Kingdom Stories Overview
Stories are important. As we share our stories, we are like the stars that shine in the night sky. The spiritual realm of darkness is cast out as we praise our God in the heavenly realms. As those stories multiply, the light becomes brighter and penetrates the hearts of mankind. As each one shares and hears these stories, God's people become stronger and unification of the Church occurs. Multiplication has incredible potential: Every person, every church, intentionally and aggressively advancing the Kingdom of God. That's why we are asking you to share your stories. Tell us how God has moved and is moving. Let's cast out the darkness.
Contact Debra Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your story.
Susan Williams shares her own Kingdom Story about her personal battle with cancer (8/29/2017)
Part one: Sucker-punched
Never thought I’d end up in Cleveland, but here we are! February of 2014 my husband Jack and I bounced across the state line with our stuff; moving from western PA to Willoughby Hills in a blast of winter. We were here to make our home with the smiling faces of the Maplegrove Alliance congregation. I’ve always liked snow, but it was bitter.
We had done some serious “purging of stuff” but we still had lots to unload, unpack and arrange in our new house. We also came with another load: I had just received a diagnosis of breast cancer, ten years out from a first diagnosis and treatment on the other side. The cancer, I was told, was not invasive like the first time and I didn’t have to rush to address it. That was somewhat of a relief, so we settled in getting to know our new friends, anticipating this new beginning. Our first grandchild arrived soon after!!
As I began the process of finding new doctors and deciding on treatment, I insisted on having a full body scan because of some concerns over other symptoms. One phone call changes everything—again. My new oncologist spoke matter-of-factly and just hit me in the face: “you have stage four cancer which has metastasized to your skeletal frame. There is no cure. We can only manage your disease.” In the days to follow he said, “You are going to die of breast cancer, travel while you can.” It was another bitter day in Cleveland.
Jack and I were so bewildered and confused and angry, groping for answers…and desperate for understanding. Of course we came in faith believing that we were led here to partner with this special group of believers; to help grow the church, to embrace this new opportunity set before us. Here we are, a few months later, staggering around like we had been sucker-punched again and again. I have had days in the past three years of crying out with great rocking sobs saying to God: “you have brought me here to die! Without family. My granddaughter will not know me. I am only 57 and I have all these personal dreams that I have set aside to serve you God. This is so unfair!!”
People of faith wrestle with seemingly great contradictions. Of course we say, “If you can heal me, why don’t you? If you brought me here was it really to give me a ‘future with hope’? You really confuse me, God!” However, stripped down I am daily brought face to face, to see myself as I am. Pain reveals us and in our desperate clutching for God in our weakness, He is revealed. Unlike happy days, He speaks into the darkness of my fears and tantrums - and I know He is.
- He is in the love of our church family.
- He is in so many fervent prayers of faith from so many people, known and unknown.
- He is in the knowledge that has been confirmed in my spirit that He has indeed led me here.
- He is in the radiant, unexpected smile of a stranger (angel).
- He is greater than my fears.
- He is “before me and by him my life is held together.”
Part Two: Hard Fought
As I continue this cancer journey, there is a road I have intersected in my travels and its name piques my interest: It is simply named “Fought.” It evokes an enormous curiosity within: what is the back story for this road? Was there an early weapons battle in this area? Or, maybe some feisty neighbors disputed a property line? However it all went down, that name “fought” tells a lot. It marks a spot where there was some sort of engagement.
I’m sitting in my doctor’s office next to his computer desk and he pulls up the pictures of the disease process in my body. Everything in my spirit and mind resists the reality of those images. The prayers of faith, the reassurance from many that believe God is going to heal me of cancer, the words of scripture that I read and re-read. Like cognitive dissonance I am battling two opposing truths and sets of reality at one time. This engagement of the body, mind and spirit is HARD FOUGHT. These x-rays mark the spot.
As I scrutinize the problem with pain and my own struggle, I think it is simply that the problem with pain is…pain! We don’t want it! Pain is like a rabid, mangy animal prowling around—we don’t want to adopt it. Life is hard fought: in ministry, in family life and relationship, in the limitations of our bodies, in the realm of our engagement in the battle between good and evil.
The CAT scan images combine a series of x-rays taken from different angles to create cross-section views or slices of bones, blood vessels and soft tissue. This process of the scrutiny of physical disease has led me to see more clearly the work of God in the supernatural. Like a photomontage where layering images creates an enhanced view or a new background from the blending of unlikely images, the Spirit of God dissects and discerns and recreates. Our struggles add layers of dimension in our spiritual journey. Unlikely and incompatible elements converge: fear, then faith; despair, then hope; tears of joy, tears of release, tears of pain, and as they come together there is a new background emerging. God superimposes his Spirit, his message, his strength - the hidden colors of heaven.
Our trials reveal hidden things rooted in dark places, but trials also give up gifts, treasures, sometimes—a beckoning toward another hidden place. We don’t always have to be diminished by our pain. It reveals strong love and loyalty and courage and weakness made strong. I think I am learning that when “we are discerned” perhaps we discover what to let go of, what to embrace, how to love more genuinely; these are jewels of understanding.
On one night I kneel at the window in my bedroom and look up into the dark sky and say, “God, I know you are there!” And in that soft, dreamy moment He presents in the darkness, drawing up the moon as if on a silver cord and I behold Him! He is indeed there.
Part Three: Waiting on the Sunrise
I have a vivid childhood memory of a family trip to an old sea fort in NJ. It was intriguing: Stone-gray dirty and damp fortress walls. We ran around exploring, imagining. I also remember feeling a clamp on my spirit, a bit of fear, which I did not understand. When my dada announced it was time to go, we were expected to follow back to the van, five kids climbing over each other to get inside. My oldest sister chose to take her time and complicate the departure. So my dada decided to teach her a lesson by driving away without her. I still see the horror on her face as she ran as fast as she could in the dust of the wheels, afraid to be left behind, abandoned to that cold, dark fortress. Of course we turned around and retrieved her, but that moment of abandonment was impressed on her spirit and mine as I witnessed her desperation from the rear van window. I could barely breathe as I felt the panic and fear in her.
Life’s hard trials sometimes lock us in a cold, barren-like fort and our pain is lonely and desperate and we may feel forgotten, left behind, abandoned, and barely breathing. Whether it’s a broken body or a broken spirit, or many challenges hitting us at the same time, hardship often separates us from a certain rhythm of life. Two quotes from Winnie the Pooh reveal a lot: “Just because you hear a buzzing-noise coming from a tree doesn’t mean you’re going to get any honey.” And, “Good friends will stick with you until you’re unstuck.” We received some new family members after marriage and shortly after I sat over coffee and sweets getting to know Martha. She asked me questions about myself, probing with interest, and at one point related to my health challenges, she simply said to me, “are you afraid?” It was one of the best gifts I have been given! She acknowledged the “spot where I’m stuck.” And in choosing to see me in that moment, she validated my struggle. I think we should practice being more real. Better listeners, with eyes that see, with ears that hear, with hearts that understand.
Christ was real. The prophet Isaiah describes how he looked in very graphic words: “He was a man of sorrows and grief was written on his face” (53:30). “People looked away because he was disfigured and they were disgusted with his appearance” (52:14). The burden of life and what he endured to identify with the human experience clearly emaciated him. He was harnessed to suffering. The dark night of his soul found him lonely in a garden with friends disengaged from the contest, so he makes a desperate clutch for them to sit with him in spirit, to be present in the darkness (Matthew 26:38). He pleads with God the Father to release him from pain, then stays on assignment, for broken people. He cries loud, aching prayers and looks right in to the spirit of men and women and understand their stories. He was real. He gets life. He gets me. He sticks with me until I’m unstuck. I want to be like Him! “His candle shines on my head and by His light I go through darkness” (Job 29:30). And so I sit and wait, with Jesus, for the Sunrise.
Kingdom Stories and Their Effect at Heartland Church
We have been sharing lots of Kingdom Stories in services lately, and that's been a fun part of my new role. We recently had three powerful ones for Easter that blew people away! I've been reminded the last few months just how powerful stories are...and how EVERYBODY has one. We restructured our Sundays so that we have some type of story almost every week: stories from groups or classes that we can use to promote new groups/classes, service and missional living stories, salvation stories, other testimonies, and missionary updates/stories. The response has been amazing...including bigger sign-ups for almost everything we've done lately. Carving out five to ten minutes every week meant shortening the message a bit and/or cutting music down a song...but it's been worth it!
It's a challenge to find the stories and nail them down, and to convince people to share or not bail last minute, but we are tenacious. It also takes some effort to help people whittle them down, but we just decided to do it and not worry about it all being perfect. God has used them in cool ways to encourage and challenge people, and to create more of a family atmosphere where people know each other better! Something I thought I'd share that could encourage other pastors/leaders.
Chris Durbin, Leader of Discipleship & Development at Heartland Church
Missional Living: McDowell County, West Virginia
God moves during Date Night at Kinsman Chapel of the C&MA
“Imagine the lives that could be changed if we would practice biblical love….based on choice and not on feeling. Imagine if we not only displayed this with our spouse but with others around us.” Nicole Hines
Kinsman Chapel held a date night that was well attended and by a wide diversity of couples. The couples ranged from those celebrating 61 years of marriage to newly engaged couples; couples from the church, outside the church, new to the church; friends of people of the church and those who had been estranged from the church. The parents were ministered to and the children were included with their own event focused on God’s love for them and their family, and the importance of prayer.
The event kicked-off with prayer and then led into a testimony given by Nicole Hines of how God had helped her see that love is a choice filled with action not a feeling. Specifically, He used 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as an eye-opening realization for her on how God defines love. Two years prior she and her husband were on their way to divorce but God moved in mighty ways through the ministering efforts of their church body and their marriage was saved. As a result, Nicole and her husband are now able to collaborate with the Kinsman team to pour into the lives of other couples.
Learning God’s definition of love ultimately brought Nicole to a place where she realized she had not been very loving and it changed how she engaged relationally with others. As she shared her personal struggle, it presented an opportunity for all of the couples to examine the truth about love versus what they perceived it to be. This point was further solidified as they watched a video together of a husband caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s disease and actively living out his godly love towards her, which then prompted further conversation about godly love.
The couples were then treated to a romantic dinner prepared and served by the church for them. During this time in particular Nicole states “Relationships were beginning to be healed before our eyes as we watched the couples interact with one another over dinner. Afterwards further relational healing continued not only amongst the couples themselves but also with others. We were able to witness strained relationships even within the church get healed and people who had not attended church in some time get reconnected. We saw a new couple to the church connect and fellowship with people within the church. We saw couples surround a newly engaged couple and share marriage advice.”
God was on the move.
Kinsman says this is just the beginning of what they hope to see come of this ministry as they pray and plan toward future events. God was present and it was obvious to them and to the couples in attendance. He used His body, their gifts and individual testimonies to minister, just as He says He will.
Please unite with Kinsman in prayer for Godly love in marriages, families, and relationships. Nicole Hines is part of a leadership team that would love to give you more details about this event if you are interested in planning something similar for your own church. Nicole can be reached at Kinsman Chapel of the C&MA at email@example.com.