Back in 2015, a congregant shared a dream he had about our church. In that dream he met a little Latino girl and her family, all of whom had been oppressed. Eventually in the dream, there was a white, dazzling tree and flying out of it was a pure white dove that got larger as it flew around, leaving my friend amazed. The street seemed to converge with 1208 Greenwood Church, but the roof was the sky. He then had another dream in which our church had several organizations present in it that ministered to people in need—especially women, infants and children.
Seven years later, in March of this year, he felt God remind him of that dream while sitting in a justice meeting here in Jackson. At that time we were still trying to get our Dinner Church back to what it was before the pandemic, but as the months dragged on and we approached the summer, it became more and more evident that Dinner Church wasn’t going to catch. So we put Dinner Church on pause for the summer and began to pray and ask God what we should be launching in the fall. Would it be it a reinvigorated Dinner Church, or something else?
One week in June, our congregation spent their Sunday service asking the Holy Spirit to bring whatever he’d like to our minds so that we could write it down and turn it in for discernment. During that service, my friend’s dream returned to my mind yet again, so I shared it with the everyone from the stage. We’ve held similar services since then where we’ve asked the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts about what is next for our church. The topic of the marginalized and poor has come up again and again in people’s minds during this time. One person had a memory return to them of how they needed to buy a booster seat while they were in Toledo recently, and the address they ended up at was 1209 Greenwood. “What’s next for 1208 Greenwood Church?” She felt the subtle impression of an answer: “Our kids need a boost.” And last night as we worshipped at our weekly Spare Oom Worship Night, she had two instances where Spanish lyrics came up in her head. Intriguingly enough, I had spontaneously considered leading a song in Spanish during that session, but decided it’d be too weird and didn’t.
Another friend had a dream last week that God was giving our church cherry blossoms, which is a sign of renewal in most cultures. They also felt we should repent to make space for new gifts, so we spent a few weeks at church doing that. And while I was on vacation this past week, I had a dream where a man sang a song to me about getting on a water slide. I don’t remember the lyrics, but the general point was to get on the slide and enjoy it. This slide had color and seemed twisty, but there was second slide right next to it that was grey and straight. The singer looked at the second slide and sang, “Should I go down number two?” I got ready to go down it in response to his words, but he shook his head with a smile, causing me to move over to his slide.
During another Spare Oom Worship Night, the word “trumpets” came to someone’s mind and they knew it was connected to our Reveal Jackson event coming up in October, which is a conference all about the Holy Spirit. They then had the passage 2 Chronicles 5:13 come to their mind. They looked it up, not sure what they would find and came across these words: “and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,’ the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud.” This is the passage where the Holy Spirit fills the second temple with the manifest presence of God, a hope of mine for over a decade.
These are just a few stories that have come about over the last few weeks as we’ve pursued the Holy Spirit together as a church. I’m now collecting and compiling everyone’s thoughts, along with years worth of prophetic dreams and words I’ve had and have been given in attempts to discern it all. Like the classic Pepe Silvia conspiracy meme, I’m trying to connect all the dots with our board and our collective church. We’re not interested in doing church our own way or trying to fit ministry into our own box. The church is the Bride of Christ, not my ministry, or our congregation’s organization. We don’t fully know what’s ahead or what God wants us to do, but we hope to be faithful to the Spirit’s direction, regardless of the fruit that does or doesn’t come, or the fast or slow pacing at which it comes.
The Apostle Paul knew his mission: He was explicitly commissioned by God to reach the non-Jewish people of the world with the gospel. But he didn’t always know how he was to go about it. Indeed, if he had had it his way, he would have stopped by Asia—which he did, but the Holy Spirit forbade him from talking about the gospel there. So he headed to another region, but the Holy Spirit didn’t allow him to do anything there either. I imagine Paul was a bit overwhelmed as he seemed unable to do the very mission that God had commissioned to do. But then one night, he had a dream of a Macedonian man asking him to come to Macedonia and help his community. The answer had finally come. Paul packed up his stuff and headed to Macedonia.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 16:16-40 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.