Friday, November 20, 2015

Church Last Sunday

One of the things I'm dealing with as a ex-staffer of GFA is how different the mindset of GFA really was. Our life group kinda joked about Sunday's sermon as one of the pastors "go to" sermons. I found it rather refreshing and I'm glad he covered it again. It was mainly about how to grow in Christ. The expectation of this body of Christ, is 4 fold. They expect you to seek God daily in prayer and bible reading. They expect you to be involved with some group (a care group, a life group, a bible study etc.) so you can be with others to spur you on in accountability and growth.  Come to church even when you don't always feel like it was number 3 and 4 was Give back to your community on a 3 fold basis your church, your community and the world. Oh and there is no joining the membership roles, but rather come and be included is all you need to do to be a member.

As of late I can't help but compare where this church is at, as opposed to the teachings at GFA. The pastor really brought about the fact that personal growth in Christ happens when you are participating in all 4 activities: one on one, In a small group, corporately, and giving back.  He didn't approach it as a formula, but rather as an organic thing that happens when you are well seated in the body of Christ.

Now I can't speak for the school of discipleship I do believe they did local evangelism, but I don't know if they participated in community service. I'd love to know if they had* see comments!  I can say after the Diaspora letter, GFA eased up on the "Don't participate in church rule." there were a few and far between events that did give back to the community.  But not many... I always felt discouraged by this.

I recall a local church wanted to start a community garden to help the locals and provide produce to people who had a hard time paying for food. I really wanted to participate in this! I got the contact information and talked at length with the lady in charge of the idea. It fell flat on it's face as the person who they thought would supply the land would not also supply the water.  The lady asked me if I thought GFA would let us use part of GFA's property.  My heart sank... would they? That would mean non GFA staffers coming and going on the campus, if GFA supplied the land and the water. Even if we used the back 40 where few people went, what about the liability insurance? I knew in my heart of hearts if I asked the answer would be no.  I pretty much shook my head and said I don't think that would ever happen, sad because a community garden is something I so desired to participate in, but my desire to have a community garden wasn't enough to make me ask the question to leadership or make waves.

I justified being chicken and not asking with these thoughts:
1. It would be a distraction from the mission field.
2. It would divert money (water/ irrigation costs) from the work overseas.
3. Liability! injuries, or accidents. (That is why we can't have a pool right?)
4. We don't want just anyone walking around on campus because it's a peaceful closed community, think of the children!
5. I didn't feel I could bring a community garden up after KP's question & answer session pre-campus of a few years ago, where he didn't understand how it worked and said people would squabble over it, he didn't want to introduce a community garden or family garden boxes on campus.

I do know from personal experience small groups of any sort were not encouraged at GFA.  I never was sure why, but we felt alone, disconnected from people in general. I think this is the root of that belief I came to have, that GFA friendships can be a one-way street.  Staff who are trained to put all above family can always justify placing work above friendships. One complaint a friend of mine gave me was she would plan a dinner well in advance, buy special food, prepare the food, and upon the flimsiest of excuses GFA staffers would cancel. "Once happens." When it becomes a repeating pattern you know there is a deeper issue. I know we eagerly awaited a friend to come to dinner, planned down the finest of details of bacon ice cream sundaes. The person kept us waiting for 2 hours.  Why so late?  KP held him in a meeting, the sad thing was we waited and waited no text or call "I'm running late." was forthcoming until we contacted him asking "Where are you?" Somewhere along the line manners got discarded when in the presence of His Eminence.  You can walk out in the middle of a conversation/ meeting/ dinner because the KP called you. He is more important than the person/spouse/children front of you.  I see this as an example of placing work over family mentality the Diaspora accused GFA of, if it was only once in a while... no big deal. We all have times where work may trump family and family trumps work that is work life balance. No this was deeper mindset that I see now as people revering KP and those in leadership, Like they are better than us, we were not equal.

Contrast this with the here and now for our family. I desperately needed my husbands input on the septic situation... we were talking about a decision that could cost us thousands of dollars for what he wanted. I wasn't sure was it worth that much money, or should we loose part of the back yard to the system and save money? Since what he wanted actually couldn't happen anyway and we needed part of the back yard already? I needed to give the planner an answer so he could move forward with the drawing. I called. No answer.  I called again no answer... his phone is on DND so I called again knowing even if it is on DND his iPhone will ring.  He was in a meeting with his boss. On the third time it rang and didn't buzz. His boss said who is it? It's my wife... well answer her, was his immediate response.  No issue with not being respectful to him because work was more import than family, but rather a balanced approach.  If she's calling that much it must be important, and more of a why didn't you answer it the second time she called? I can't picture this scenario taking place at GFA. Last week the founder of HFTH introduced herself to me. Talked to me about my husband and listened to me, with wisdom in her eyes. It was not hurried, condescending, or odd, she was normal. How refreshing.

As staff our focus was always the lost overseas, not the lost in our home town.  Personal bible study was often subtly put down as not as important as a strong prayer life. For years our family struggled with go to church and not give back, or participate in being "just a taker." Sometimes we would just stay home and have home church, a prayer time, or watch pod casts of our sending church. I'm amazed at the isolation this created in our family.  My kids had no friends outside the ministry. I made only a few friends outside the ministry.  It was not balanced in the way the pastor spoke about today. We have not been participating fully in all 4 aspects of our life in Christ.  I drew on my notes a diagram of how GFA emphasized only certain aspects of this ideal.

Instead of a square it was a thin oval, I'm sure this stems from the reaching the lost at any cost mentality, the subtle pressure to only participate in sanctioned GFA activities, the focus on prayer over study, work over family, prayer meeting rather than fellowship of the body of Christ in a church setting, worship in prayer meeting or alone, but not in a church service.*  Serving sacrificially to each other, but not meeting together in small groups, and sadly KP sermons were often more like 10 point lectures with a bible verse or 2 thrown in to satisfy those who asked why he preached without referring to the bible. I always struggled with why do we teach our missionaries line by line expository bible teaching but really do we ever get to hear that kind of preaching at GFA? Prayer meeting is not a service, so I could always justify it in my mind.  

*In closing I have to give the caveat that you could worship around the "fellowship camp fires" run by GFA. They did try. Once things started to fall apart they started scheduling "fun stuff" and fewer work parties to bring cohesiveness to the community, I fear it was to little, to late.


  1. When I was with SofD, we did community service projects to GFA families, local neighbors, and places like Mission Arlington. FWIW to answer your question from the first five years of the program perspective.