Journey UMC: Sailing into Deep Waters

by: Larry Davies | Sep 2, 2012

“Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.” (Psalm 107:23-24)

 

I’m not sure I truly appreciated or even understood Psalm 107 and the two verses above until recently. Going out on a boat or ship is not something I usually do. In my younger days, I would occasionally go fishing or water skiing but that is the limit of my experience.

 

But in earlier times, going out to sea was highly risky. Many ships left home port never to return. Storms, mishaps, disease and attacks by pirates were frequent and deadly. Yet for those willing to risk there was a promise of riches. More than that, people usually returned filled with stories of spectacular sights and miracles witnessed.

 

Psalm 107 uses the example of ships going out to sea as a lesson on risk taking. Those who dare to risk greatly by going out on the mighty waters will see the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.

 

Nothing ventured. Nothing gained. Go for broke. Take a chance. A willingness to take risks, can effect how we play sports, how we manage our career, how we talk to others and yes, even how we live out our faith in God.

 

Recently I visited a risk-taking church.

 

The church was named Journey United Methodist newly opened in Amelia, Virginia. This was not a typical church. They originally were a thrift store but in the midst of helping folks financially they were also helping them spiritually. But the same people whose lives were being changed dramatically were unable to find a church where they could live out their new found faith. So the same group of leaders who started the thrift store decided to sail for deeper waters and created Journey United Methodist church.

 

Our Virginia Conference offered funds to help transform the thrift store garage into a church. The district provided leaders from other churches in the area who volunteered their time to help the new church get started.

 

The first thing I noticed as I drove up to Journey UMC was a guy standing in the parking lot waving at passing cars on the nearby highway. When I asked him why, he simply said: “Part of my calling is to wave at and pray for every car that passes our church. It doesn’t matter whether they actually come inside or not. God wants me to wave and pray.”

 

As I entered the thrift store/church there were two signs by the door.

 

 

“Sorry, the store is closed. Church is open.”

 

“Journey Church Enter Here.”

 

After passing through several rooms filled with clothes, household goods and furniture I entered a large room that still looked like a converted garage. There were eight or nine people, setting up equipment, arranging chairs, preparing food and checking the sound system. Everyone was busy, everyone was friendly and everyone seemed excited to be there.

 

But several minutes before the service was set to begin, we were called to all gather in a circle. Why? So we could pray, for each other, for the people that were about to come and for the community. “Lord, use us to do your will.” was repeated over and over.

 

Before long, people came. They were greeted warmly with handshakes and hugs. They were offered juice and coffee, donuts and bagels and encouraged to mingle and enjoy.

 

The service began with music so people could begin taking their seats. The worship leader warmly greeted everyone and explained how Journey UMC began and what would happen during worship. In addition to the music, the prayers and the message, there would also be a time for discussion based on how we could live out the message in our daily lives.

 

Following worship, one person told me that when he was in the hospital, several of the members of this church surrounded his bed and prayed for him. He wasn’t interested in attending church at the time but he’s there now. Another spoke of going through a difficult marriage and divorce. During that time she drifted away from her church and from God. Several members of this church visited her, encouraged her and then urged her to visit. She came and she stayed.

 

In the midst of a culture that is seeing more churches close than open… Journey UMC is a huge risk. A ship sailing into deep and mighty waters.

 

“Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.” (Psalm 107:23-24)

 

But in the midst of the risk and the deep waters. Journey UMC has become a powerful witness and testimony to the works of the Lord and of God’s deeds in the deep.

 

The risk of failure still remains for the thrift store/church — Journey UMC. But regardless of whether they succeed or fail as a church, Journey UMC has forever changed many lives. People came to know and love Jesus Christ through a church called Journey.

 

To laugh is to risk being a fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk rejections.
To place your dreams before others is to risk ridicule.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To go forward in the face of overwhelming odds is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing does nothing and accomplishes nothing.
One may avoid risking, that may bring suffering and sorrow but to do so prohibits learning, change, growth or love.
A person who takes risks is set free to live.

(author unknown)

 

I would add that a church willing to take risks will deeply impact other people for God.

 

“Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.” (Psalm 107:23-24)

 

May our prayer be that of an old Englishman: “O Lord, send us into the deep water of the sea, for we are so close to shore that even a small breeze could break our ship to pieces on the rocks. Send us into the deep water of the sea, where there will be plenty of room to win a glorious victory.” (Streams in the Desert)

 

“Remember, our faith is always at its greatest point when we are in the middle of the trial, and confidence in the flesh will never endure testing. Fair-weather faith is not faith at all.” Charles H. Spurgeon

 

May we have the courage to sail into the deep waters and may we witness the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.

 


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