My friends, I want to tell you a story.
Right after I recommitted my life to Christ, I found a wonderful church that welcomed me and my two young daughters. I was so grateful for this place to grow in my faith, to learn more about Jesus and to see my daughters also nurtured in these areas appropriate to their age. But I felt a definite lack of connection due to my mismatched state. So I went to my pastor for guidance. His words have stayed with me ever since.
“If you don’t see what you need here, then start it.”
And that’s exactly what I did. I started a women’s ministry and connected with other women who wanted to grow in their faith. And amazingly but not surprisingly, one of the women who joined our little group turned out to be spiritually mismatched like me.
Many times in 2013 I sensed Abba was raising this amazing community up for a reason and that the Great Harvest is part of this. Many of you shared that you sensed the same things.
As 2014 has started I'm beginning to see more pieces put into place, and I think many of you are too. I want to share something I read in the last chapter of James Goll's book, Lifestyle of a Prophet, which I just finished:
"The is and will be a great move of the Holy Spirit among women. Many women will be released into the fivefold ministry and they will be used in worldwide revival and reformation, which is upon us. Ultimately, the issue will not primarily be doctrinal. It will be one of necessity due to the volume of need for laborers for the harvest. The coming period could easily be termed "The Era of Women Preachers."
When I read this I knew we were and are part of this, my friends—a "knowing" that came from the Holy Spirit and made my body tremble in the light of its truth. So much of what I'd seen, heard and sensed seemed to fall into place like pieces of a puzzle.
But the puzzle is far from finished. We, the SUMites, stand in a wonderful place of opportunity. I believe Abba is calling us to be the voices in our churches, to help our pastors, elders, deacons and our church family to see the growing need for so many like us who stand spiritually alone. We must help our church families see that to be strong in Christ, we must rally around each other and partner with God to fill the gaps.
In leading a life group in my home church, I’ve learned that we come in all shapes and situations—married, divorced, widowed, single. The enemy wants to make us think we are alone and can't find a place in church. Abba says we are stronger together, and if we don't see a place for ourselves in our church, then make one!
All that He has poured into you is not just yours alone. He intends that you share it with others who are on the same journey as you are. Help those still trapped in the enemy's lies to find the truth.
- To replace the lie that their marriage isn't blessed with the truth that their faith sanctifies their prebelievers (1 Cor. 7:14) and that Abba truly does bless us and those we love right where we are.
- To reject the lie that it is up to us alone to teach our children about Christ and lead them to faith. One, we partner with the Creator of the Universe and He has already invested His Son in our children (when we accept Christ, that investment pays out not only to Jesus but to us as well!). And two, as part of a community, we are supported, encouraged and mentored to help us raise godly children.
Look at this wonderful testimony from Martha (we loved it so much we included it in our book, Not Alone:
"My girls always loved church. I believe that was because of their Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, mission trips, church socials, etc. They all made such a huge impact on my girls. In fact, Heather, my youngest daughter, wrote a paper in college about the most influential person in her life, and it was her youth pastor. Imagine that—it wasn’t me (smile). All that to say, please encourage young mothers to make the effort to take their children to church, even when their husbands don’t go. I wanted so many times to give up, especially when the kids were small. But the influence of the kind of people I mentioned above is forever planted in a child’s heart. I love the song with the words, “Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed.” Though my kids and yours didn’t have a dad who influenced them spiritually, you and I were not alone; God sent us some help. That’s why I would scream from the rooftops to young mothers, “Get over yourself and go!”
What have I found to be true in stepping out in faith to start such a group?
- Just as I am privileged to join with others and pray for them, I am prayed for too. I am understood and supported in ways unique to my situation, yet shared by those in my group. I "get" them and they "get" me.
- My group helps fill that prayer partnership that I don't have (yet) with my prebeliever. I can't pray with my husband about our financial situation or the challenges with our children. But I can with my group and know that even between meetings they are praying for my needs just as I am praying for theirs.
- As wives and mothers, we do not have to stand alone in contending for our prebelievers and our children. We have friends to stand with us, and we are stronger because we are standing for Jesus, together.
As I said, I believe we have the opportunity to make a shift in our churches that will not only bring more awareness there as we make our voices heard, but will also shift our environments from the lies of "doing it on our own" to the truths of God's love and strength rallied around us in community—communities right in our own churches that allow us to share and encourage and support just as we are encouraged and supported. This is Abba's heart for us and for the church.
If your church doesn't offer a small or life group for those who walk alone in faith, pray about starting one, especially if this is something you've wanted to see happen. Abba may be calling you to be the one, to be an Esther in your church to bring life and hope to those walking in similar places.
Take what you are learning and gaining here into your church. If you don't see a group for you, pray and ask Abba if He intends you to start one. If so, know that He will equip you and we want to help you too. Lynn and I set up resources and small groups pages to help you get started. Abba has also gifted us with a wonderful helper, Sue Conklin, who has offered her years of experience and administrative gifting to help too (go to the small groups page to contact her).
If not a small group, consider mentoring a new wife or young mom. This is the model we see in Titus 2 and is part of God's plan to strengthen His church. Or partner with one or two others and commit to pray and encourage each other specifically for your marriage and parenting.
My dear friends, this is not just about our desire to live effective and empowered lives for Jesus. It’s also about how we can help build a firmer foundation for the generations to come. I want that for my daughters and especially my grandchildren to come. I want to leave a legacy that will continue to grow in the generations to come.
And please know that Lynn and I started exactly in these places of need, searching for a place in our churches. We were and are just two ordinary women who sought Jesus for our needs and He turned it into to much more. Abba doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.
Are you being called?
If you are feeling a nudge to start something in your church, or you’re not sure or maybe you’re afraid, leave a comment. I want to pray for you. This is my heart’s desire for you, my friends, and for this ministry to reach more of those in need.
Be shiney for Jesus!