|Christopher G. Green (D.Hon.Causa)|
I am reminded of a scripture that I read one morning, just before we held our first public gatherings in Harrisburg, PA. It was the fall of 2004 and every morning, at around 5:30AM, I would go to our facility in Uptown Harrisburg to pray. I was desperately seeking for wisdom in how to reach out in what was a foreign land for me.
After serving for 17 very successful years in my home church, I was keenly aware that I would need a new strategy in this new season and new region of the country. I will never forget this simple, yet profound passage from Proverbs 25:20,
"Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, And like vinegar on soda, Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart." ---(NKJV)
"Like one who takes off a garment in cold weather, or like [a reactive, useless mixture of] vinegar on soda, Is he who [thoughtlessly] sings [joyful] songs to a heavy heart." ---(AMP)
I recall how I first shared this word with our team. I didn't quite know how to implement it, accept to tell them that we would change our strategy. We would no longer be placing emphasis on the typical church gathering. Instead we would place more emphasis on prayer and teaching to bring healing to heavy hearts.
This scripture had literally snatched away all of the strategies that worked for us in our home city. God was clearly telling me that if we tried to do what worked before, we would be like those who were taking away garments in cold weather.
Our current strategy would be like pouring vinegar on a substance called nitre. Vinegar dissolves the nitre, and makes it useless and ineffectual. Our method would make our efforts useless. We would not be comforting the lost and hurting. Instead, we would be thoughtlessly agitating them and making things worse.
It took several months and years for us to understand the weight of that scripture. As individuals and families began to attend, each person came with severe damage in their hearts and homes. Due to our change in strategy, we did not always start our sessions with joyful songs (praise and worship). Many traditional church goers struggled with this because they had always been taught, according to Psalm 100:4 that we must "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise."
But, something amazing happened as we followed the wisdom of that scripture. We found that when it came to heavy hearts, if we jumped right into a group discussion surrounding the issues of life, that the joyful songs came forth in the midst of their healing process.
Sometimes we simply started our gatherings with prayer, but by the time we came to the end of our sessions, we would somehow end with joyful songs. We found that when we started with conversation or even prelude music that spoke to the hurting souls, that it was like GIVING them warm garments on a cold day.
We look back over the years and we are amazed at how accurate that simple scripture was for our strategy in this community, and how appropriate it is for many devastated families across this nation, today. This Proverbs 25:20 understanding has forced us to stop following formulas and church traditions that no longer work.
We are moving into the new seasons with great excitement and anticipation. Now we know how to better describe our work. We are a ministry that prepares and trains Believers to wisely bring healing to heavy hearts and homes.
We now have open doors to work with a local employment service, a women's shelter, and a drug/alcohol addiction recovery center. We are teaming up with intercessors for monthly corporate prayer gatherings that will give us the opportunity to collectively stand in the gap for this city, region and state.
Many of the community outreach efforts in our inner cities have been established by Believers. Most of them are looking to the Church to supply the volunteers and resources to help them reach the lost in their neighborhoods. We believe that we are one of those ministries that is called to raise up and train Believers who can serve with various community outreach efforts. We don't need to start new community outreaches. All we need to do is prepare people of faith to go and bring aid to the places that are already on the front lines.
One of the prayers that was spoken over us, when we were sent to Harrisburg in 2004, was that we would strengthen that which was already built. So, we were not sent to Harrisburg to start anything new. We were sent to build people, so they could be released to serve households, neighborhoods, ministries and outreach efforts that have already been established.
From year to year we are moving forward in the zeal and excitement in which we approached our assignment way back in 2004. We are seeking God for His wisdom in how to minister to heavy hearts. And whatever HE speaks and however HE tells us (through Holy scripture) to do it, we will obey HIS word.
We look forward to singing songs to joyful hearts!