As I sit watching the steady rain, it’s so refreshing to my soul this morning. Mike and I have been on a journey to find something that we didn’t know that we were looking for until it was right before us demanding a response. The response demanded? What about the Refuge? Does it still make sense? Are we still called to it?
To answer that question, I have to back up a bit…For well over 10 years, Mike and I both felt a strong call from God to walk closely with people, broken people willing to unveil masks and live authentically together. Our heart has always been to equip others to own their faith. What does that mean exactly? From the beginning, the Refuge has never been about programs or missions. We don’t have “ministries” we offer or committees to join. We have always, as we walk alongside people, encourage them to take those beautiful and unique gifts that each of us has, and use them in their homes first, then at work, and in the community. Finding our niche looks so different for each person, and at times the task of pushing through the awkward and possibly doing something on our own, daunting.
A while back, God gave me a vision of how many churches in the West look like and it helped me see where Refuge fits, or misfits, quite honestly.
Picture a Thanksgiving dinner spread. The table is set. The family set to arrive soon. Mom or Grandma getting up in the middle of the night to check the bird. It’s all ready. What takes weeks to plan and prepare is consumed in 15-20 minutes. Every family is different in what the favorites are and what is expected to be on the table, but what is central to most every Thanksgiving across our entire nation? TURKEY. God revealed to me that the church in the West is about the Turkey (Jesus), and all the fixins (programs, opportunities). I looked back at my own life, and we once picked a church because of the pagers they had for the nursery that made me feel safe. Lots of times, I had so much to pick from, I felt I had to do it all, be involved in it all, consume it all, just like that Thanksgiving meal.
Over the course of our life leading the Refuge, the question we get most often is “How’s the Refuge going?” Then quickly after that, the next question “How many do you have coming?” That has been such a difficult question to answer at times, because our measurement of growth has been and is different. Our truest heart for growth for the people of Refuge is “Are peoples hearts growing in Christ?” From the beginning, it wasn’t about numbers or how many seats were filled. It was about knowing and loving one another well and nurturing each other’s hearts and spurring one another on to their best selves and gifts.
But somewhere along the way we lost ourselves.
A fellowship that was started with the simplicity of truly seeking to Love God and love others turned into constant discussions between Mike and me as to why Refuge wasn’t “growing” the way we desired. Why more people weren’t coming. Why our fellowship seemed transient.
God gave me an answer. Refuge doesn’t have fixins. We have the main course, turkey (Jesus) and amazing fellowship, but we don’t have programs. We don’t have child care. We don’t have choices. The people who worship with us have to make their own choices as to how they are going to fit into this crazy world and somehow bring Jesus into it. It’s hard. It stretches you. We live in a performance based world that compares everything and measures your worth by what you DO. Our heart and resolve with the Refuge has always been to make it a safe place to come and gather and get a drink from this life that scorches, refresh souls, grow hearts, and then to send them back out again to make a difference for Jesus wherever they are.
Unfortunately, Mike and I lost our sight of that for a bit, but God gave us both a sweet nudge in the right direction, His direction, to remind us to head straight back to our “First Love.” His Name is Jesus. Only Jesus. He is enough.
So every single year, Mike and I ask one another the same question. “You still feeling led to Refuge?” Each year has been “yes.” We have never been ones to keep doing something that we’ve always been doing, so there are some things that we as a Body will have to pray through, but whether we meet in a building we rented or we gather around a fire or a pool, we know one of our purposes in this life is to lead people to a vibrant, on fire, never stop relationship with Jesus. We are the church. A name will never define us. Only Jesus.