Single and Satisfied through Community

I am fully persuaded that being in a healthy, thriving, God-centric community will change your life. Really. I have witnessed the greatest expressions of God’s love, majesty, grace, healing and power through my small group. At the beginning of this year, God placed it on my heart and the hearts of a few other ladies to dig deeper into His word and into community. I remember a conversation I had with my friend, Kristi, about how desperately I needed a community of sisters who wanted more of Jesus. So we went to God and by his grace we began to meet with some ladies who shared our desire for more. We came with no plans, goals, or expectations except that we would facilitate a place every week for us to encounter God. People have asked us what we do on Wednesday nights to which I simply retort, “We open the Bible and see what happens.”

Today I am especially filled with unspeakable joy after this past Wednesday’s study session. We’ve just recently begun reading and discussing Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge. Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Twitter) is aware that I am a huge supporter of Captivating because God used it to begin healing my heart. Naturally, this seemed like a great study for our group because I believe God wants to heal the broken hearts of the women in His Church (Click to Tweet!). Wednesday afternoon I asked God to do something new and fresh, to melt our hard hearts until we’re ready to be vulnerable and open to our desires, our dreams, and our wounds (so they can be healed). Simply, I wanted God to come. He always does, but I wanted something special.

There was something new in the air. I could feel it almost as soon as we sat down. Ironically, all of my notes for the discussion were wiped away from my phone seconds before we began. Clearly, God wanted to come in to the meeting and have more control than I did. The spirit was so sweet. Everyone was happy, hopeful, excited. Even those who began to share difficult and tough situations began to experience a shift from doubt to faith–the change was visible on their faces! There was a moment when I asked everyone what their favorite movies and stories were when they were younger. Every single countenance began to glow as we welcomed the rush of nostalgia.

“Sleeping Beauty!”

“The Lion King!”

“Cinderella…the one with Brandy and Whitney Houston!”

Suddenly everyone burst into song and infectious laughter. Someone shouted through laughter and shining eyes, “Oh! My heart is racing right now! I feel good!” In that moment, we were all little girls again in the presence of our God… in a place where nothing and no one could harm us. Not even the memory of pain was able to penetrate that circle of love.

By the end of the night, we were all so full of life and hope. The energy in the room was intoxicating. We had abandoned our agenda over an hour ago and were fixated on Jesus and the perfect love He gives that we sometimes reject. We often feel unworthy, undeserving, or that it’s too good to be true. But as I looked around at all these women, I was experiencing God’s love.

As we prayed to close the night, we were shouting and celebrating each prayer that was lifted up to God. We were celebrating being women. His women. His daughters. Together. Black women. White women. Filipino women. So different. All broken, but wanting Jesus.

One woman prayed, “In this moment, we are all fulfilled. May we always keep this moment of wholeness in Christ and community.”

She was right. And as she prayed that, the audible sighs that escaped from everyone’s mouth was confirmation. We were fulfilled. We weren’t thinking about the men we didn’t have or the weight we haven’t lost or the job we didn’t get. We were whole. Complete. Radiant. Captivating.

God’s gentle, loving spirit led us into a new place of hope that I don’t know many of us have experienced before. I know I haven’t. There was something so sweet about what happened there that night. We allowed God to love on us and He did it so well. I woke up Thursday morning feeling drunk on love. I’m loved. I’m accepted. I’m pursued. And in a circle full of ladies, I was completely fulfilled. (Click to Tweet!Giggling, blushing, singing, hugging and fulfilled.

If you ever doubted that godly female friends could enrich your life, let the story of my community change your mind. I have seen the face of God through the women in my small group. Don’t think that it’s impossible to reach fulfillment in relationships until you get married. That’s simply not the truth. (Click to Tweet!) My heart is expanding, my prayer life is increasing, my life is receiving deposits of Jesus with every word my friends speak into my life. We look forward to Wednesdays because we know we’ll leave feeling better than when we arrived, and we know Jesus will be there. I’m fully persuaded that God, too, looks forward to Wednesdays because there is always a place where He is welcome in our homes and in our hearts.

My friend noted, “Who would have thought, as women, to feel that fulfillment did not require a single man in the room!” (Click to Tweet!)

It’s an incredible thought. I have never been more fulfilled in my life. A younger me would never believe that the experiences I’ve had could be enjoyed without a man on my arm. But, as the Cinderella song that my girls and I love to sing says:

Impossible things are happening every day.

When I think of God’s love overflowing, I think of Him pouring wine into a glass until the red liquid runs on the table, the carpet, everywhere. When we reject His love, it’s like we’re trying to mop up the wine with Bounty napkins. Why do we do this? God is telling us, “Drink it! Take it all! It’s for you!” In our hearts, we can’t comprehend why anyone would pour wine into a full glass, but His love can’t be contained! But we steadily try to mop up the ‘mess of love’ because it’s too much, it doesn’t make sense. All He wants is for us to drink and let Him love us. Don’t wipe away the offer, drink it in!

— from the heart of Ashley Breaux, 6/19/2013

Why I Love Passion City Church

If you follow me on Twitter or have befriended me on Facebook, then you’ve heard me say this often: I love my church! I am a proud Doorholder at Passion City Church right near the heart of the city of Atlanta. Yesterday was a special day for me and my family. A year ago we stepped into the oval at Passion City for the very first time—God went before us and He met us there. A few weeks ago my pastor, Louie Giglio, told the congregation that he fully intended to give a message entitled “Why I Love Passion City Church,” but later felt compelled to give a message called “Why I Love Jesus.” (The talk was absolutely phenomenal. It will make your heart swell for the Son of God!) In lieu of Louie’s message, I decided to compile my own list of reasons why I love my church.

  1. Jesus is Our Cornerstone

From the moment you walk into the doors until the time you exit the building, you are guaranteed to get nothing but Jesus. Believe it or not, it has become normal for many churches in America to hold services in Jesus’ name where Jesus is not welcome. In many ways the Church has been seduced and distracted from the glorious and liberating truth of the gospel, and has embraced her own self-serving, man-made doctrine. We have taken the opinions and convictions of man and elevated them above the Supremacy of God.

“Follow God over loyalty. If you don’t, it may have you in a place where God is not.” — Canton Jones

Jesus is lifted high at Passion City Church. Among a congregation filled with several well-known people, no one steals the spotlight or glory from the One who deserves it all. We exist for the glory and fame of Jesus Christ. We make it our first priority to pay homage to Him by offering our lives in extravagant worship. I’ll never forget the day someone commented that we are always talking about Jesus at Passion City. At first it sounded absurd that anyone would find that to be a problem, but then I could barely contain my excitement. What an awe-inspiring reputation for my church to have: that all we talk about, sing about, shout about, dance for, serve, and worship is none other than Jesus Christ! I am privileged to be in a house where Jesus is central, exalted, celebrated, and adored.

Who can make the blind to see? | Who holds the keys that set us free? | He paid it all to bring us peace | Jesus, only Jesus | Holy, King Almighty Lord | Saints and angels all adore | I join with them and bow before | Jesus, only Jesus — Matt Redman, “Jesus, Only Jesus” from the forthcoming Passion 2013 album: Let the Future Begin

2. It is a Healthy Church

It is no longer good enough for me to merely be a part of a church community out of obligation or because it caters to my preferential style; I need to be in a place where it is safe to freely worship God, and beneficial to my spiritual, emotional, and mental wellness. Some people may be unfamiliar with this term, so I have taken the liberty of highlighting just a few qualities of a healthy church from a great article I found.

  • [Passion City Church] is a place of blessing and freedom. It is a place people want to go.
  • [Passion City Church] is built on loving God, loving people, and reaching out to the community around and ultimately the world.
Passion City's "Motto"

Passion City’s “Motto”

 

  • The Bible is taught in context.
  • Your personal boundaries are important and respected. You are allowed to make your own decisions and you are not looked down on or judged.
  • Love and grace are subjects often taught. You leave the services feeling with a sense of freedom and affirmation.
  • God leads people there.

These are just a few indicators that showcase the health and wellness that emanates from my church. There is such an overwhelming banner of love and freedom that covers our house. Discovering Passion City was like discovering a brook in the middle of a desert. When we need to be refreshed and refilled with strength and hope, Passion City Church is a house where we are confident that the water of the Word is flowing like rushing water.

3. The Leadership

I don’t think words could accurately describe how much I love and respect Louie Giglio. He is a superb example of what I believe a true pastor should look like. He is secure and confident in his role as the leader of our house; therefore he realizes he has been appointed by God for the purpose of guiding His people closer to His bosom. He and God share the same heartbeat for people and the world. Although he is well-known worldwide, he does not seek any glory for himself. He projects every bit of fame to the majesty of Christ every moment he gets.

louie

Louie is humble and genuine. Shortly after we began attending PCC, Louie taught a series called “Believe” in which he was vulnerable enough to share his battles with depression and anxiety. Out of his stories of weakness, so many people were encouraged and hopeful that Jesus is our only source of strength. Most leaders might stay away from exposing personal struggles, but Louie is confident in a Healer who brought him out of a dark place and is capable of bringing more people out. I was in awe of his openness, and many people were set free because Louie was willing to boast on Christ’s healing reputation than care about marring his own.

Louie never belittles or tears down any person in the church or his leadership team. He supports other ministries and their missions to make Christ famous. He isn’t concerned with membership at PCC. Louie once said that it doesn’t matter if people worship at our church as long as they find someplace where Jesus is lifted high above other names. What a pastor! He is the number one cheerleader for every doorholder in our house. In fact, Louie calls himself a doorholder. Being a pastor with influence all over the world isn’t what drives Louie; he is most satisfied with using his life to bring glory to God by being His servant.

Louie & Shelley Giglio, courtesy of Shelley’s Instagram. Follow them: @louiegiglio @shelleygiglio

Courtesy of Shelley's Instagram

Courtesy of Shelley’s Instagram

Louie is crazy about his wife, Shelley. It’s obvious. If you follow either one of them on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll see expressions of their love for each other and their church. It’s so encouraging to know that my pastor loves his wife. He honors her often, and even smiles and blushes when he speaks about her during his talks. One Sunday I sat behind the Giglios during the gathering. During worship I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful my pastor and his wife looked together as they both worshiped Jesus unabashedly, arms completely outstretched. They had already heard these songs in the two gatherings before this one, but they both stood together as man and wife, father and mother of our house in total adoration of Jesus. I know they are in love with each other because they are both crazy about Jesus. Jesus oozes from their speech, He emanates from the music Shelley produces, He echoes from the talks Louie gives, He is glorified by the fruit of Passion Conferences and the 268 Generation, and He is exalted in their marriage and ministry. Both Louie and Shelley are amazing leaders, and the same excellence I see in them is also evident in the entire leadership team and their marriages.

The PCC leadership team praying on the Georgia Dome field in preparation for Passion 2013. Courtesy of Instagram.

The PCC leadership team praying on the Georgia Dome field in preparation for Passion 2013. Courtesy of Instagram.

4. The Community

Passion City is a pretty large church, but we would never call it that. Louie says we are a small tribe, a small part of what God is doing in His global Church. God has blessed us and is leading more and more people to our house. PCC has Community Groups throughout the city that meet regularly where people gather around the Word and pray and cultivate community. Those are a great way to connect with this family. However, I have been fortunate enough to meet some beautiful ladies who have become like sisters to me. It is extremely rare to find a group of ladies who love Jesus, love each other, and love the Word with as much intensity as these ladies I’ve found. I love the accountability and support we provide for one another. We aren’t afraid to confront one another’s insecurities or sins together so that all of us will be whole and victorious. Last week in our Bible study, one of the ladies admitted she didn’t prefer to pray aloud and would rather someone else do it. We all encouraged her and confronted that insecurity until she agreed to pray. When she prayed, we were all amazed at the words that came from her spirit. We know the enemy wants to keep us debilitated by our fears, insecurities, or sin, but I am blessed because I am surrounded by women who won’t let me stay the same—women I met at Passion City Church.

5. God is Here

God’s hand literally led my family to Passion City Church. That Wednesday before we came to PCC, God set us on our exodus journey. We had no idea what church we would attend, but we knew God was moving and we had to follow Him. We had heard about Passion City in passing, so we thought it would be a nice place to visit. That Friday night I went to PCC for their college gathering with my sister and ten other friends. I enjoyed it, but I was anxious to get there that Sunday. When we stepped foot inside of the church, I felt like I was home. I remember thinking, “God is here.” That’s all I needed to know. God was there. He led us away from one place, and He went before us and met us at 515 Garson Drive. I have been reintroduced to God at Passion City Church. Where my image of God had been skewed in the past, now I see His character with clarity. I know He is for me; He is crazy about me; He is jealous for me; and He wants to walk with me. I don’t have to perform to seek His approval. I can rest in His grace and trust that He that is within me is greater than the forces in the world. God is not interested in what I can do for Him as much as I should be enthralled by what He’s already done for me. At Passion City Church, I’ve seen people walk into church calloused and cold, and walk out with tears streaming down their faces. I’ve known people who despised organized church and worship, and are now actively serving on teams and cannot sing loud enough or jump high enough. I’ve seen a man who was once ridden to a wheelchair begin to walk again. None of this can be attributed to Passion City Church because this is only possible because God is good. He’s a wonder. He’s everything. He is God of Passion City Church.

Every Christian should be in a church where God is allowed to be God. I am thankful that I’ve found that place for me. I tell my dad often that the greatest decision he has ever made for our family was obeying God’s voice when He told us to prepare for our exodus. There is no perfect church anywhere because we are imperfect people. However, Passion City Church is where I needed to be in order to move forward into my destiny with God. I marvel at His wisdom. Before I was born He knew I would need these people, this word, this leadership, this family to prepare me for what He has for me. So, 515 was etched into the pages of my life’s story. I admit that I’m reading these pages slowly because I want to savor each moment. Between you and me, this story is getting good!

pcc