The Church Growing Beautiful
The 2011 Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries summer staff has completed their ministry in our midst. Their individual hearts and group work were strong this summer. Our summer closing celebration focused on responses to guided individual questions posed by Bill Black to each of them. The hope of these questions was to name and actualize the wonderful growth each student experienced this summer. God’s surprising action in the moment, however, was to bless all of us with the beauty of these statements and prayers. The evening became one of worship and giving honor to God as each person shared their summer growth.
This material does not seek to explain the ministries done nor the responses of those around us. It is our personal growth statement.
SMRM’s vision statement concludes with the phrase, “growing the Church through mission involvement.” The Church grows wonderfully beautiful in reading these responses! We (the 2011 summer staff and directors) prayerfully share them with you in the hope that you will go deep into these statements. We invite you to let them suggest your own responses to God’s call for self growth; for making the Church more beautiful.
Shelby, How does a Christian live, work, and minister in a world that celebrates and encourages “being different?”
This must refer to the Hard Rock Café as the epitome of “different.” Yet this is where I spent my summer. Me, the quiet, reserved conservative Baptist girl from a small Texas town! When I first heard about the job at Hard Rock, it was equally exciting and terrifying. Even Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries’ Director, Bill Black, did not want me in the restaurant –we hoped I would get a job in the “Rock Shop.” Yet God had other plans. He put me right in the thick of things –an expo worker as the mediator between the kitchen and the dining room. This vanilla girl was thrust into a world of flavors!
Yes, different is intimidating –at first. Assimilating into this world took a great measure of courage on my part. But once you are inside, you realize that people are people –no matter where you go. The world I entered could be lonely and harsh. God put me at an intersection of so many different people. Building relationships with so many people may seem hard, but God opened doors for me to know them all on some level. Giving a small hello or a word of encouragement formed a bridge between people. Remembering details and asking about their daily lives or taking advantage of breaks to seek them out led to relationships to enjoy.
I also found a world with little grace. Mistakes were ridiculed and patience was rare. Offering grace to people was the most widespread part of my ministry. Servers knew they could count on me to fix their mistakes gladly and without censure. I remember so many smiles and so many thank you’s! It brings such joy to my heart to have been an extension of God’s love.
As an English major in college, it embarrasses me to say that I cannot adequately find words to describe my experiences. This summer I learned to accept people and love them for who they are. Don’t stare at the girl with purple hair or the guy with tattoos and piercings. Don’t immediately shun the man who tells you he’s lived with his boyfriend for seven years. Don’t judge and frown as profanity, crude jokes, and innuendo fly around you. Don’t file for sexual harassment when your female co-workers slaps you in the rear. Do be Christ’s presence in these moments. Do open your heart to the individual who God loves and who seeks that love without even knowing so. Be a light. Find your own differences. For me, it was continuing to be Christian in attitude no matter how mad or frustrated I got. I knew I could not break that small thing which set me apart. Finally, give love and love will be returned to you. These things I learned. This ministry I did.
Many times this summer I loved my job. The people I met were so often kind to me. I loved going into work every day and seeing who would be there. These were not the intimidating international students from my orientation nor were they the “different” Americans from my first day. These were my friends.
Hard Rock Café’s motto is “Love all, serve all!” Not so different after all.
Shelby’s Prayer of Commitment
Thank you for allowing this girl to thrive in a place that is different. Thank you for revealing the people behind and inside those differences. I pray that I will use this experience to seek out others who are different. Do not let my confidence fail.
Lord, You are our Creator and you formed us each uniquely. Thank you for the freedom and ability to express ourselves. Please do not allow me to let prejudice blind me again. I want to show your love and grace to all, no matter their lifestyle.
Lord, you are beautiful. May our differences reflect you!
Chelsi, How do you respond to the SMRM themes of intentional ministry, clarity of purpose, and initiative to accomplish purpose?
At the beginning of the summer I responded to our main themes with panic and nervousness. These themes scared me and seemed to take me miles away from my comfort zone. I had no idea what to do with them and how to apply them to what I would be doing this summer. I worked mostly with children throughout most of the summer and trying to apply these ideas to children had me very worried.
At about week three, though, being intentional is what we started doing with the stories we told the children in day camps. They were not just little baby stories any more. They had depth –as much as you could use on a child’s level—and told more of why we were there.
Clarity of purpose came when talking to the parents of the children about our day camps and why we were here. It also came with canvassing for Sunday services (informing people about upcoming services and looking for ministry opportunities). We had real conversations with people and we were able to let them know why we were with Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries.
Initiative is the worst part of the whole thing. It requires taking a leap of faith and hoping you do not fall on your face. It is a challenge and is the thing that scares me the most. It requires patience and preparation –two things that I am not good at. Through the summer though, I learned to prepare and that patience come through prayer and being in the Word. It has been a process this whole summer that has grown and has helped me overall. I feel my response has come from dread to anticipation to see what will come next!
Chelsi’s Prayer of Commitment
Thank you for this summer and the ways you have grown me. Thank you for the gifts that have been shown to me this summer. I pray that I never stop yearning to use my gifts to glorify you and that you only show me ways to glorify you more. Thank you for this summer and all that it has meant to me.
In Jesus’ name. Amen
Scotti, What is the defining difference between running errands / helping people and ministering to their needs and hopes?
I just recently discovered God’s hope for my life this summer. This summer I determined that God’s hope and my wants are different. I often search for what is coming in the future and God told me to focus on the present time. I spent the first half of the summer searching for ministry jobs in other states, but God had other plans. While I was searching for these jobs, I had an uneasy feeling. God was telling me my place of service was at home.
Ministry to others meant being home in their lives; being present for them; sharing Christ Incarnate –or Christ’s presence to them in that moment. I had to be here for them –not looking elsewhere all the time. I had to use the errand moment as a God opportunity to be real for them.
But I had to be real to myself first.
I fully believe that God uses people to change minds. While working with Bill one day, he began to talk to me about the jobs I had been searching. He advised me to finish school at Jacksonville State University and serve at home. God revealed his calling to me in that conversation. Following God’s calling to me means being flexible and ready to serve in whatever way he may call us. It means being where God wants me to be and not where I want to be. And then I can be the minister; then I can care for those around me.
Scotti’s Prayer of Commitment
I thank you and praise you for revealing your call to me. Thank you for allowing to see past my wants and see your calling for my life. For your calling is far greater than my wants. Lord, prepare me to fulfill your calling. Let my heart be open to your calling, my mind eager to serve, and my body able all the days of my life.
In your name I pray,
Landon, what has God taught you about focus and discipline in your personal spiritual journey this summer? How does that apply to sharing Christ with others?
God taught me that when you focus on others and help others, he will bless you and your spiritual life. God taught me to be disciplined on when we need to do our devotional sheet (Bill’s note: One of Landon’s ministry assignments was to prepare with one other partner a Sunday worship devotional sheet for the employees of Ober Gatlinburg who had to work on Sundays.) When we focus on that God will bring it all together for the good. The sheet brought a lot of discussion and sometimes not so much, but it was very God directing. It was cool to be able to do something like this. Being more disciplined has made me feel better about sharing my faith with others.
Landon’s Prayer of Commitment
Thank you for teaching me to be more focused on you and what you want me to do. Also thank you for making me more disciplined in my walk and in sharing my faith in you.
Shannon, What did you learn about revealing God’s presence to others?
Ironically, I learned this summer that I cannot reveal God’s presence to others. God does this all the time and to everyone who seeks him. I can only share God’s presence that I see and welcome others to seek and discover for themselves. Planning, rehearsing, and imainging will never suffice to reveal the presence of God. In fact, God shows himself in the most unexpected moments when I am not trying. God’s presence is both within a well-developed discussion on spirituality and religion as it is in an act of love and kindness. Revealing the presence of God may even me inviting international college student workers to Bible study and visiting with them consistently.
I am not aware of many was that God has been revealed this summer –but I have learned to trust that is all in God’s hands. He will show people what they need to see. All I can do is to share the love and grace I have been given by God and trust that God will take care of the rest. All that is required to reveal the presence of God is an open heart seeking God, willingness to serve him, and honesty to give him the glory.
Shannon’s Prayer of Commitment
You are in control. Thank you for revealing yourself to me so that I may praise your name to others. Continue to reveal your presence to me, to the people that I met this summer, and to the world.
Amber, how do you speak God’s grace into someone’s life?
Speaking God’s Grace
Speaking God’s grace into someone’s life is something I have taken to heart this summer. Many time, I have been asked to speak into someone’s life and that has enabled me to develop it into a habit. As the summer continued, I became more self-conscious about this action and prayed and pondered over the words I would say.
When I was booth sitting for my dear friend C___ at the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, I sold something that cost $75.00 for $19.99 by accident. I felt really bad because she was having a rough week and I tried to pay her back. She did not accept anything and simply forgave me. That Sunday, I was able to speak God’s grace into her life! I was able to express to her how thankful I was and that I learned a lesson of “simple” forgiveness. I got to share a wonderful, holy moment with her.
Speaking God’s grace into someone’s life makes an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to come in and make it special. When speaking from the heart, speaking God’s grace is one of the greatest ministry tools I can use.
John, Where is there boldness in your Christian life? How has this summer pointed you in the direction of boldness? Where does responsibility fit into boldness?
Boldness in one’s Christian life can be mistaken many times as arrogance or pride developing within oneself. This is a statement I have believed for a long time as the era of “holier than thou” Christians has been emerging. I have always been the person who is afraid to question someone’s judgment and to step on their toes, but I now realize that this is sometimes needed in the Christian walk. Not everyone’s judgment is always correct and when put in a situation of conversation with an international friend, a boldness is necessary to speak up and make the conversation holy. Many people abuse their holiness but this is where responsibility ties in. One’s approach to boldness does not need to outweigh the given situation but rather should be used to bring people to an agreement. A boldness that contains Christ-like character and is filled with gentleness and self-control is responsible boldness. This is something Christians need to understand and then learn to manage.
John Baker’s Prayer of Commitment
Thank you for teaching me the importance of boldness in this life. Help me to control it and use it as a Christ-like example. Please keep my selfish motives out of the way and use it to glorify you and not myself! Amen!
Matt, How is ministry relevant to the secular setting of work? Discuss accuracy of heart and hope in Christian life as it encounters the real world.
Ministry in the Real World
Ministry should be in every aspect of our lives –job included. Too many times people find themselves stuck in a cycle that revolves around their work. Work is a major aspect of one’s life and if ministry is relevant to one’s life, the biggest part of higher life should revolve around that ministry. Ministry is vital to our life so that we may grow in Christ. If we are not doing what we are called to do, how can we expect to grow in Christ? Ministry is not just important to help those around you, but also to help yourself become closer to God!
In the “real” world, many people consider what we do to be a fool’s errand. Many see that the world is too evil and what Christians believe is not “fit” for this world and it’s morals. At a first glance, this is true. However, as Christians we are called to trust that God is helping us. When we place that trust in God, we become filled full with passion and hope for this world. When we witness God’s providing nature, there cannot be too much heart or hope in our Christian life. We see God for who he is and that he truly does provide. Jehovah Jirah.
Matt’s Prayer of Commitment
Thank you for allowing me to understand your purpose and will while serving you. I ask that I will continue to grow and make every part of my life into a ministry. I praise your name in all I do and don’t ever let me stop.
To you be the glory always,
Cari, How does a Christian life based on certainty and control interact with a world filled with choices and freedom? What makes ministry authentic in that moment of interaction?
Certainty and Authenticity
The greater portion of my life has been based around a search for certainty and striving for control of people and circumstances. For years I simply called this “faith,” “prudence,” and “self control”. I have since realized that all this time, as I began to clamp harder and harder on the reins, that my heart became hard, cold, self-righteous, and fearful.
While on this mission this summer, I have come to begin to understand the ideas that within this frantic struggle for control, I was missing out on the peace and freedom imparted by grace. I was so afraid of trusting that God would guide me if I let go because I had spent so much time tyring to work hard enough and be “good enough” to earn his love and my salvation. I felt that God had burdened me with the responsibility to make sure that I was pious enough to not sin and to keep myself on the right track.
I have since come to understand that one must seek a balance between a life of control and a more laisses-fairre approach. Self control is good; self-righteousness is not. It is good to let go, it is also good to be conscientious. The biggest conclusion I have come to is that my need to control things cannot seep over into others’ lives. I cannot even truly control myself, so I must not try to control other people. Love is not telling people what to do simply because you say so. Love is actively ministering to people through whatever means necessary, regardless of whether they are willing to “obey” me.
Ministry occurs within this interaction whenever the Spirit helps me to let go of the reins, love others simple for why they are, and place them and their needs/wants above my own.
Cari’s Prayer of Commitment
May I consider others better than myself. Let me simply be a conduit through which your love, mercy, and compassion can flow. Be my guide. Let me let go and fall freely, only to be caught by your grace.
Jonathan, How do the SMRM character words of Energy / Creativity / Risk fit into ministry?
Character of Ministry
I can see a clear connection between the words “Energy, Creativity, and Risk” and how they fit into ministry as well as my Christian walk. First off, we as God’s children, are not meant to live in nice, neat, perfectly formed bubbles of safety and comfort, but to get our hands and feet dirty, so that our lifestyle’s may reflect the joy that is n our hearts from knowing Christ. Risk does not mean putting ourselves in blatently dangerous situations, but to hear God’s voice echo in our hearts and to obey those words. God is watching over us, therefore we should continue to live our lives for him no matter what the risks may be. This summer, I have grown tremendously from praying and examining God’s will for me. Many times I thought his path was too difficult, too risky, but I followed it and in the end, I gained more of his knowledge and wisdom.
Creativity ties into risk in many ways. Being in love with music, I have often tried to incorporate different worship styles into many different ministry opportunities that are present to me. If we stay in the same comfortable patterns of our daily Christian walk, how are we going to be able to grow in new and exciting ways and aspects? Creativity speaks to people; it reaches out to them.
Lastly comes energy, the aspect that fuels creativity as well as our joy of knowing God and following his ways. As Christians, we are not meant to dwell in sloth but to use the strength and energy God gives us day by day to complete our tasks and to shine our lights brilliantly for his glory. This aspect affects me personally because many times my laid back, easy going attitude gets the best of me and I do not obtain the energy that has been given to me. This , as well as creativity and risk, will always be words that resound in my mind as I continue my walk with God.
Jonathan’s Prayer of Commitment
May we continue to praise you and lift your name above all names. Give us the strength to take risks and live our lives outside of our normal comfort zones. Let us hold nothing back for you, but let our bodies be a living sacrifice for your omnipotent way. May we continue to serve you with every ounce of energy that you have placed inside our bodies and may we thank you for the strength you give us each new blessed day of our lives.
In your Son’s holy name we pray,
Jillian, What does the concept of “servant leader” mean to you? How is this concept
applicable to ministry?
I don’t think that the vastness of the concept of servant leadership can completely be explained and grasped by a 20-year-old’s mind or a 150-year-old’s for that matter. Servant leadership is not only the concept of taking leadership roles without incentive and personal gain, but looking at the leadership as a way to give wholly instead of looking at it as a way to rule over. As a servant leader, the needs of others are held in higher acclaim than your own. By being a “leader”, you are to work at it as effectively as possible. How does it apply to ministry? How does it not apply to ministry, really? It a sministry heart not one that holds the will of the kingdom above their own? This is heavily shown by putting the well-being (including spiritual well-being) of others as a priority. That is ministry! It is a beautiful concept with the love of God. It requires not only of you and your heart, but of God and God’s heart.
Jillian’s Prayer of Commitment
The opportunities you have had bloom in front of me this summer have been numberless and amazing. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a vessel for you Lord in this area. I praise you for the relationships and friendships, the opportunities to preach your word, the moments of silence in awe of your beauty in nature, and for the pure love that has been given and received this summer. May your work continue to shine here long after I leave.
To you always be the glory,