What an amazing sight! A middle-aged woman and a man sitting at a picnic table surrounded by fascinated young people all listening attentively to what she was saying. I wanted to go over there but didn’t. I waited to see what would be said afterward.
Revonna has had visions. You might ask, “Visions? Were they about the past? The present? The future?” The answer is yes. They are as ancient as the earth and as modern as tomorrow. These kids wanted to hear about it.
We don’t do church like everyone else. We didn’t even mean to start a church, and I’m not sure we should even call it a church. One night with seven people present, after three hours of nothing but prayer and scripture, suddenly the Holy Spirit broke in and spoke to us that we were to meet in our basement on Sunday morning, and have Rich Bean bring the message. We were shocked honestly because none of us had talked about it. Rich didn’t even answer whether he would do it or not. One woman said, “Yes, please.” I responded as any gracious hostess would, though tentatively, “Ok.” Everyone then left.
The next morning as I was waking up, I began to have pictures come to my mind about how to set up the meeting room downstairs so that he could preach. That day I simply created the pictures out of my mind into my home. You know, sort of like Jesus, who said, “I only do what I see the Father do.” He did what he saw the Father do, so I simply did what I was seeing the Father do.
Sunday morning we all realized we were called to something. We definitely heard God call upon us for something. But we didn’t know what. There had been no conversations about beginning a church, no formal planning, no vision, no first service announced. No, the Holy Spirit had done this. We agreed we were all willing to submit to His Vision and His step-by-step guidance-whenever that would finally come. We simply knew that we needed to wait on the Lord to show us what He wanted from us.
So for three months we met in the basement. Our group expanded and it was wonderful! The Word of God pierced our hearts but with great gentleness. The freedom of expression in worship refreshed our souls. The bond of love molded us together into a team.
Finally we felt that we needed to find another place to go. One day, we spent the entire day looking at available properties around Oak Ridge. Though there were some nice places available, the Holy Spirit didn’t give us the feeling that any of them were right for us. At the same time during our services and prayer meetings, our members began sensing the Lord say things like, “Take it outside” and “It’s not just for Oak Ridge.” Others told us things like, “Every time we have church I have the feeling we are supposed to be outside.” Some of our people had pictures come to their minds of us being outdoors, under a revival tent or in a park or beside a lake.
After a few weeks, we began assembling all the pieces together. We realized that God was saying: “I’m not giving you a building. I don’t want you hidden behind walls. I want you to go out where the world can hear and see and experience My glory.”
The point is that many people, especially young adults don’t want to “go to church” anymore. Very few are willing to go behind those closed walls and see what’s going on back there.
So we just followed what we felt God was saying. We have taken it outside. We just started going. When the Lord shows us where to go, we simply go there. No questions asked. We go outside and have church. We play the worship music we would play indoors, but we play it outside. We have the same sermon we would have indoors, but we have it outside. Then we grill hot dogs and hamburgers and share it with the community. If we have the opportunity to pray for someone or speak encouragingly to give them fresh hope then we do that too.
Something else that’s different—We don’t set our credibility on education or ministerial experience or credentials. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking those things. I have all three. What I’m saying is that there is something higher; there’s something better; and that something is the real presence of God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit coupled with deep character in a man or woman of God. Rich Bean is one of the meekest men I’ve ever known. Revonna has a testimony that can’t be topped. Others on our team have incredible gifts. These are the things that make men and women great.
The irony is in the increased level of freedom we experience even though we are outdoors. We feel freedom instead of inhibition. It’s so easy to praise and honor God. We feel we are unrestrained because of the lack of walls around us. To top it off, we are finding acceptance and gratitude from the people of the communities where we meet.
God is blessing us for our radical, extravagant faith. God had showed us un-mistakenly that He wanted us at the pavilion beside the flagpole. There were plenty of picnic areas around, but He directed us to that exact place. If we had taken it into our own hands and been willing to go to another one nearby, then we would have defeated the purpose for which He was sending us there.
So there we were at a picnic pavilion beside one of the lakes in the area. We have our service. A few area residents join us while others listen from the playground nearby. We notice other people listening from a distance. Then we turn on the grill, and suddenly teenagers converge upon us for lunch. Not just a few young adults, a dozen at least in the first wave, then more. One of them told David: “Teenagers don’t have anything to do around here. We hang out at Sonic or we come here.” Now see what I mean? The Lord told us to go to that particular pavilion because unbeknownst to us THAT is the one where the teenagers hang out. They hang out there on Sunday mornings too. Some of these young people wouldn’t go inside a church—ever.
Here they were willing to listen to a middle-aged woman who has had visions of the afterlife. She’s seen angels. She’s seen demonic forces. She’s seen the entrance to hell, something she calls “The Hellmouth.” She’s even seen the brokenhearted Jesus placing lost souls into that Hellmouth because they refused to believe the good news that Jesus cancels sin through faith. Not one of these young people refused her story that day. One young man committed his life to God for the first time. The others were inspired and thanked us for being there. This journey is sooooo worth the cost.
We’re still trying to discover who we are as a ministry. This we know though: We are commissioned to change the world. This morning a 16-year-old young man was talking to me, just talking about a lot of different things. (Young people need someone to talk to you know, someone to validate them.) I told him that he has leadership qualities, and he answered, “I want to lead a revolution…and change the world like it really matters.”
WOW! That’s what we want too—to change the world like it really matters. How about you?
Myra Mansfield and her husband Jack, with Rich and Revonna Bean, are co-founders of Living Water Fellowship. They consider themselves to be a Biblically-courageous body of believers devoted to being the unstoppable force that Jesus calls the “Church.” For more information, write [email protected].