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Why We Gather

You might not know by looking at or even by coming to one of our informal gatherings that there is a deeper motive, a higher purpose, an inspired reason for it all…well, initially there wasn’t! 

We’ve always loved being with people, talking together about our walk with Jesus, singing songs, praying for one another. We had worship nights at our home for years, house concerts, meals to share with friends, old and new. We didn’t always have a big house or yard but whatever we had, we filled! We loved people…or so we thought. (We’ll come back to this!)

After doing prayer ministry for many years, both in church settings and home settings, Jimmy and I noticed that transformation happened most swiftly in those with whom we had close relationships. The formal hours of individual prayer ministry combined with the trust and love that developed from spending time together over shared meals and other interests, led to the greatest growth and breakthrough. 

We learned that, as I like to say, “Transformative ministry takes time and space and a heart like Jesus.” And we began to wonder how we could create more opportunities to foster this kind of transformation.

Around that same time, God began showing us some things about the gatherings we were having at our house. (I said I’d come back to it!) 

We began to realize that our gatherings, and our social lives in general, were filled with people just like us: people of similar backgrounds, cultures, language, religion, political leanings and even the same facebook feed where all our “friends” like every post because we all see the world through the same lens. As you can imagine, our get-togethers started to feel empty and repetitive, until God, in His great love and tender mercy, showed us the truth:

We didn’t love people - we loved OUR people. 

Feeling convicted, we decided to invite a few brand new believers to one of our evening worship nights at the house. This seemed like a great idea…until we saw their obvious discomfort. And it was more than just not knowing the words to any of the worship songs. They didn’t understand the culture or the conversation. 

Yes, God makes us fishers of men, but we need to be careful we’re not creating situations where they feel like fish out of water. They are people. People that we’re welcoming into the family of Christ. They need to belong. And that night, our guests did not feel like they belonged! 

That’s when Jimmy and I began talking about doing something radical: What if we created a gathering where just about anyone could feel comfortable? A gathering with no label? A gathering with no agenda? What if we just made “time and space” for people to come as they are and get to know one another, while letting the Holy Spirit move however He wills? What would happen then? 

We were excited about the possibilities, so we tried it! Right away we could sense new life and energy in the gatherings, but we were almost too close to see everything that was happening. Then one of our gatherers put it this way, 

“The gatherings matter because there is nothing quite like it in the church anymore. Most church-related events are either homogeneous and cliquey, or agenda-driven and forced, or awkward and uncomfortable, or, heaven forbid, all of the above! But at your gatherings people of various ages and experiences come together for no reason other than we all know you and we just want to hang out. You treat everyone like family and so everyone belongs. That’s where true discipleship begins - in belonging, in acceptance, in family.” 

And recently one of our regional ministers told me that “Of all the things Anchor & Key Ministries does in the region, the gathering is the most unique.”

Over time, God opened our eyes to the fruit He was producing through our gatherings: One night, we watched a couple open up about their struggles to another couple, and before we knew it, new, supportive relationships were being formed - those relationships continue to this day. Around the campfire, we’ve heard people share their greatest hopes and deepest fears. And every night there is laughter and joy, so much joy. 

Honestly, we were hesitant to share too much about the how of these gatherings because the fact is, it’s not so much about the how as it is about the WHO. It’s about the people who show up and our God who is always there. It’s about relationship. And all we do is create time and space where people can be themselves and connect with others, knowing that the Spirit is always moving among us.

This should come as no surprise when looking to Jesus as our example. Everything is relational with Jesus - from the foundation of His earthly ministry to the very substance of His being as part of the Holy Trinity. God IS relational. And so He reveals Himself to us, speaks to us, loves us, blesses us, heals us, through our relationships with one another. The love and joy we share - that is what God desires for us. 

So, while to some our gatherings may look like nothing more than a handful of people talking and laughing, we see the Kingdom of God - His beloved sons and daughters - gathered around a blazing fire, doing exactly what God created us to do: love one another. We see life. We see goodness. We see the face of God. And He is shining with joy!

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Jimmy and Renee, this is a beautiful thing. Love one another as God has you. This is interesting because much of what you are talking about is what God has been showing me also. My current read 📚 is "How People Grow" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I have gotten off social media so I could do more reading. God bless guys.

Thank you both

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