Thursday, May 17, 2007

Onward and Upward

I know that I have been sparse with the updates concerning the work here at the church. If you assume that’s because nothing is happening, then you would be wrong! Tons of awesome God stuff is happening all the time! In fact it’s overwhelming just to come up with a few stories out of the many that come in every single week.


AN OVERVIEW
Late last year I surveyed the work that we were doing in 28 different neighborhoods in and around Woodstock. What I found out was that we had a highly committed core team of evangelists that had blanketed these neighborhoods and in most cases, knocked on every door and talked to every willing person in the neighborhood. The average neighborhood had 4-6 months of work done in it and some of them had over 2 years, sometimes going every week but definitely every other week. We had scores of new believers and pages of miracles and healings that the Lord had done. The breakdown came when we tried to get new believers to make the next step; discipleship.

In discipleship, we hit a wall. We discovered that there are a bunch of people that want the benefits of the Kingdom of God, but don’t truly want to give their lives to Jesus! In many of the neighborhoods we would eventually get a meeting going, sometimes after weeks and months of begging and pleading with people to come. In all of the neighborhoods, maybe half of the new believers would actually even show up! The bottom line is that many of the people we were working with were simply unwilling to take up their cross and die daily. In persisting with them for sometimes up to two years we ran the risk of burning out our team! Nothing is more difficult and tiring than investing your life into people that don’t care about what you are living for.

So, throughout the work only a small percentage of people were willing to go to the next level and many of them are walking with us today. They come to church with us, read their Bibles and live devoted lives, worshiping Jesus. Many of them have started to lead others to the Lord and pray for the sick with remarkable results. The ones that decided to not go forward have our phone numbers and know where our church is, but we cannot continue to sow seed into bad ground. The Bible says to not throw your pearls to pigs. The pearl is the pearl of greatest price, the Kingdom of God. The Lord says that, “…as a sow (pig) goes from the washing back to her mud…” Meaning, pigs are people that get spiritually clean, but go straight back to their filth. Jesus says that “to whom much is given, much more will be required”.

This year we start afresh. With new eyes to see hunger or lack thereof, we first hit all of the old neighborhoods again and see if there are any who are desperate for Jesus. If there are, we will work with them. If not, we will move on. So far, in just a few short weeks we have worked through most of the old neighborhoods and not found many willing to pay the price and serve Jesus. We already have scouted out some new neighborhoods with a different demographic and we are praying that these will respond with hunger and thirst for the Kingdom of God.

But even in the midst of lukewarm people, we have seen some awesome miracles.


GRANDPA AND GRANDSON
We were in a really rough trailer park; one that we have been in for awhile. We were working our way through, looking for hungry people when we came on a trailer full of folks. After talking to them a few minutes we found out that they were good Baptist people that didn’t really believe in miracles and the supernatural. This came up because I tell people that the Kingdom of God is at hand and we will show them by giving them a demonstration of God’s power, especially with those who are sick. So they told us that they really don’t believe in all that. I asked them if anyone in the house had a sickness, disease or condition that I could pray for. They told me that their son (who was sitting right there) was epileptic and has seizures every day. I told them that this was a perfect opportunity to see the Kingdom.

There discomfort towards miraculous healing was obvious, so I went about it by saying, “so, do you believe that God answers prayer?” “Of course we do! God’s answered lots of our prayers!” “Well, here’s how it works. I ask God to heal your son (I actually don’t ask God to heal the sick, he told me to do that!) and if He answers my prayer, then he will be healed!” They all agreed and allowed us to pray for the young man. He was maybe about 8-9 years old. Then they said, “While you’re at it, Grandpa lives in the trailer next door and he is diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder, you need to pray for him!” We happily obliged and went to the trailer next to them. We talked with the gentleman and it was obvious that he was troubled. You could see it on his demeanor. He didn’t look balanced. I asked him what the symptoms of the Bi-polar disorder were and he said that he had severe depression and he heard voices all the time! He allowed us to pray for him and as we prayed, the Presence of God descended on Him. His entire countenance changed as we proclaimed freedom over him. We asked if we could come back and check on him and he agreed.

Fast forward two weeks and we show up at their house once again. We find the young boy who had epilepsy sleeping in an easy chair and ask how he has been. “Great! Not one seizure in two weeks! He’s been well since you prayed for him!” They said it so matter of factly that you could have missed it. This was a young man that was having seizures EVERY DAY. Now, it had been over two weeks and he had not had one seizure since we prayed! We walked over to the house next door to check on Grandpa. He came to the door and you could SEE the difference! He looked like a different person! I asked him how he was and he said, “Great! I have been happy every day and not depressed at all”. “What about the voices?” (Mind you, this was a guy who couldn’t sleep because the voices would haunt him 24 hours a day.) “No voices” he said.

Epilepsy and Bi-Polar disorder, healed by the blood of Jesus!



7 comments:

Sarah said...

Great testimonies! Regarding the difficulty of getting people to church meetings - have you considered a "simple" church alternative? (Some people call it "Organic Church" after Neil Cole's book about this came out). I know that especially among my generation, this has been a very successful venue for discipleship and Christian fellowship. The fellowship can take place anywhere - coffee shops, someone's home, a public park. There is an emphasis on relationship and small group discipling with the simple church movement. Maybe you have already tried this... but I wasn't sure by reading the post...

Paul Ferree said...

Awesome Ryan. It's exciting to see you continue in the work despite the hardships!

Here in OKC, Brian and I have started to go to a large section 8 apartment complex door to door with the Kingdom. We haven't seen a great breakthrough yet but we are still plugging away.

Anything significant with David Hogan's recent visit to your church? He was supposed to go to Tulsa but because of a big snow storm they didn't make it.

Ryan Lawson said...

Sarah,

Can I be honest about "simple church"? I am ALL for a complete revolution from the typical church system, (that's what we're doing here) but much of what is branded as "simple church" or the "emergent church" is little more than repackaged powerless Christianity in a different form.

We're going for the authentic, New-Testament church life. Laid down lovers of God, committed to the Gospel and loving not their lives unto the death. The "where" and "how" of church meetings isn't important to believers like that, the "what" is the crux. The "what" is passionate worship and adoration of God (a bit hard to do at Starbucks), intense discipleship and preaching the Gospel with signs and wonders.

Make sense?

THE model that works worldwide is what Brother Yun talks about in his book, "The Heavenly Man". To the believers in China, where and how they meet isn't nearly as relevant as what they are all seeking and the price they are willing to pay for the Gospel. This model is also at work in David Hogan's Freedom Ministries in Mexico and Heidi and Rolland Bakers work in Mozambique.

Once the American church gets the "what" of what authentic church life is, I believe that much of the debate about the "how" will fade away.

Blessings,
Ryan

Ryan Lawson said...

Paul,

Yes I can have been talking with Brian about you guys getting together. He will be quite busy with his three new children, don't you think?

David Hogan was AMAZING. He literally turned our church on its' ear!. We had a woman in our fellowship receive her hearing after 57 YEARS of deafness! Way cool! Will write about it next week.

Keep it up, brother!
Ryan

Paul Ferree said...

Yeah, Brian will be a little tied up for a while, but he always seems to find a way :-). I don't know how, but he does. He's been talking about us hitting the ER while he's at the hospital waiting for the babies to come home. Hahaha.

I'm trying to find some "temps" that can go out with me in his place when he can't. So we'll see what happens.

He's also talked about trying to get you guys to come over here later this summer/early fall...that'd be awesome. It'll be great to finally meet you.

Sarah said...

Thanks for your response, Ryan. I agree with your emphasis, and I too am frustrated with any reformation that continues in powerlessness - not much of a reformation at all. Function (the "what" as you call it) is certainly a lot more important than form. I've made a point to include links to all types of "power" God stories - regardless of 'simple' or 'institutional.' God is inclusive, and not exclusive. I grow tired of the division in the Body of Christ. There are lots of diverse expressions of the Kingdom of God and lots of these different forms are moving in power and in the fullness of the gospel. That's the important thing. Maybe loud worship is out of the question at Starbucks - but I also see worship as our actions and everything we do - not just singing songs. As you mentioned, Brother Yun and the Chinese church provides us with a phenomenal example. I'm pretty sure they have to worship quietly and in secret much of the time! Thanks again for responding. I really didn't expect a reply, so I was pleasantly surpised. I continue to pray for Eduoard. Blessings to you and those who are laboring with for His glory! I love your blog, keep up the good work!

Alton A.K.A. Bootsy said...

Hey Paul mail me I would like to get in contact with you. I just got back fomr Atlanta hanging out with Ryan and the Church. I hav been trying to find some new people to hang around and get going in "DOING THE STUFF" been to the hospital a few times and the area malls.

Email me-
alton_buggs@hotmail.com