The Divine Experiment

January 13, 2010

Sixteen Churches in Terre Haute are joining in a spiritual journey together called “The Divine Experiment.”

After many years of praying together, worshipping together and working together it is now time to amp up our intentional efforts as city-wide transformation.

This “experiment” is the process put together by Fusion Ministries, Rhonda Hughey is the director.  After doing a great deal of research in the process of cities being transformed in places like Fiji and Guatemala for example, it was concluded that it would make sense to duplicate that here in the U.S.

One key piece was the living out of II Chr. 7:14; not just praying it, but living it out.

In preparing a place for God’s manifest presence to dwell it is critical to “distance” ourselves from the “world’ and “flesh.”  This distancing or pausing is a intentional plan to cut back, fast and focus on our relationship with God.

Individuals and pastors will follow a Prayer Guide each day.  We will have around 800 people praying on the same page!

There will be daily times and places of praying together.  Each congregation is challenged to cut-back on any unnecessary programs and activities during these 21 days.

Rhanda Hughey teaches:

Heart attitudes we have observed that has proven fruitful in other communities:

  • Trust and humility, desperation, willingness to “go together” both in the community and with the Fusion team
  • Attitude of humility that was expressed often in the phrase “we don’t know what we are doing”, “we haven’t been this way before”. That heart attitude caused the community to lean upon Jesus with full dependence for His leadership. (Joshua 2)
  • Having a high expectation level and planning the 21 days accordingly. Identifying a scribe and process for testimonies to be shared because of the full expectation that God will bring fruit from the 21 days in breakthrough, healings, family restoration, etc.

Faith + humility (confidence in God) = abandonment with expectation

(Num. 14:24, Jos. 14:8-9)

Faith + confidence in self = presumption

(Num. 14:39-45)

  • This expectation that God will move powerfully, caused them to respond with abandonment not caution or confidence and God met them in their faith!
  • They set the bar high not low, meeting early in the mornings, pastors meeting in addition to the corporate prayer times, they ALL fasted, they turned off cell phones, media, no shopping etc.
  • Many didn’t even preach Sundays but worshipped and prayed together, seeking the Lord and the presence of the Lord came to the congregations
  • Families choose to spend time together rather than going to many other activities like movies, etc. the Lord blessed the families and restored many relationships.
  • The leaders didn’t expect their people to do anything they weren’t doing themselves, they were the first ones to the prayer meetings and the last ones to leave
  • The people were expectant and didn’t want to miss a single prayer meeting. The presence of God hovered over those gatherings, people were afraid to miss one!
  • Pursued individual issues, brokenness before the Lord.
  • Leaders were willing to adjust their schedules, programs, and didn’t try to accommodate the Divine Experiment “inside” their system, they stepped “out” of their system to pursue God fully.
  • Listened to the still small voice and were obedient, small decisions to be obedient paid off in big ways
  • Stayed in relationship with one another
  • Their team fused with our team and we trusted that the Lord connected us in relationship and that friendship became a resting place for God’s purposes through us together

Great article on Terre Haute Ministries

December 13, 2009

Mark Bennett: Rising waters of 2008 produced a flood of enlightenment for Terre Haute Ministries

By Mark Bennett
The Tribune-Star

Vince McFarland understood what the mayor envisioned.

Several years before, McFarland and a group of local clergy tried to organize an alliance of the more than 200 churches and places of religious worship in Terre Haute. That effort failed.

Now, they were being asked to try again. Then-mayor Kevin Burke invited an assortment of ministers to meet at the Vigo County Public Library. Burke thought by joining together, the churches could enhance their community outreach — a strength-in-numbers concept. Collectively, they could better respond to the needy, disasters and emergencies, in addition to their spiritual mission.

“He challenged the pastors in Terre Haute to basically rally and unify, and start working together, and not each on their own course,” McFarland recalled of that meeting a few years ago.

Burke also saw an opportunity to build camaraderie in the ministers’ ranks, rather than competition. “I felt like they needed to feel more confident, and like they’ve got more comrades in arms,” the former mayor remembered last week.

Walking out of the library after the meeting, McFarland — senior pastor at Maryland Community Church for the past 23 years — polled his colleagues. “I looked at those guys and said, ‘I know we tried to do that several years ago, and it didn’t work. But would you be willing to sit down and rehash this?”

They agreed. Today, Terre Haute Ministries is more than a year old, with more than 40 member churches from numerous denominations. Last Monday, Ike Randolph — director of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives — met with some participating ministers. Their association’s growth and activities impressed Randolph.

“I think they’ve figured out the whole dynamic of the faith-based community working together,” Randolph said.

That enlightenment came at a disastrous moment. Just as Terre Haute Ministries was organizing, the flood of June 2008 hit. The newly bound churches wound up assisting civic emergency-response agencies as rising waters destroyed homes and businesses, and left hundreds of people without a place to live, food and transportation.

A team of churches, with all of their helping hands and resources, clearly was needed.

“The heart of it was there” for years, said the Rev. Honnalora Hubbard, director of Terre Haute Ministries. “The pastors wanted it. But what really launched Terre Haute Ministries was the disaster recovery.”

Randolph sensed that, too. “From that flood, they’ve learned how to trust each other, to share resources with each other,” he said.

The flood is a painful memory for many in the Wabash Valley. Hubbard understands. She lost her home, too. But there’s a spark in Hubbard’s voice when she speaks about the community’s reaction to that destructive event.

“People say that disasters are an ‘act of God,’” she said, “but what I’ve learned is, the way we respond to disasters is an act of God.”

As a result, the coalition of churches now helps the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency train disaster-response volunteers. Among other efforts, about half of the member churches participate in Charity Tracker. Using an online software package, Terre Haute Ministries can refer the needy to churches offering resources matching their specific need. Lifeline — a 24-hour crisis hotline — refers callers to its 211 number to a church. The Charity Tracker helps the Ministries document those requests, and connect people with needs such as groceries, gas cards, home assistance and family counseling. (It also prevents abuse of the individual churches’ generosity, such as someone calling six different churches to ask for the same commodity.)

The Ministries churches have less unnecessary duplication of their efforts. “Each church wouldn’t have to have a food pantry and six other things that they do,” McFarland said. “They could just contribute one thing to the pot.” Rather than maintaining a food pantry, Maryland instead provides as many $25 gas cards and emergency bus tickets as it can afford each month.

The idea of churches assisting their community’s hungry, homeless and despondent is not revolutionary. Before the Depression of the 1930s spawned government relief programs, “the faith community was doing the work,” Randolph said.

“Churches have always been there to help,” McFarland said. “So this isn’t anything new. But it’s expanded.”

And timely. The recession and the unemployment problem lingering in its aftermath have increased the number of people seeking help from churches. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last month that 49 million Americans — more than 16 percent of the population — lacked reliable access to adequate food in 2008, an increase of 13 million people over 2007. Undoubtedly, with unemployment nearly doubled since ’07, that percentage is even higher this year.

An association of churches eases the pressure to respond, somewhat.

“Pastors and ministers sometimes feel isolated, because they have a lot of responsibilities and a lot of people turning to them,” Hubbard said. “It’s been a huge benefit.”

She’s been on the other side of those requests for help. Hubbard grew up humbly in West Terre Haute and said, “I know what it is like to live in the situations [needy people] live in.”

After graduating from West Vigo High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in sales and marketing from Indiana State University, and a master’s in theology from Trinity College and spent several years traveling the country in a sports ministry. Now 39, Hubbard is focused on helping Terre Haute Ministries grow.

The one-fifth of local churches involved already bolsters the association’s abilities, she said, “but if we had 200, oh my goodness. And that’s what we want to do.” Current Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, as well as the governor’s office, have discussed local projects involving the Ministries, Hubbard said, adding, “They really want to make some investments in our community.”

Terre Haute Ministries’ assistance following the flood has raised awareness that the city does, indeed, have a faith-based community. In cities such as Indianapolis and Louisville, that presence is apparent, in McFarland’s view. As for Terre Haute, “I think the visibility was kind of poor” in the past, he said. “We haven’t solved it, but I think it’s beginning to turn around.”

Their ability to improve and influence lives inspires Hubbard.

“I know there’s hope, that just because that’s where you started, that’s not where you’re going to end up,” she said.

A God Moment

November 21, 2009

I was at a Kairos reunion today at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.  This is a time for the guys to get together, pray and share what God is doing in their lives.  Room full of about 50 guys from all three past Kairos weekends.

Rob was one of the guys sharing about a moment where he saw God working in his life.  He told about his past prison experience in several other prisons where he was not a follower of Christ.  He wanted to share how God’s love was shown to him even when he was unaware of it.

He said that the pastor of the guy he had killed came and visited him every month.  He hated those visits, he couldn’t even look this pastor in the eye.  But he kept coming anyway.  Once he gave his life to Christ he cherished those moments and really saw this man as a spiritual mentor.  When he was moved to WVCF, nearly five hours from his home he thought he would never see this pastor again. 

He was wrong!  This pastor traveled the five hours to come and see Rob and spend time with him.  Rob shared how amazing that was with tears in his eyes.  Not so easy for a guy like Rob, you would have to see him to know what I mean, we are talking about an ex-gang member covered in tatoos and very hardened from a real difficult past.  But Rob simply melted, emotionally into the arms of Jesus as he told of this experience.

Wow, what a moment, God showing himself to be a loving Father to a hardened criminal. 

We are all like Rob when you think of it.  Who of us, myself included, deserve a Father like that?  Someone who loves us in spite of our past ugly behaviors.  Love them as I have loved you, Jesus said.  This pastor did just that, and, it was making a huge difference.  Even to a guy like me who simply was hearing the story.  Real love is like that.

Who have you loved irrationally lately?

Terre Haute Summit on Transformation

November 14, 2009

Wabash Valley Ministerial Association, Wabash Valley International House of Prayer and Terre Haute Ministries jointly sponsored a summit on city transformation this past Friday.  That in and of itself is historic.  A ministerial group, a house of prayer and a community ministry cooperating!  Now that is what I am talking about!  Way to go God!  Steve Freeman from fusion Ministries led the summit.

The summit was attended by 50 people representing about 20 congregations.  About 15 pastors attended.

There was great anticipation and excitement about learning together and working together to see God transform our city!

Steve used Ephesians 2 and 3 along with II Chronicles 7:14 to build a foundation for us.

Supernatural transformation takes place when the presence of God changes the spiritual climate of a city.  Transformation is building a resting place for the manifest presence of God by unity and working togethe. It is building your own character; life-style, that is conducive for His presence.

Transformation is the fruit of life-style; not a goal.  It is arrived at by pastors and Christians building relationships based on Kingdom issues and not their little kingdom issues.

Transformation begins when each local church sees itself as a part of the Church of Jesus Christ in the city.  The Church of Terre Haute.  It happens as pastors see themselves as co-pastors in the City Church.

When we asses the condition of our city it is pretty obvious we need the things of heaven to descend here on earth.  This happens as we humbly repent and pursue a holy relationship with God and each other.  The Church is directly responsible for the deplorable condition of the city.  We need to take responsibility for these sinful conditions and not just blame non-believers.

IF we build our house out of holy stones we will reap holiness and transformation in our city.  There are over 600 cities int he world that could be called transformed.  None in the U.S.  Several are making good progress.  They are engaged in what Fusion Ministries calls “A Divine Experiment.”  A time for congregations to seek holiness and direction from God together.

We anticipate doing that here in Terre Haute!  Pray as leaders pursue this course.

Some Kairos Quotes from Closing

October 31, 2009

Here are some quotes from the participants during the weekend:

“I knew a mouthful of the word of Christ but I did not know the love of Christ until Kairos.”

“We found love, peace, closure, and relationship with Christ I’ll never abandon.”

“Today I had a miracle and became part of God’s family.”

“Unconditional love was just a concept, but we saw it manifested before our eyes.”

“Even a soldier, when he’s surrounded by God’s army, knows when to surrender.”

“When I came to Kairos I ran a gauntlet of love.” [The team lines the hallway as they enter.]

“I found, ‘mi familia de amor’.” “My family of love.”

“My Christianity had grown cold, internalized and self-centered. Some of us were brothers in our heads but now we are brothers spiritually. Our Christianity will no longer be inward but will now be outward. What we’ll take from Kairos: We’re going to change this prison for Christ.”

“I will take away the seed, and it won’t fall on the rocks.”

“The cookies are good, but y’all must have put somethin’ in that makes a man break down and cry in front of his brothers.”

“These were the first letters I’ve received since being in prison.”

“I found that God loves me and a lot of people do, too.”

“My whole life I’ve been searching for love and all I knew was the streets. Now I found in prison a real family that loves me.”

“We found hope, new brothers, that we’re not alone and the unconditional love of Christ. Yeah, we made bad choices, but this showed us that someone loves us and that was just too much for us. We love you!”

“I found a real God.”

“I stopped attending church and this weekend has really pulled me back into it.”

“You showed me a different side – there’s people who love me.”

“I don’t trust my own family or even myself, but I’ve taken the step to become a Christian.”

“This is the first time in 46 years [of living] that I’ve seen the love of God manifested.”

“For 25 years I’ve been a Wiccan, but I cried hard today. It’s because of all you here that I can trust people again. You gave me a reason to hope and to start trusting.”

“I found a waterfall of agape love that doesn’t stop flowing.”

“Every letter brought an abundance of tears.”

“I questioned God’s existence and His love for years. When I turned around and saw a placemat saying, ‘Tony, Jesus loves you’, I know He and his love were real. My middle name is what I go by and it’s ‘Tony’.”

“God is no respecter of persons. What He’s done for others he’ll do for each of us.”

“I came as a Muslim in the oldest order in America and was 2nd in charge. I found more love here than anywhere in the MSTA and I am now a Christian.”

“I’m tired and God’s been chasing and chasing me. Pray for me that I can make my walk.”

“I found spiritual leadership.”

“I found intimacy and friendship.”

“Now God is my attorney and I’m free”

“I’ve been down for 12 years and this morning [Sunday] is the first day I’ve ever woke up happy.”

“[My cellmate] told me I’d be crying during the weekend. I said ‘No, way!’ I started crying on Thursday.

“I’ve been in prison 26 years and have read the Bible from the begining and my favorite verse is 1 John 4:8. My question to God has been, ‘Why is the world the way it is?’ I didn’t know how to love, but the past 3 days His love has been manifested. You loved me like Jesus loves me – unconditionally.”

“I found a new concept: Strangers that would love us unconditionally.”

“I came as an Odinist but didn’t participate to not be deceitful. I watched and listened. I watched you when you weren’t talking and the changes in people and I’m impressed. I don’t make hasty decisions as the last one cost me 60 years. I took the cross and gave up my hammer [of Thor].”

“I found a new love we all share.”

“God speaks to you through different people. I praise God that I know Jeremiah 29:11 for real now. God really does have a plan for me.”

“I’ve been straddling the fence and I found a church family that would teach me about love.”

“I found outward Christianity.”

“I’ve been running from God having a call on my life. God wants me to deliver His word and I promise I will do that.”

“I found love, friendship, happiness and security at Kairos”

“I’ve been an elder in the church for a long time. We say we knew agape love until these men came here – we didn’t have a clue. I just cried like a baby when I got those letters.”

“What I found…Finally, a family.”

“I’ve learned to take action and accept God in my life.”

“I’ve been kicked out of two prisons and I’m the one, the original bad boy. I’ve been locked up for almost 34 years. I got away from church real early and did terrible things in the streets. I’ve learned that God never leaves you and hope God can forgive me. I thank Him for giving me this KAIROS family and hope I can give back.”

“Tomorrow, where will we be when tomorrow comes? My purpose for coming was the food, but when I got here I began lots of thinking and soul searching and I knew something has to give. But now I’ve started a new journey as I gave up my life to Christ today.”

“I built this big old wall up and in 3 days all this agape kept tearing this wall down. I wasn’t going to cry but it happened the first day and I don’t even know why.”

“I found love, family, people who pray for me, and a love that would touch our hearts and take us out of prison”.

An Amazing Experience

October 25, 2009

For those of you who have been through a spiritual weekend retreat of some type, you understand the amazing power of community.  For me it is always amazing how God uses such a gathering of people. 

I don’t want to go into a lot of details, but through expressions of caring and love you can influence people so much more than with logic and reason!  The old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is absolutely true in my experience in these kind of weekends.

I was a part of a Kairos team at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility this weekend.  Thirty-eight guys; lots of ladies baking and cooking; lots of kids making place mats; note writing and all kinds of people praying go into this spiritual retreat.  Forty-two guys were invited to participate from all kinds of racial, relitious and economic backgrounds.  They are divided into families.  They hear teaching, pray together, eat together, and share their stories together. 

In the end these guys have some “Jacob kind of moments” where they wrestle with God over all kinds of things in their lives.  Some begin the journey for faith, some are now open to the journey and a lot who had once been on the journey find their way back home.  They will all tell you it was because of the fact that they were shown love and respect.  Wow, don’t we all need that. 

I was touched by a comment of one of the guys at my table.  In talking about relationships and conflict, he said that it was harder dealing with those things in prison because you can’t just choose to “leave them behind.”  You have to deal with guards, the cell mates, the chaplain and even at times the warden!  Those on the outside, he said, can just go a different way!  They can choose another church or choose to leave their family.  Wow, so true and so painful!  What if church folks couldn’t leave?  What if they had to deal with their issues and people who hurt them?  Something I am wrestling with in one of my “Jacob moments!”

My take away from my weekend was that I certainly need to value “family life’ a whole lot more seriously than I do at times.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we treated some people around us more like a “retreat family group” and less like disposable acquaintences!  Think so.  Father forgive my lack of respect and loving care. 

Kairos Weekend At Wabash Valley Correctional Facility

October 21, 2009

A team of men are preparing for a spiritual weekend at a men’s prison in Carlisle, IN.  I am one of them.

42 men have been invited to join this gathering from Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon.  The weekend is similar to an Emmaus walk for those of you who are familiar with this type of retreat program.  A prison is obviously a bit different than a campground!  The intensity level is certainly a wee bit higher due to the containment issues everyone has to deal with.

Please pray for Kairos #3.  Your intercession means a lot and will be very much needed as men deal with some pretty important and life changing moments.  Kairos means, time; God’s special time. 

Thanks to all the ladies who pitched in and baked well over 200 dozen chocolate cookies for me!  Over 60,000 cookies will be used to express love over this weekend. 

Stay tuned to the blog and follow the experience with me.

Jack Fox in Memphis

October 10, 2009

Hey check this out, Jack Fox in Memphis!

Yeah, he is leading a session sharing his learning from Art Reach here in the Haute.

If you’re interested in more information head over to Jack’s contact page and let him know.

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Wes Stafford- Leadership Summit

August 7, 2009

Leveraging Your Past

Too Small to Care?

35 yrs of silence on his abuse; trying to see the other side of the tapestry

Boarding school for missionary kids; 700 miles from home; 50 kids

17 times a week he was beaten; on average

A vengeful and powerful God is what he saw; God must hate me

Sexual abuse in addition; both staff and older children

From a victim to a victor

Compassion International has been his fight

Poverty and abuse speak the same language; give up!

Leadership can be launched by pain and sorrow.

Forgiveness is giving up the right for revenge.

Dave Gibbons- Leadership Summit 09

August 7, 2009

New Song in Irvine, CA                 Christ-Community-Cause

The Monkey & The Fish

Consumeristic church comes from the homogenous unit stuff of church growth; targeting a certain audience

Third Culture Leader:  adaptation, painful adaptation

  • “Third culture is the mindset and will to love, learn, and serve in any culture, even in the midst of pain and discomfort.” – Dave Gibbons

Third Culture actions:

  • Focused on the fringe; early adopters; zealots; misfits
  • Failure is success to God; your resonance ; your voice; your weakness; world understands suffering (a changed metric)
  • Weakness guides us more than our success
  • Relationships trump vision; with God and others (only one vision; love God and our neighbor)
  • Obedience is more important than passion
  • Four acts:
  • deeper collaboration; other churches, cities, nations
  • communal living; together; community
  • prayer; power of the Holy Spirit
  • radical sacrifice for the outsider; other culture