Being a Christian is not boring. Really...following after Christ - not just being religious or associating with the Christian faith - but truly pursuing God and his calling on my life, is a crazy adventure. Unstable, unpredictable, scary, exciting, joyful...there's a myriad of words and emotions to describe it.
Last night in Hollywood was one of those exciting times on this journey of faith that once again, I saw God moving and putting me into situations that I never would have expected, and still have no idea what he's going to do. My church - RockHarbor - is helping to plant a church in Hollywood. Last night was only the third time they'd met as a larger group, inviting others and pursuing the vision that God has put on their hearts. In recent weeks, the pastor has embraced Broken Hearts Ministry and already formed a close partnership with us. So a few of us joined them at their temporary meeting place last night for their service...to see what God was up to, to join in prayer together for Hollywood and Broken Hearts, and to be a part of the movement in Hollywood.
I simply went as an observer, but found myself as an integral participant in the family of God. To my surprise, not only did David (the pastor) mention Broken Hearts and our partnership, but he had Antquan share about what we do, he has included us on their upcoming prayer events, they allowed us to invite the congregation to pray with all of us afterwards for Broken Hearts and our friends on the streets and opened their building up to us for a few hours; they also brought us up, introduced us, gathered around us to pray for us as a team and as individuals, and finished it off by taking an offering for the ministry.
The fact that I am considered a leader in any sense is still beyond my grasp...but as I sat back and thought about what I was involved in, I realized I was taking part in something new forming in Hollywood. I was taking part in a church plant from my beloved RockHarbor that I'd always thought I couldn't bear to leave. I recall hearing about other plants they were doing or coupels who were leaving to start a church and never had any feeling of calling towards that...and thinking I never would. I'd never be a part of something like that. I'm more of a show-up-to-an-already-successful-church-and-participate-as-I-can type of church-goer. And how could I ever leave RockHarbor? I love that place, and haven't found anything quite like it!
Now, I don't know that I'll actually attend this church when I'm able to move up to Hollywood (whenever that may be), but I very well might...and just being in on the formation of it is pretty wild. From the get-go, I felt a part of things last night. I talked with some of the pastors, met some of the other people getting it started...felt involved and known in a way I never have in a church before (aside from my time at The Hollywood Church).
Then, as worship was happening, David felt led to stop and pray for those who were feeling lonely in this dark, lonely city and needed some encouragement. A few people raised their hands, and I knew I had to pray for them. As I anticipate moving up there soon, I have to expect some loneliness, some discomfort, some "what am I doing here?!" days...leaving the familiar behind to embrace God's calling. And so their pain spoke to me, even though I haven't yet felt it.
I just sort of looked for who didn't already have lots of people around them, and found someone with 3-4 people gathered around him. It was Johnny, a man from England who has been working at RockHarbor for some time, pursuing God's calling on his life. A few weeks ago at church, he and his wife had shared about their journey and how - though not 'extraordinary', their story was about just trying to figure out what God had for them as they desired to go out into the community to bring church to those who don't know Him. Their confusion and uncertainty, the quoting of a personally meaningful verse in Isaiah, and their call to those of us at church that night to receive prayer if we felt the same, all gripped my heart. God spoke deeply to my soul that night, and here I was able to pray on behalf of Johnny and Amy for something I knew I'll probably experience in the future. It was a very powerful time, being encourged by their faith, and being able to encourage with deep-rooted sincerity and love for them. All for two people who I've never even met before.
As the service progressed into the message and prayer time, we talked about Acts 5 and the church that people didn't dare join, and yet couldn't stay away from. And we discussed the power of the Holy Spirit, which has been a topic on my mind a lot lately. After David talked, we took some time to reflect on what had spoken to us, and then got into groups to talk about it and pray for each other. I certainly never intended on most of our group's time being spent on me, but as we started a woman said she wanted to tell me something she felt God had put on her heart for me before we continued. It led into my thinking of my own desire for the power of the Spirit, while being somewhat fearful of it, of the unknown. Both she and her husband spoke powerfully into those feelings, prayed with me, and gave me great encouragement. This church is largely based from the Vineyard churches, which are much more charismatic than anything I've grown up with or spent time in. And I approach that hesitantly, but also open to how God may want to use those differences in my life. It was clear that these people are very attune to the spirit, and it seemed that God had a lot to speak to me in that last night. That perhaps that was an answer to many prayers. Even driving home later that night I experienced something new in talking to Him.
Afterward, a few stayed with us at the church and prayed with our BH members for our ministry, our friends, and Hollywood. Having that support for Rachel, who normally prays alone, was amazing. Seeing people who truly understand how critical prayer is and have a desire to pray for their city was amazing. Leaving that evening to hit the streets, I wondered if God had me here (either for a time or for the future) because of my desire to experience more of his Holy Spirit. All night that's what it was about. And besides being odd that I'm involved with a church plant to some degree, very crazy how I keep thinking of Hollywood as my city. I feel just as connected to it as I do to where I currently reside. God just confirmed that feeling throughout the night and that yes, this place is very much a part of my life to come.
Later at Del Taco, we met up with a couple of guys who are creating a new website to promote ministries, raise awareness, help take donations, etc. Making getting the word out about God's work viral. They had come to videotape some of what we do, the people we meet, etc, for a promo video for us and for their site. Two guys who took an entire night out to lose sleep, and do something for us that we never asked of them. I'd never even met them before, except through email getting help for our website. They walked the streets with us all night, and I felt completely comfortable having them there and enjoyed the brief time I had getting to talk with them.
All night I had examples around me of Christians who are really following Christ and living the life. Who are caring for others (especially their own family of God), giving of themselves in big and what may seem like small ways, but huge to us, and actually making us all feel like family. Not just people who believe the same things are call each other family because that's what you're supposed to do. All of us were being the church - to each other, to a city of dying people...and to be a part of that, and the quiet but thunderous voice of the Holy Spirit is just crazy...especially because it's so fun and exhilarating and fulfilling. I'm telling you, being a Christian is NOT boring. And I'm only part way into the journey, just scratching the surface...