“Freedom from cultural, religious exclusiveness, to follow the inclusive, embracing love of Jesus.”
This is how one person who attended the presentations this past weekend in Bend Oregon summed up the experience. This was the first time I’ve ever been to this church. And the response was amazing! So many came up to me at the end of the weekend sharing the paradigm shifts they had experienced in their own hearts through each presentation. “Each presentation went deeper and deeper,” another attendee shared. One of the Elders said, “What you’re doing isn’t preaching at all! This is performing heart transplants! Through the power of the Gospel, you’re not a preacher, you’re a cardiologist!” I said, “No, I just work for the greatest Cardiologist ever.”
The church I was at has a history and just recently lost about 20% of its congregation. So this weekend was a time for healing and focusing on what it means to enlarge not only a church but also the kingdom. Many shared with me that the church had wrestled for some time with a spirit of judgmental criticism in certain pockets of its congregation, but they felt that they had turned a new corner recently and that the timing of my presentations was no accident. They felt that this weekend was a divine appointment, a time when a vision had been cast of what it means to live the kingdom, to come under and serve those we are trying to reach with Calvary’s radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered love. The watchword of the weekend from so many was freedom from the cultural trappings of what too often religion does to our communal life, to live a life of kingdom love for the world.
In addition to what the Gospel was doing for the members of this church at large, I also met a group that at the end of the presentation on understanding tragedies in a world supposedly overseen by a God who claims to be love came up to me to share individually their stories of how they had gone through what I call the darkest hue of how we as humans can hurt each other. Each one shared how what they heard this weekend was the first thing that had ever made sense to them and that it had accomplished more healing in their hearts than they were expecting it to. Each one was enormously grateful.
Also, on a personal level, I had the unexpected opportunity to see friends from high school, friends from when I used to live in Washington, as well as other friends who traveled from various parts of Oregon to be there. Then there were the friends from right there in Bend itself.
I would sum up what I observed this weekend in three ways:
1. Radical changes in how God and His character of Love were viewed.
2. Deep paradigm shifts on what it means to follow this kind of radical other-centered love as a Christian.
3. And a congregation left overwhelmingly inspired and positively challenged to be a place that represents to the world both of these.
For all those who were praying for this weekend, and for those who partner with us financially to enable us to do what we at Renewed Heart Ministries are passionate about doing, thank you.
I’ll be in Ryley, Alberta Canada this weekend, beginning tonight. Please join together with us in prayer for this event too!