I just got back from an overnight pastoral retreat with almost our entire team--15 pastors from 11 different locations. What a refreshing two days! I count it a privilege to serve Jesus with a team of men that I like, that I laugh with, that I pray with, that I serve with and that I wrestle, plan and strategize with. Feels like the kind of life disciples are meant to experience.
Wednesday evening (day 1) we headed into downtown Elgin for some great Mexican food at El-Faro and then we hit the town on foot to enjoy the beautiful November weather. We stopped into First UCC of Elgin and sang "A Mighty Fortress" by Martin Luther. Man-choir power! This is becoming something of a habit lately--grabbing a hymnal and singing a man-friendly hymn together.
From there we passed by the Elgin House of Prayer. Pastor Mark asked a guy inside if we could come up and visit with their prayer team. About 8 flights of circular stairs later we entered the room where the group was praying.
A couple was leading worship on guitar and two ladies joined them in singing. That was the entire gathering for this particular night of prayer. This faithful group prays for Elgin every morning and evening--5 days a week. And as can often be the case in prayer ministry, they are often few in number. But they were praying and worshipping anyway.
The 15 of us walked in and just began singing with them--and we were loud. The EHOP folks started looking aournd and smiling as if we'd just bought them each a new car. The more we sang and prayed together (unannounced and anonymous) the more I could tangibly sense that we were deeply and profoundly encouraging these dear, faithful prayer warriors. It was powerful--a holy moment. And we all knew it and commented on it afterward.
One of the women said, "we wondered if God sent us a team of angels to worship with us." (If she only knew, hah!)
Firehose encouragement. Faithful people can experience encouragement like no one else can. When you walk in faithfulness, doing the hard work of serving or praying or loving or worshipping, especially when no one seems to see it, encouragement goes deeper and has a more profound impact.
By the way, the converse is also true. If you're not being faithful when no one is looking, you are also going to be very hard to encourage. Unfaithfulness makes every seemingly encouraging act given to you seem hollow and unwarranted to your spirit and leaves you feeling grieved.
Faithfulness is like the fire hydrant that allows God to hook up a hose and shower you with encouragement. Choose secret faithfulness in all things--persevering in faith, hope and love.