January brought changes. Change is scary, period. It's viewed critically by most, mainly because we as humans fear the unknown. Much discussion precluded this new year and venture for Woodlawn. Lots of it negative, more of it positive. January began Advance classes, with every age group from children to seniors meeting for pastries and coffee at 9.00 am. A new year brought a new class, SOLO, a newly formed Singles Group. Class begins at 9.15 and we move to the Main Sanctuary for Sunday service at 10.30. Then the big shocker, no Sunday evening service.
Danny Rivers spoke mid January, and never before has a message affected me so deeply. (Bro. Fauss had quite an impact at Youth Camp during my teens, but did not prompt changes as Danny did.) www.bethechurch.cc will tell the tale. Highly recommended is the DVD of that service available at Woodlawn Church office. To quote him, "What's happened is the church has raised at least 2 generations of arrogant, out-of-touch people who in large part don't really care about lost people…don't try to help hurting people and who week after week hide behind our doctrine…even though we continually miss one of the most obvious doctrines in all of the Bible…Love your neighbor as much as you do yourself." That commission was branded into my mind. It has catapulted me into action. Each Advance Class is building an ongoing FOCUS project, which is based on the Biblical principles that Danny so beautifully taught. We are integrating ourselves into the community and learning that one-on-one outreach is the way to locally expose Jesus to our personal, lost world. We are attempting to reach out as much locally as we have internationally now for decades. I have been "IN the church" since the day of my birth. I am desperately trying to learn to "BE the church" for the first time in my life. SOLO wanted an outreach that was untapped at Woodlawn. Our FOCUS project was born from my new convert having 2 siblings with cancer, and from my immediate family having been deluged with the disease in the last 8 or so years. We took on reaching out to those diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers, and shut-ins directly connected to our church. The second Sunday evening (ye Gads!) of the month we meet, prepare a meal and deliver to people whose name(s) we have collected.
I cannot describe the feelings of true Christianity after having delivered a meal to someone that life has dealt a crushing blow most could not sustain. Or the happiness and well-being while sitting for a few minutes with the sweet lady having dinner alone in the nursing home dining hall. Or the "rightness" while standing in the drive of the crying gentleman whose wife had broken her hip and knee as he thanked me profusely for providing their supper. I have sat through some 2300+ Sunday evening services in my lifetime. (Resist doing the math please.=) I have dressed up more times than most models have walked a runway. I have been "spiritually fed" enough to feed all of Africa's hungry. I have sat with other church friends on said evening and socialized more than famous Hollywood stars. My Sunday evenings are now dedicated to something different. As a church body, we are reaching out to the unchurched, developing relationships with new and old friends alike, providing alcohol and drug dependancy classes, spending one-on-one time with our family, providing babysitting to mothers of autistic children for an evening out, preparing meals to those diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers, mentoring fatherless young men with Connect, giving single parents a free evening by organizing fun and games for their children and visiting the shut-in. All of this outside the walls of "the church". Dressing up, singing in the choir, feeding my spiritual obesity, and socializing with church friends does not begin to compare.
SOLO has doubled since the first class in January. We will triple this year! For me and hundreds alike, this change has been a welcomed, fruitful one. Woodlawn is blossoming. This year alone we have baptized 30+ and many more have received the gift of the Holyghost. Our putting our families first, loving the unlovable, showing the hurting we care, developing relationships with old and new friends alike is working. Trust me my friend, Sunday evenings are not free. My favorite, Matt Maddix stated "take those nobody wants and God will give you the ones everyone wants". We are doing both. Reaching out to the rejects as well as those close to us who are Godless.
I am deeply in love with SOLO and hope this "virus" of love, as Pastor Jerron put it last Wednesday, is contagious. We will win souls to Christ. We will BE the church.