The first time I heard about the Church Renewal Weekend at Southland Church in Steinbach, MB, I blew it off as yet another megachurch conference with little application to my out-of-the-way church. Yet, God kept putting it in front of me in various ways, including someone’s offer to pay my expenses. His call became clear, so my wife and I made plans to go. I also sensed it would be wise to bring other leaders along, so that it wouldn’t just be the pastor and his wife coming home to talk about their inspiring weekend away. After gaining the board’s support, I began inviting a handful of other leaders to join us.
“Manitoba?? January??” was the standard response to my invite.
I knew how long it took for the Spirit to convince me, so I simply asked people to pray about it and see what God was saying to them. One by one, they said yes.
Besides arriving to the balmiest January weekend anyone in Steinbach could remember, we arrived to a spiritual experience our whole team would never forget. The weekend began with “Set Free!”, a retreat which one of our team described as spending a day-and-a-half confessing and forgiving sins. It doesn’t sound like fun, but our team were blown away by God’s grace and could hardly wait to share their testimonies when they returned home! The second half of the weekend included a Prayer Summit and introduction to the “Hearing God” seminar, in which Pastor Ray Duerksen helps participants learn how to listen to what God is saying to them through the Word, as well as recognizing his voice in other ways.
All of our team members, from the most charismatic to the most cautious, appreciated the great balance exhibited at Southland. They work hard at being a church that walks the path of experiencing God, without falling into the extremes of either emotionalism or cessationism.
Our team was an intentionally diverse bunch, and we all came home saying two things: “This is for our church,” and, “We need to send more people.”
The team continued to meet regularly for prayer in homes, walking out what we had been learning together. In May we gathered around a campfire and prayed blessing over a second group of participants headed to Manitoba. They, too, experienced cleansing, renewal, and an encounter with God that makes them hungry for more.
Steve, an elder, said that he has been reading God’s word with greater intensity than ever in his life since the weekend. He describes a renewed sense of urgency in his faith, and a sense of God’s leading that he never experienced before. He has realized that, “God doesn’t just direct my life by opening and closing doors”. God actually speaks to us through his Word and in the everyday.
Bernadine, an up-and-coming leader, shared her testimony of growing deeper in her prayer life. She had always believed prayer was basically one-way communication: “Please. Thank you. Amen.” Now she is learning to listen as she prays, and she is discovering that God wants to speak to us.
Our church has been going through a difficult season in the past year, with little fruit and lots of discouragement. Our Church Renewal Team has collectively heard God say: “Tend to the roots.” (Luke 13:6-8) As we gather to worship, pray, and listen together, we are sinking our spiritual roots deep into the soil of God’s grace. We are confident that growth and fruit will come as He continues to renew our hearts.
Rod and Blair, who pushed back their holiday departure so they would not miss a prayer night, put it this way: “There is an atmosphere of experiencing God taking place, and that changes your heart. We are so grateful for what he has done that we want to serve him!”