Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Does Anything Really Happen? - Eleanor Shepherd

Does what we do on Sunday mornings and in our activity during the week show any resemblance to the early church? Does that matter?
              I have never had 3000 people eagerly respond to any sermon that I have given. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure how I would handle it, if that were the case. If when we gathered for worship next Sunday, instead of our usual 130 to 150 people we had 3,140 people, we would face mega problems. We currently operate our service in English, with Spanish and French translation. How would we manage if we had groups that spoke several other languages as well, and they needed translation? We try to provide some variation in worship styles by using two different worship teams and a brass band. How could we accommodate to the diversity of musical styles suitable for more than 3100 people? We would have absolute chaos as we gathered in our fellowship room for coffee after church. Besides filling the building to more than its capacity, would be the challenge of trying to have friendly conversations to get to know each other in the midst of the turmoil while avoiding spilling coffee on our new friends in the jostling mob.
            On the other hand, we often are tempted to ask ourselves is if the gospel really works. We know that it has changed our own lives, but it seems to take such a long time for others to respond to it.
George Muller
            One of my favourite heroes in Christian history is George Muller.  He ran orphanages in Britain and never asked for financial aid from anyone except the Lord. He was a great man of prayer. Due to a strong desire he had to see five of his friends embrace the faith, he decided to pray diligently for them. After many months one of them placed his trust in Jesus. It was another ten years before the next two of them came to faith. Twenty-five years after he engaged in this pray initiative the fourth friend became a believer. Then George Muller died. Shortly after his funeral, the fifth person accepted Christ into his life.     
            In my experience the George Muller model is more common in our churches than the Acts 2 model. Yet the change in the person can be just as encouraging for those who seek to share faith. I see examples in our own congregational life.
            Years ago I began praying for a little five year old boy. I was sad when I returned to Montreal in 2008 to discover that he no longer attended church. I renewed my prayers asking the Lord to give him the desire to return.  My desire was for him to discover God’s love for him.  When he began to show up occasionally, I continued praying.  Today, he has found his place as part of our congregation and contributes to worship through his music.
            I think of a middle-aged lady, who was struggling spiritually because of events in her life.  A victim of divorce, with her daughter plagued by emotional problems, her faith had been shaken.  She found herself attending our church.  While there, she was able to rebuild her faith and get back on her feet emotionally and spiritually.  Then she left to return to a church in her neighbourhood where she could make a difference in the lives of others by sharing her faith in practical service in her community.
            Other examples include a young couple who returned battle scarred from Afghanistan.  While a part of our fellowship they came to experience God’s grace in their lives.  That grace is healing them and increasing their love for and understanding of each other. 

            We see young adults realize they can rely on God’s grace in the decisions they must make in the midst of uncertainty and confusion about the future.  We see seniors who have found that God is there when they face losses and parents who are finding that they can trust God to communicate His love to their children, in spite of their own awkward and sometimes inappropriate reactions.   Among us, immigrants and refugees have found that whether they are able stay here in Canada or are obliged to return to their country of origin, their faith in God is nurtured and their confidence in His provision is strengthened by being a part of this church fellowship. How we welcome and encourage others in cooperation with God matters.
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award


Peter Black said...

Thank you for sharing this thoughtful message and your insights, Eleanor. Your inspiring stories of perseverance in prayer until eventually answered, revealed in transformed lives, blesses and encourages my heart. And George Muller - his example of faithful prayer and practical trust in God's provision continues to inspire me since my youth. ~~+~~

Glynis said...

Well said, Eleanor. God equips us all with the ability to pray for one another. And so we should. Our trouble - sometimes we are not so keen on the George Muller example of patient prayer. In our society where instant gratification is the norm, we want quick answers. But God doesn't work like that. We forget we are not the only ones praying. God needs to work all things. . . great post and oh how I love this photo of George Muller.

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