to bring forth some food that is ultimately harvested and enjoyed, the more I related the imagery to what the church is called to do. God plants the seed which is experienced in worship. Our intimate relationships with each other and the use of our gifts waters those planted seeds. Finally, in the process of God maturing and growing us in Christ, we go out to serve. In our service we seek to bring forth a rich harvest of new believers for God's honor and glory. This imagery is also very dear to my husband's heart as he is an avid gardener. We can look out our side door at the garden he planted in the early spring, watered, and cared for throughout the summer. The garden is yielding many vegetables which he will soon harvest. We will enjoy that food but also share the abundance with others, and in turn bless them. I thank the Lord for His insight and ask for your prayers for the "Harvest Community Church." We pray that God will be honored and glorified as we move forward.
Be Blessed!
Pastor Sheree