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Garden 246"I’ve been looking for you! I’m healed!" 

From an article by Exponential

Darren Rouanzoin grew up in a traditional evangelical church in the USA. When he was 22, he went on a mission trip. En-route to India, he found a church in the heart of central London that was reaching the city in the power of the Holy Spirit. He sat listening to the stories of this church. These weren’t stories from decades past. They were new, fresh, last-week and yesterday stories. It was the stuff of the Bible and it was happening every day.

That day changed him. From then on, he knew he wanted to pursue the presence of God. Shortly after his experience in London with the Holy Spirit, he heard the Lord speak to him, “Plant a church in Long Beach.” One year later, he and his wife, Alex started Garden Church in downtown Long Beach, California. For the past eleven years, they’ve had the privilege of helping build a ministry dependent on the Holy Spirit and thriving as an empowered culture. Darren continues:

In 2015, a UPS driver walked into our church’s office to deliver a package. The driver spotted me from the entrance and shouted, “Darren! I’ve been looking for you! I’m healed! Your prayer healed me! I went back to church. I’m reading my Bible. I can’t even believe it!”

By the time that UPS driver came into my life, I had shared with my teams and congregation, dozens and dozens of stories of my attempts - risks - to invite God’s healing power on behalf of someone who needed it. So far, I didn’t know whether any of my prayers had been answered with healing. But I wanted to see God move and I continued to believe he would. 

When the UPS driver first knocked on my door, he had braces around both knees and long black wraps around both elbows. I asked him what happened and if he was in pain. He said, “Yes, it’s bad, and I’m about to go on disability because I can’t do this job anymore.”

I asked him, “Can I pray for you?” and he said, “Sure.”

So, with very little faith, because I had prayed this same prayer dozens of times before with seemingly no response, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Lord Jesus, heal my brother. Amen!”

A month later, he walked into my office and filled the crowded space with the news of what God had done. It was undeniable. 

Here are three practical steps Darren has learned about building and contending for empowered church culture:

Pursue the Holy Spirit

When we started pursuing the Holy Spirit, we began with our leaders. We began teaching through the book of Acts and creating space for the Holy Spirit in our staff and elder meetings. It meant worshiping, laying hands, prophesying, practicing words of knowledge with each other, and anticipating God to heal and do all the beautiful things that accompany the ministry of the Spirit.

At first, it felt unnatural and uncomfortable. But building culture requires repetition and practice. We kept meeting, praying, seeking, and waiting for God, and He showed up in our midst and ministered to us. This intentionality moved into every area of ministry. By the time the ministry of the Holy Spirit showed up in our weekend gatherings, it was already taking place everywhere else. 

Tell the Stories

Over the years, I’ve learned that nothing builds culture faster than the stories we celebrate. We started celebrating stories of the Spirit moving in our church in every staff and leadership meeting. We asked every staff member or leader to bring firsthand, personally experienced stories that were fresh (within the past week) and celebrated the hope we had for the church to encounter God. 

These were stories of generosity, risk, successes, and failures. They were small and big examples of the kind of church we were working to become. We celebrated the hope we had for the church to encounter God.  We celebrated obedience, not just outcomes.

Pray, Pray, Pray

The number one way to create an empowered culture is to pray for it. Prayer is the language of the Holy Spirit and we must learn to speak his language. Prayer is the central role we must play as the shepherds of our flocks. Prayer must become an everyday, long-game strategy of building culture. 

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From an article by Exponential, 13/09/2022

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