So, fire fell from heaven, revival broke out in my backyard and we baptized the entire neighborhood in our creek. Cancer was cured, the lame walked, and everyone lived happily ever after. The End.
That’s not what happened.
That’s the story I had in my brain before Sunday’s Backyard Church. I was imagining the God of the Impossible breaking the laws of physics, setting our BBQ pit on fire, healing every disease and demanding all men and women to repent. It was fun to imagine what God might do. I had been in an extended period of fasting, and was honestly expecting some extraordinary things to take place.
Instead, This is what happened.
We had invited the entire neighborhood and several of our new non-believing friends that we’d met to our backyard for a little chat and BBQ time. Most said they were coming. Four families showed up, plus a few of our church friends. In all, we had about 25 people.
As we’re gathering and mingling, our church friends begin introducing themselves and sharing their testimonies. We eventually move to the backyard, and I share a little of my testimony. I gave a short message on Covenant; trying to explain God’s sacrificial love. The just of it went something like this: I’m in a covenant with my wife. If I break that covenant, it breaks her heart. If I serve her and pour out my love for her, and she treats it with scorn or as something common, it hurts my heart. This is how God feels about His covenant with us. He shed His blood, loved us to the fullest extent…all out, nothing left, kind of love. When we treat Him as something common, it hurts His heart. This is the Gospel: coming to a place where we love God the way He loved us. Willing to surrender all to Him because of this Love.
I said a closing prayer, and invited more conversation if people were interested in learning/talking more. Then we ate and all the kids played for a couple hours. Then they went home. That was basically it.
Here’s what encouraged me:
- ‘Donald’ is an older single guy who basically hates religion. He said earlier to me that he was a hermit, didn’t really like being around others, and wants to fight when people talk about religion. He was 1 of the 4 families that came. His countenance changed when we were through. He didn’t stay long after, but he was smiley and happy on his way out. I thought that was cool.
- ‘Arnold’ & ‘Mary’: Agnostic and former Lutheran. They brought their family and sat and smiled through my message. Maybe I expect worse out of people: like they should stand up, throw a tomato and shout or something; but they sat and heard the Word and they can’t say they never heard the Gospel.
- Catholic family: they seemed really encouraged and told my Evangelist friends that they should come to their church to share their testimony. The dad thanked me for the message, and their college daughter got to hear and see people living for Jesus.
- Later that night, another dad [making 5 total families] came over and apologized for missing, but Miah and I got to pray with him for his family.
Here’s what I learned
God’s word doesn’t return void.
Isaiah 55: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
- My job is to share His word. And keep sharing it. His job is to produce fruit. I can’t make someone believe, and I can’t force God’s timing on anything.
- Extended fasting really makes us sensitive to God’s heart. I broke down and wept several times as I shared my little ‘message’. I always think it’s corny when people do that, but His love for my neighbors really was overwhelming me.
- I really need to keep my focus on Him. I was starting to feel discouraged after the service because I didn’t see the results that I wanted. I wanted to see repentance from my neighbors. Instead, He gave me repentance in my heart.
- He’s much more concerned about my heart before Him than He is about what I do for Him.
Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
- He cares a lot about relationships. [Love your neighbor as yourself means: Love your neighbor as yourself]
- Ministry is a lot of work. It’s not a 1 and done kind of deal. It’s a lifestyle of continual surrender and it’s kind of hard.
- I love that my kids get to be involved in this kind of stuff. They were busy setting up chairs, handing out flyers, making signs. It’s really, really heart warming.
That was our weekend. It was memorable.