On January 25th, a group of 6 of us went to Steinbach, Manitoba; yup, middle of winter. What would draw us there?
Two years ago, Pastor Mike and Pastor Shawn went to Southland for the same experience and came back very challenged by what they had walked through. For the past two years, Pastor Mike has been walking through weekly mentoring sessions with Pastor Ray from Southland for the main purpose of helping our church grow in prayer.
For the six of us who went (Teresa K., Michael K., Jo-Ann K., Kyle D., Bernie S., Jon B.) it was a remarkable weekend and I thought I would pass on just a “taste” of what impacted them.
To give you some context — this is Southland Churches website. This is a link to this weekend so you can read about the Set Free portion and the Church Renewal portion. As a part of this weekend we also attended their service and their Prayer Summit (which they do monthly). I could talk to you about this for at least an hour…so I will just stop there and let the team chime in:
For me the whole weekend was so refreshing because of the way in which it was communicated to me. We weren’t wrestling with these huge topics that require years of study and schooling to fully grasp, we were tasked with simple and BEAUTIFUL processes that date back to the ancient times. Whether it was confessing sins to each other, or participating in listening prayer, it was remarkable how moving it was to take part in it. I quickly realized that I over complicate things so easily. The weekend called me back to the beautiful and simple practises that scripture call us to.
Listening prayer is also something that I haven’t done a lot in my life but this weekend we practised it and it was amazing. I actually heard the voice of the Lord. It was incredible. The God of the universe spoke words TO ME and it brought me to tears. I desire growth in this area as well. Especially as I ask the Lord for encouraging words to share with others who are doubting.
Returning home, I have experienced a “re-ignitiing” of sorts. Conviction that I need to really look inward and make sure that my spiritual practises are of the utmost importance. It sounds simple, but life can quickly make them see less important. It also convicted me in the way that I communicate truth. Simple. I don’t need to dress it up. Truth is scripture and scripture is truth. Students in Student Ministries need to know truth. Especially all of those who are in broken families.
Lastly, my prayer and devotional life. As of late, they have become, “when I have the time.” A lie of the enemy. This must be a non negotiable. They must start my day and continue through it. How can I speak truth if I am not clear in what truth is?
There were so many positive experiences from our trip to Steinbach, Manitoba, this past weekend and a few that are just plain memorable, like when:
1. We were in the ditch, wondering about how we will get out and hearing our leader say "OH, I did something bad".
2. Watching brother Kyle, who was sitting next to me on the plane - bouncing his leg up and down continuously, while watching his movie with the screen moving to the rhythm of his leg. God makes us all wondrously different!
All kidding aside, there are two experiences that I hope can be turned into practices at Sunridge:
During the Church Renewal - Set Free sessions we were encouraged to open our hearts to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying about sinful attitudes and practices, such as unforgiveness, anger, breaking promises and dwelling on impure thoughts. After listening we were encouraged to note these and confess them to one another. We also practiced a prayer of release to those that confessed. It was a liberating experience.
In numerous teaching stories, the Sunday sermon and the Monday session on "Hearing God" we were introduced to the practice of "Listening Prayer". From the time I was young, I have longed to hear from God like the prophets, apostles and more recently like George Mueller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The pastors in the various sessions provided numerous examples of how they also received direction and specific instructions by learning to listen to the Still Small voice of the Holy Spirit as they prayed. I was challenged to re-think my earlier conclusion that this was not for me: would the Holy Spirit speak to me like that? The passages in Luke 11:13, John 16:13 and Rom 8:32 impelled me to reconsider and with humility just keep asking. I'm not sure where this will lead but I find I have a greater joy in prayer and my list of things to pray for is much shorter, since I'm listening. So, this is not complete - still waiting for what is to come but I'm thrilled by the potential.
Southland was an incredible experience. I know some of you were worried about us being in the cold, but the fire that we felt inside of us through the Holy Spirit made it so worth it.
The Set Free part of the conference was amazing. James 5:16 says therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (set free). They made it so simple for us to confess our sins to one another and then be released of our sin. It wasn’t a time of trying to fix each other. It was simply confess, pray and be released. It may not always be comfortable confessing to someone else but wow when you do, you can really feel a sense of being set free. If there is one hope that I have for my brothers and sisters at Sunridge, it would be that they would want to walk in total freedom.
For me, the Sunridge Leadership Team's trip to Southland Church for Church Renewal Weekend in Steinbach Manitoba was a stand-out, pivotal, and eye-opening life experience. There are moments in life that you look back on a few years down the road and realize, "Man! That experience changed my life forever.". This was not one of them. Only a week behind us and I already know with full confidence that this changed me for eternity which in turn will change the way I approach leadership forever.
When I walked into the Southland's building I was initially amazed, but the sheer physical size of the structure was quickly disregarded the moment I was greeted at the door with a smile from someone I didn't know but felt right away "There's something happening in this place and I need to figure out what it is."
Well what it was, was a church that has a deep desire to see their people set free from the chains that hold us down in sin, a church that approached the bible in a beautifully conservative and simple manner but that led to a pursuit of seeking God to hear him speak, a church that sung songs that were almost verbatim from the pages of your Bible, a church not with prayer but of prayer. And somehow when walking out for the last time I was struck with this feeling: "This is all happening because of one man: Jesus, and what he did for us on the cross."
Oh that people would walk into our church family and experience these things and leave being awestruck not at our programming and what we do, but rather; what was done for us on the cross.
It's going to be an exciting year Sunridge.
What I have really come to value with the ministry of Southland church is how diligently and yet simply they bring spiritual practices into use.
Most churches do a great job teaching Bible - ORTHODOXY - but are somewhat weaker at practicing the Bible - ORTHOPRAXY.
This is what I hope and pray will more and more take place at SunRidge.
I knew a little bit about what I would experience coming into this weekend because Mike had been a part of it. However, nothing prepared me for what it would mean for me personally. The Lord truly does want to set people free and there were a number of distinct things He showed to me that were slowing me down. It was time to see it and let it go. Time will tell, but I experienced both insight and release from a number of things. I experienced encouragement from the Holy Spirit specifically. I saw very practical things, simple things, that can significantly impact my own, and our churches, life of prayer. I was so challenged by the honesty in this church, the willingness to confess all-too-human failures, and the joy of speaking to and hearing from GOD.
I was so energized by seeing students praying, not just praying, but praying over people with their authority in Christ with clarity and conviction and truth! Wow! Mike and I were prayed over by a group of grade 10 girls and what they said to us was not just “nice” — it was touched by the Spirit and used by GOD to speak to us. It was insightful and impacting on our ministry. Only GOD can take a young person and do this. I have come home feeling like I ate a HUGE meal. Both Mike and I felt this and also heard the Spirit say: don’t do anything, just digest. Ah, GOD is good. He will lead us one step at a time.
Thanks Team for sending these short reviews!
What is GOD saying to you about prayer among us? Currently, I am praying for 25 prayer-people consistently for our Sunday morning prayer time — 9 am in the portable. That will represent more than 25 people because not everyone can come every week. When we see this happening, I will be seeking GOD and asking for the “what’s next.” If you hear GOD nudging you to be a part of this morning prayer movement, don’t delay…come running!