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What Is The Holy Spirit Saying To St. Luke Parish? Part I - Discovery
By Pearl Homiak

"One of the most amazing discoveries in our walk with God as a church was how open-ended, full, and never ending were the consequences of following Him. What began as a small act of obedience, issued into a fountain of blessing; our church's thirst for God issued in a flow of 'rivers of living water' (John 7:38) as the Holy Spirit worked in and through us." - Henry Blackaby

As I was driving home from work late one Friday, I heard a radio announcement that Henry Blackaby would be speaking later that evening. His topic was about churches praying to God for His plan for each of them. I first heard about this subject when I attended the OCA Boot Camp in 2001. I had also recently begun to wonder about God's plan for St. Luke parish since our new million-dollar educational center was finished.

I didn't think there was any way to hear this radio program. I still had two stops to make and other commitments for the evening. However, when I arrived home I found I had to go back to the drugstore to retrieve the checkbook I had left there. So I wearily returned to my car. As I turned on the ignition key, I heard Henry Blackaby speaking, and I remained in the drugstore parking lot until he had finished. What I learned excited and inspired me.

In the early 1970's Henry Blackaby went to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, to pastor a small dying parish. Pastor Blackaby and his family had just arrived when five people came from St. Albert, a small city 90 miles north. They wanted him to minister to them in Prince Albert twice a week. In spite of warnings about the fierce Saskatchewan winter storms, he faithfully traveled to Prince Albert twice a week for two years. Never once was he stopped by a storm.

The name of Pastor Blackaby's church in Saskatoon was Faith Baptist Church. He felt this name was God's way of encouraging the parish and him. Ultimately, this little parish spawned hundreds of other parishes, seminaries, and various church-related facilities and also inspired Henry Blackaby's five children to go into the ministry. All of this resulted from one simple, persistent action taken by Pastor Blackaby, his family, and Faith Baptist parish: They made the decision to live according to God's will no matter what happened, and they stuck to it.

Henry Blackaby wrote about these experiences in a little, black 89-page book called, What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches. I was skeptical when I first started reading it. The book was written by a Protestant and was about Protestants, not Orthodox. Nevertheless, since God often provides instruction in unexpected places and ways, I decided to give the book a chance. Baptists, after all, usually live according to Biblical teachings. They may not have the fullness of the Church (more on this later), but we have to admire their dedication. Perhaps I would learn something important here.

In short, I was impressed! Almost everything the book described is applicable to Orthodoxy. The book clearly and matter-of-factly describes the process of allowing Jesus Christ to be what He already is: The Head of the Church. All church communities, including Orthodox ones, need to actively pray for God's unique direction for their parish. This cannot be satisfied only by litanies recited by the priest or deacon during the Divine Liturgy, although these are also important.

That which Henry Blackaby describes is not a method or technique to increase our membership. "God alone [can] add members to the church" (p. 59). Yet this comes about when parishioners actively pray to God, listen to Him in a new way, believe Him with all their hearts, adjust to Him without conditions, and obey Him (pp. 53-54).

God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, is willing, ready, and able to take us on the most thrilling ride of our lives. All we have to do is ask God-as a parish, together, in unity. Then we must patiently listen to Him as He reveals His will to our parish community and each of us within it and calls us to adjust our lives to His will. There is a cost, but the benefits are phenomenal. What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches spells out not only the "what" that is needed, but the "why" and the "how" as well.

Throughout Henry Blackaby's ministry he taught people to truly come to know God fully, but not just on an intellectual level, which is so common among Christians. He taught his parishioners how to regularly and diligently search the Scriptures. Besides actively praying for their community, each parishioner was "a teacher, a pupil, and a learner" at one time or another. "As we followed in this pathway," he states on p. 55, "we realized not only how much we needed God, but also how we desperately needed each other."

Part II: Realization-Continued in the Winter 2003 issue.

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