The Power of Participation

Just this last six months, we have had the joy and honor of becoming a part of a new church family.  Elevation Church has had a huge impact on my life for many years now, from a distance, but in February Jeff and I learned that a new extension site was forming in our community, 550 miles away from it’s headquarters in Charlotte.  At first, I could barely believe my eyes, when I saw “Space Coast” listed on their website as one of THREE extension sites in the country.  But as I reached out and learned that they would be meeting two miles from my house the following Sunday,  we both recognized that God was giving us a unique gift in this opportunity to be a part of the church that had been such a foundation for us, virtually, for many years.

Pastor Steven Furtick regularly states that the Elevation is a church of participation rather than membership. Attendees aren’t expected to join.  It’s not a club where members gather on Sunday mornings.  It is one church in many locations made up of people from every possible strata of life, doing life together, so that those far from Christ may be raised to life in Him.

In my excitement about Elevation’s tangible presence in my community, I signed up to join an E-Team and was placed on the welcome team. Practically, this means that I leave the house at 6:45 am on Sunday and return around 1:00 pm.  Myself and about sixty other volunteers are participating each and every week, while even more participate throughout the week in various small groups.  Last Sunday, when I was in Charlotte, I was able to go to the Uptown Campus for the worship experience before I headed back to Florida.  All I kept thinking, was good grief, I wonder how many volunteers they have?  There were participators all over the place!

I’ve always loved serving my community and have been a part of various volunteer roles for most of my adult life, but I have never seen anything like this.  People, of all shapes, colors and sizes, working alongside one another, week in and week out, as the hands and feet of Jesus. Folks actively engaged in the life of the church, in their communities, and putting their faith into action.

I know that there are many a Elevation detractor out there, and I get it.  It’s a young church, with too many skinny jeans, scoop neck shirts and tattoos for the bible belt region it was borne out of.  But good grief, from my vantage point, they are definitely doing something right.  Each and every week, from Toronto to Central Florida, people are participating, loving on one another, reaching out for the lost, and seeking to advance the kingdom of God. I’ve never seen anything like it.

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This week, is Elevation’s annual LOVE WEEK.  Over the course of the week, countless hours of volunteer time, dollars and love will be poured into Elevation communities.  Here on the Space Coast, in our first year of existence, our church has organized TWENTY-THREE Love Week projects!!  From landscaping projects, sorting clothes for donations, preparing meals and digging ditches, this church, my church is putting Christ’s love into action.

On Friday, myself and heap of my closest Elevation friends are jumping on a bus, at the crack of dawn in the morning, to head (back for me) to Charlotte.  We will join over 15,000 others as we praise this God whose blessings flow at a Live Recording of Elevations newest album at Time Warner Arena.  What a way to celebrate this week, the best week in our church, and our God who has done exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever dare to ask or imagine!

I can still hardly believe that I get to be a part of such a movement of God.  He is moving and shaking, and making things happen in my life and in so many others around me.  He is bringing people together, FOR GOOD, so that, even in the darkest days of our society, we can find hope in Him, in His church and in His people.

“From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:16

Are you participating?  Is your church making an impact on it’s community?  If there’s even a little hesitation in your response to these questions, I would encourage you to find a place to get involved with what God is doing in your community and make sure that you are attending a church that isn’t simply serving it’s members.  As the saying goes, “To whom much is given, much is expected” and seeing that all of our blessings flow from Him above, we need to look outside of ourselves and our day to day circumstances and get involved in His church! The places God will take us, in turn, are immeasurable and completely forsaken if we don’t make room to engage in His work.

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Going Deeper

Though I’m sure it is not random at all, it seems random to me that my first day blogging here at the new site is also the first day of Lent.  I was complaining to my dear friend Jordana this morning about my complete lack of self-control re: food when she said, “hhhrrrmm, it is the first day of Lent, you know”.  I told her that I’m not really one for giving up something.  I like the thought more of going deeper.

Deeper with my faith.  Deeper in my walk with Jesus.  Deeper in my life in general.

I get so stuck sometimes in the rut that is this life.  I forget about Jesus 98% of my day.  I forget that I am called to more 6.75 days out of the week. I forget that my life isn’t about me.

I want more, but so, so often I fail to make the time to really go deeper.

So that’s what I want to do for Lent this year.  I want to give Jesus more of my time. Listen to Him more. See Him more. Talk to Him more. And in the process, I want to leak more of His goodness out on the folks in my world.

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Sweet Jordana just so happened to send me a Lenten devotional this year that a friend from college has contributed to.  It’s a gorgeous little book with 8 weeks of journaling to look forward to.  Today’s entry really struck a cord with me considering my desire to “go deeper.  It’s just the reminder I needed as I take the plunge into going deeper.

“True spiritual fruit starts with self-denial, because self can’t produce anything of spiritual value.  Only the Spirit can do that.”  ~ Christine Hoover

I mean. <selah>

That whole self-denial thing is H.A.R.D.  Ya’ll that means I might actually have to deal with some of my issues.  I might actually have to let go of the Reese’s Valentine’s Hearts.  Let go of that anger or resentment I’ve been “dealing” with. Let go of my time and my money and my peoples.  I might have to just trust.

Trust that God has is working it all out to the glory of His kingdom and for my benefit.  Trust that He has got it all under control and that I don’t have to.  Trust that He will fight my battles for me.  Trust that if I just shut up, let go and let Him that things will all work out ok.

So let’s revisit that line I gave Jordi on the phone this morning. . . I’m not really one for giving something up.

Oh, right.  About that.

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P.S.  a friend of Jordana’s actually posted this on her wall this morning. . .

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YEAST!  <i snorted>