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.