Monday, March 30, 2020

We Stopped Singing Songs to Heavy Hearts

I am reminded of a scripture that I read one morning, just before we held our first Church gatherings in Harrisburg, PA, USA.  It was the fall of 2004 and every morning, at around 5:30, I would go to our facility in Uptown Harrisburg to pray. I was desperately seeking for wisdom in how to reach out in what was a foreign land for me. 

After serving for 17 very successful years in my home church, I was keenly aware that I would need a new strategy in this new season and new region of the country.

I will never forget this simple, yet profound passage from Proverbs 25:20, 

"Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, And like vinegar on soda, Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart." ---(NKJV)

"Like one who takes off a garment in cold weather, or like [a reactive, useless mixture of] vinegar on soda, Is he who [thoughtlessly] sings [joyful] songs to a heavy heart." ---(AMP)

I recall how I first shared this word with our team. I didn't quite know how to implement it. I could only tell them that we would change our strategy. We would no longer be placing emphasis on the typical church order of events within the gathering. Instead we would place more emphasis on prayer and teaching to bring healing to heavy hearts.

This scripture had literally snatched away all of the strategies that worked for us in previous years in our home city. God was clearly telling me that if we tried to do what worked before, we would be like those who were taking away garments in cold weather. 

Our familiar strategy would have the affect of pouring vinegar on a substance called nitre. Vinegar dissolves the nitre, and makes it useless and ineffectual. Our familiar methods would make our efforts useless. We would not be comforting the lost and hurting. Instead, we would be thoughtlessly agitating them and making things worse. 

It took several years for us to understand the weight of that scripture. As individuals and families began to attend our weekly gatherings, each person came with severe damage in their hearts and homes. However, due to our change in strategy, we did not always start our sessions with joyful songs (praise and worship). Many traditional church goers struggled with this concept because they had always been taught, according to Psalm 100:4 that we must "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise." That interpreted as, "We start by singing joyful songs to launch each Church gathering.'

But, something amazing happened as we followed the wisdom of that scripture. We found that when it came to heavy hearts, if we jumped right into a group discussion surrounding the issues of life, that the joyful songs came forth in the midst of their healing process.

Sometimes we started our gatherings with a simple prayer, but by the time we came to the end of our sessions, we would somehow end with joyful songs. We found that when we started with conversation or even soft prelude music as they were entering the room, that these things spoke to the hurting souls, and it was like GIVING them warm garments on a cold day.

We did this in some form or another for more than 11 years. The congregation never grew beyond 30 people and usually hovered around ten on a regular basis. However, the small gatherings made a huge impact on the lives and families of those who attended. We saw heavy hearts being changed and healed. We saw the joyful songs eventually begin to come forth.

We look back over the years and we are amazed at how accurate that simple scripture was, after we implemented its wisdom in that community, and how appropriate it is for many devastated families across this nation, today. This Proverbs 25:20 understanding encouraged us to stop following formulas and church traditions that no longer work. 

We are moving into new seasons with great excitement and anticipation. Now we know how to better describe our work. We are a learning community that prepares and trains Believers to wisely bring healing to heavy hearts and homes. 

We now have open doors to work with a local employment service, a women's shelter, and an ex-offender mentoring center. We are teaming up with other church leaders and their small congregations for monthly corporate prayer gatherings that will give us the opportunity to collectively stand in the gap for families in this region.

Many of the human service and community outreach efforts in our inner cities have been infiltrated by Faith Believers. Most of them are looking to the Church to supply the volunteers and resources to help them reach the lost and hurting in their neighborhoods. We believe that we are one of those entities that is called to raise up and train Believers who can serve with various community outreach efforts. We don't need to start new community outreaches. All we need to do is prepare people of faith to go and bring aid to the places that are already on the front lines.

One of the prayers that was spoken over us, when we were sent to Harrisburg in 2004, was that we would strengthen that which was already built. So, we fully embrace the understanding that we were not sent to this region to start anything new. We were sent to build people, so they could be released to serve households, neighborhoods, ministries and outreach efforts that have already been established.

We are seeking God for His wisdom in how to continue to minister to heavy hearts. And whatever HE speaks and however HE tells us (through Holy scripture) to do it, we will obey HIS word.

We look forward to singing songs to joyful hearts!

Chris Green
Lead Instructor and Coach

A Best-Practice Principle 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Perfect Timing

Last night, we completed our first life coach training session using the Zoom video conferencing system and it was outstanding.

Our first session was held at Sound Community Solutions, but after the COVID-19 outbreak, we had to shift to an online format. However, even on the video conference, the participants were engaged and enthusiastic. It was a wonderful experience with wonderful people.

There’s nothing like doing what you were created to do. There’s nothing like living out the purpose for your life. All of the opposition that we have had, in all of the years that we have been in this community, has been worth it. All of the trials and turbulence served to prepare us, fine tune us, mold us, and make us ready for this moment in time: training life coaches in the middle of a global crisis.

We believe that in spite of the COVID-19 challenge, we have been divinely connected with these new life coaches who desire to be equipped to serve and help people effectively in the 21st century. This is beyond exciting. It’s sobering and fulfilling.

In spite of the current global circumstances, the timing could not be more perfect. And that's how you should look at your journey in this critical moment. What opportunities has it created for you?

Five years ago, we started our life coach training shortly after our jobs came to an end. We didn't know it then, but it was a perfect moment to make a change. Now we're training others at a time of medical and financial uncertainty. Once again, it's another perfect moment.

So take a step back and reevaluate what's happening in your world in the middle of what's going on in our entire world. Can you see your perfect moment? Can you see that it's the perfect time to embrace the opportunity to make a difference? Then do it. The moment is before you. The timing is perfect.

---Chris and Carol Green