Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry – Pursue God’s Vision
Key verse: “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams’” (Acts 2:17 NIV).
On the first day of school, a professor challenged his class to meet someone new. As one young man stood to begin his search, a gentle hand touched his shoulder. Turning, he found a wrinkled, little old lady with dancing eyes and a dazzling smile. "Hi! My name is Rose” she said. “I'm eighty-seven years old.” The student laughed as she grabbed him in a fierce hug. “Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" he asked. Rose jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids." "No seriously," the young man persisted, curious about what may have motivated her to take on this challenge at her age. "I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she said.
They became instant friends and over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon, easily making friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and delighted in the attention from other students. In short, Rose was living it up!
At the end of the semester, the students invited Rose to speak at their annual banquet. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, Rose accidentally dropped her three-by-five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. There are so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but for what we didn’t do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets." Rose concluded her speech to thunderous applause and at the year's end, finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation, Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral; paying tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be. It’s never too late to dream.
Powerful ministry is the natural result of God’s vision fed by God’s power at work in God’s people who dare to dream. If we want to experience the power of God in ministry, we have to be willing to dream new dreams and pursue new visions. “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams’” (Acts 2:17 NIV). Dreams are costly. Vision demands sacrifice and a willingness to change. Change is hard – but essential for the growth and maturity of any living thing. The Body of Christ is alive, but many parts of it are not healthy because they refuse to change and in doing so, refuse to grow. Any living thing that does not grow and change will eventually die.
It is much easier to stay on the shore of comfort than it is to swim through the rough waters of change, but I also know those waters are easier to navigate if you are not in the rocking boat alone. My husband and I have navigated the treacherous waters of transition and lived to tell about it. Climb into the boat as I share our story over the next few weeks.
Dan thought he would always work with youth, but I believed that he would one day pastor a church. I was right. In the fall of 1989, God called Dan to be the pastor of Flamingo Road Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. This traditional church of 300 in worship was at a crossroads and had just experienced its second stretch in three years of being without a pastor or staff. The church hired Dan, a worship leader and a youth pastor within a month - and began what became the ride of a lifetime!
Flamingo Road experienced solid growth. Then we made the heartbreaking discovery that we were not reaching lost people. Our growth was 90% transfers from churches and only 10% by winning people to Christ. That discovery began a new journey of discovering how to do church for the un-churched. We diligently studied other churches with the same mission and after a year of studying, seeking, and praying, we began to make the transition. God blessed in amazing ways as we made nine specific transitions:
Approach - from program driven to purpose driven
Target - from reaching “fellow Baptists” to reaching the un-churched
Worship style - from traditional to contemporary
Leadership - from a committee/deacon led church to a staff led church
Pastors - from a senior pastor model to a team approach
Ministry - from staff doing the entire ministry to staff being equippers and lay ministers doing the ministry
Strategy - from no systematic plan for reaching the lost or developing new believers to a life cycle process driven by small groups
Small groups - from a traditional Sunday school model to a relationship centered small group model
Schedule - from one worship service to five worship services each weekend
Flamingo Road grew from a church of 300 in attendance in the fall of 1989 to 2300 by 2002. We started twenty-three mission churches that now total another 5000 in worship attendance. Today, 70% of those who join are un-churched before they come to Flamingo Road. God has done a “new thing.”
As my husband says, “The only person who really likes change is a wet baby.” Every transition, every change was incredibly intense and personal and had built-in opposition. In the midst of all the changes, I broke. In fact, the transition process of Flamingo Road was one of the main reasons for my two-year-struggle with clinical depression. I did not know how to handle the blatant opposition, the emotional pain or the personal attacks. Part of my time in that dark pit of depression was spent learning how to survive transition and coming to the place of actually thriving on change. Looking back, I now see the darkest moments were actually life-changing spiritual markers and God’s greatest work in my life as a woman in ministry, pursuing God’s vision.
A word from Mary: I will never be the same again. I can never go back to just doing church. God’s holy vision changes everything! Once you have tasted the “new wine” of fresh vision at work in the hearts and lives of seekers, you will find yourself thirsting for God’s power and craving a radical new work of God in your life and in your ministry. It doesn’t get any better! Vision demands sacrifice and a willingness to change. Are you ready?