Evaluating personal Roadblocks to Spiritual Growth

Roadblocks Growth

Sunday 01/03/21

Series: Do we REALLY believe?

MESSAGE: Evaluating personal Roadblocks to Spiritual Growth

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Evaluating personal Roadblocks to Spiritual Growth

The whole of 2020 we were in a Series titled,  “Do we REALLY believe?”. That series sprang from a stirring I recieved from the Lord about this time last year. I had begun by seeking God, getting out of the house to exercise and clear my mind, I listened to some music I hadn’t listened to in a while and God began to speak to me. He begin to peel away some dead skin – that is, to buff out a callous on my heart.

I had grown a little weary and in my weariness, intimacy with God was sounding more like another relationship to juggle than a retreat and respite for the soul. In my honesty, knowing He already knew, I told this to God. At first I sensed no rel response, but getting up the next morning His presence of conviction I sensed was devastating! The Spirit, in His faithfulness – first to the Father and secondarily to me, uncovered the sickness in my soul. I had forgotten Who I was dealing with… WHO I was speaking with.

As I was repenting and seeking God, He gave me words, music and a brother…Francis Chan.

I’d never really listened to him before…never really gave him a chance assuming him to be yet another “big name” who had fame but otherwise little to offer. I ran into him, seemingly by acident on YouTube – you know in the suggestion list on the right. I was listening to a song I hadn’t heard since I was a teenager called “I don’t want to be a casual christian” by Degarmo and Key. Then I saw a 5min. video entitled, “Is There Such A Thing As A Casual Christian?” by Francis Chan. It was stirring and spoke to me in my own language and used many of my own words.

He had left his mega church for several reasons but perhaps the greatest was he didn’t feel it was an environment which facilitated living the words of Jesus seriously. They had grown so big that ministry and the essential relationship between God appointed shepherds and sheep was quite unsustainable. Small groups are often employed by larger churches in order to compensate but they lack one thing – a shepherd. I have personally witnessed more spiritual sickness creep into a church right under the nose of their shepherds but ourside of their knowledge by leaders of small groups leading the sheep to pastures God would never have encouraged. There is a reason why God appointed some as shepherds and as well intentioned as these small group leaders may be, they are much like attempting to substitue a parent with a babysitter.

I brought this up because I know there has been some discourgaement with how small our church has become. Having had many leave over the years for various reasons. Several having left in order to attend larger churches supposing that their children’s ministry and extensive social groups from which to choose would somehow augment their spiritual growth more than a small home fellowship could. They felt as if they were somehow stagnated by the environment they were in either due to it’s size, limited options or just over-familiarity. While I understood these reasons, and in some measure sympathize thruth is I believe it was a poor decision. Not that they needed to be here in THIS small church. In some cases I honestly wonder if they ever were called to be here. No, my belief is not that leaving here was necessarily bad as much as where they went. Spiritual growth is NOT something a building, program, material resources or even social groups can inspire. If you are not growing where you are, unless the teaching is unbiblical, upwards to 90+% of that rests upon your shoulders. Is there an excitement and a group response to larger gatherings with trained musicians and multiple opportunities for study groups…sure, but they cannot do FOR you what needs doing for growth.

Some of the greatest testimonies of tremendous spiritual growth in the history of the Body of Christ were developed in either isolation or small church gatherings due to the dangers of large gatherings. When people were reduced down to the bare essentials, where there were no special videos, feltboards and puppet stages for children and no studio bands, colored lights and flashy deliveries of short messages for the adults…then Christians began to realize what really mattered. A bible, a few sincere brothers and sisters, a leader who didn’t feel all to entitled to that role and a room in which to meet (sometimes minus the room). Time after time, example after example the church has witnessed this pattern. The more we have, the less we rely upon Him. The more we have to catch the eye and tantilize the mind – the less attention we give with the eyes of our hearts.

Francis, as I have told you, is helping to start home churches feeling they are far better suited to the purpose of developing Christ in believers. In fact, so much so, that if one of their home churches grows to 20 people they split and form a new home church. He believes 10-20 is nearly the perfect size!

You know, I am convinced that a church is at least in part, a reflection of its leaders. Many of you came here originally because it spoke to you on some level.

We have done a near 180° from who we once were, and some of you have admitted to being a bit dazed and uncertain where that leaves you.

Well I can tell you were it leave you…where you REALLY were all along. You just didn’t know it! God has to be pursued and responded to with zeal, determination, devotion & passion – NOT casually.

We used to offer solutions for problems and excuses for failures… now all we are offering is Jesus. Or rather, that is all we are trying to offer, though I most certainly fail at times.

What you have to ask yourself is, “Is that enough?”

We have to ask ourselves, “Am I truly aware and do I take it seriously that Jesus is walking in our midst?”

Am I bending my ear to hear what He is saying?

Do I take WHAT His is saying seriously?

THAT was a year ago…

Last week, during the span between Christmas and New Year’s day when we did not meet I posted a “selfie-style” video where I brought us back face to face with the questions of a year ago and the reasons behind a year of teaching, “Do we REALLY believe”. The recording above is taken from our discussion time a week later. In it we disucssed some of our thoughts, our hangups and some possible solutions for moving forward.

I hope that anyone who listens will be encouraged in their walk – especially if they are realizing that they have begun to let the fires cool in their passion and pursuit of Jesus.

God Bless!

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I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.

We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!

If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.

If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!