Before we started cwowi in our home, while we were still in the auditorium church, Barb had seen a vision about our future, though at the time we had no idea what it was about, though we thought we understood it. That is key to today's main point - we thought we understood, but what was communicated was different from what actually happened.
She was standing at the open front door of our house looking outward, greeting a never ending line of people who were coming into our house and receiving ministry - healing physically, emotionally, spiritual balance and health, some born again, but all were made whole.
Then she saw these people after a time going out of our house able to live whole and balanced lives. With each person's first step as they left the house their feet touched down and created ripples like a pebble on a smooth pond, which represented other lives they touched. This went on and on until as far as Barb could see there was nothing but people stepping out and creating ripples that in turn touched each other.
At the time we were in the auditorium church, so we thought it was literally thousands of people who would be coming into our home. We took that vision and immediately saw it as a ministry headquarters, a working ranch and farm, a training center and community of believers centered around our home. It was essentially a small Christian neighborhood able to be self-sufficient should society collapse.
It wasn't until the Lord appeared to me 2x in 2001 to tell me: "I want you to start a house church and house church network, and structure it in such a way to facilitate the development of house churches around the world", that we understood what Barb saw was CWOWI, for we started it out of our home. Though the network is now in many nations, spiritually speaking, people are coming into our home, becoming whole, and then going on in wholeness in their life.
The literal vision didn't happen, but the spiritual truth communicated in the vision has come to pass.
In the How to be Led by the Spirit 2 series I talk about a situation in Paul's life where the vision God gave him wasn't fulfilled in the exact way the vision described.
This is where we get into trouble. We have something in our hearts from the Lord and take it to be literal, right now, and it must be done exactly as the word/vision/burden from the Lord was told us. But that is not always the case, as seen here and in our own lives above.
In Acts 16: 6-10 Paul and his group have been going east to west across our modern nation of Turkey. At several points they kept trying to turn left to go south to the coast, but the Lord did not allow them the text says.
Being forbidden by the Lord to turn south, Paul kept going west until he found himself at the coastal city of Troas: He had run out of land and only the ocean before him. It was then he saw a vision of a man in Macedonia, across the sea, to 'come over here to Macedonia to help us'. This vision was a confirmation to keep going west, into Europe.
And this is the point:
Paul never met the man in the vision. Acts 16:11-15 tells us instead he found a business woman named Lydia, and she hosted the first house church of the Philippians. Paul's later letter to her and them is the warmest and most transparent of his letters, and it is clear they held a special place in his heart. They also gave regularly into his ministry.
Some years ago Barb and I led a tour group retracing Paul's steps and we visited Philippi and her home, which became a chapel after Christianity was legalized. Not much is left except the lower walls and the beautiful inlaid tile floor. But there is no record of Paul ever meeting the man in the vision - the man who asked him to come to Macedonia to help.
Human nature being what it is...
We start to question ourselves as to why 'the vision' hasn't happened, or where we missed it. Sometimes like the vision of the people at our door and in our house, or with the man of Macedonia, the vision, the dream, the promise is spiritual. It comes in a different form than what we thought it would. That word to you expresses the spirit of what God has in mind, not the detail. It isn't a blue print, it is an impressionist's painting of the spirit behind it. He sketches the outline but lets you and I paint the picture.
A man says he is called into the ministry as a pastor but is locked in a career job, thinking he has failed God. The reason is he took the call to mean a pulpit, but NT truth is that Christ is in us, and the gift of pastor has nothing to do with how one earns a living. He doesn't realize in his work he is in ministry for Christ is in him, so how he conducts himself, the advice given to coworkers, the peace and wholeness of the department he oversees, are him serving as their pastor. Those who work for him feel safe, secure, loved, there is freedom and peace in the office - that is a pastor's anointing.
I've seen children pastor other children, tenderly caring for their friends. There are executives in industry whose office is like a personal guidance office, the executive loving the people in his or her charge more than the job, giving them life advice as well as instructions for their work.
The couple who can't help but to reach out to other couples with family advice, budgeting finances, and business planning. The shop owner who looks for opportunities to give the products in his shop to those less fortunate or provide some work for someone needing extra money. All these things and more are the spiritual gift called 'pastor' or literally 'one who tends the sheep'. Tending the sheep isn't in the pulpit, most pastors are men and women and teens and children of all walks of life. Christ is in us wherever we are, so the job title means little to Him.
I can imagine...
NT truth is this: I was hungry and you fed me. Thirsty and you gave me drink. A stranger and you took me in. Naked and you clothed me. Sick or in prison and you visited me. That is NT truth. THAT is ministry. Pulpit isn't in there. Evangelistic campaigns are not in there. Basic love, caring for those around us, THAT is ministry. It flows from the individual's heart, then their home, then outward to others.
I can imagine a woman arriving in heaven at the end of a long life, but feeling horrible that she never entered into the ministry she felt the Lord had for her, feeling like she let Him down. She felt called to ministry as a child, then she fell in love, married, had a family, then by her 70's wondered what God thought of her because she was never 'in ministry.'
But as He reviews her life He assures her she was in ministry her whole life, she just applied her religious culture to what He had put on her heart, and therefore misunderstood the call on her life.
He shows her where she from a child helped others, was the first to talk to the new kid in class, volunteered as a teenager at the soup kitchen, gave up a career to stay home and raise her children, took food multiple times to those in crisis, wrote notes of encouragement to others....and the Lord would make her realize that was Him in her looking after those people, loving those people, caring for them as a pastor...she was in ministry the whole time, she had just applied her ideas to what was His heart, leading to a lifetime of feeling like she had let Him down.
When I was a pastor of a small church Barb was at first the recipient of scorn and derision by some when she told them she didn't sing, she didn't play an organ or piano, she wasn't a teacher, that her ministry was to be behind the scenes allowing me to pastor and lead the church.
Feeling horrible and self-conscious that she didn't measure up to the expectations of some women in the church, the Lord assured her, telling her that we are one as husband and wife, and that her ministry was first to me and our children, and after that to others as she is able. That word from the Lord and the security of peace it left in her heart helped carry her though much during those times. Hope this offers similar encouragement to you.
More next week...until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org