So, a couple of weeks ago, along with some folks from work, I went to a day conference on church leadership. It was a fairly low-key, local thing, I was expecting it to be interesting, and perhaps get some good tips on leadership, what I was not expecting was an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Not at all.
It was a very well organised day, including the most delicious 3 course lunch (they had even catered especially for me who has food intolerances much better than some restaurants do!), with several speakers, all talking on different aspects of church leadership. For someone like me who is fairly green when it comes to church leadership, it was a mine of info, so much to take note of and learn from those who had been in ministry for years, and also for our church specifically.
Anyway, the last speaker was actually a friend of ours and he spoke really powerfully about some difficult times during his church leadership and how he and his family had coped. It was an amazingly honest and emotional talk. Towards the end he said he wanted to pray for those who needed to feel that God had their backs and people who were tired in ministry. To be honest neither of those applied to me but I really felt God pushing me forward to be prayed for. I'm not one to turn down prayer, but I do allow myself to be guided by what is fitting for me, I don't just run forward at any opportunity. So it was a bit weird to be honest, the call from the front wasn't me at all and yet I felt this nudging from God. So I sat for a while, weighing it up, in fact I was actually convinced the call was for one of my colleagues, but for several reasons I could not have suggested this. So I sat some more and then I just thought, no, I have to do this and so off I went.
A chap who had previously spoken came over and asked what I needed prayer for... so that was awkward, I had to be honest and say, I don't really know I just know God was telling me to come out here and that I didn't know if it was for me, my colleague or my church. Straight away he said, 'it is for you' and began to prophecy over me, giving me a picture he felt God wanted to share and a scripture... and then I started to have one of those Holy Spirit experiences that you know when it begins is not going to be pretty... There was shaking, there were tears, there was snot.... lovely... and the thing was, it was just in a little old church not far from here, with probably less than 50 people there, and it was a leadership conference, not a spirit-filled ministry day, and the only other 2 chaps getting prayer were standing quite respectfully and quietly receiving prayer and I was right out the front, a snivelling snotty mess.... I was making quite a spectacle of myself (or rather God was...!)
Although I didn't really care, as the words spoken over me were amazingly accurate, this chap had never met me before and I hadn't offered him anything that I needed prayer for. He was spot on, just gradually revealing things that he felt God was saying and praying for things that I had prayed for myself in my own prayer times. And so even without the shaking and the snot I would have known what he had to say was from God.
I just love how God works like this sometimes. In the times when we least expect it comes a moment of utter clarity and encouragement. Which is exactly what the bible says about the gift of prophecy, in 1 Corinthians 14 that it is to strengthen, encourage, comfort and build up.
And I think sometimes we forget that. I try and remind myself regularly that if God is offering me something to share with another person, it will be for exactly that reason: to strengthen, encourage, comfort or build up. If it doesn't fit within those then I probably haven't heard right! I wrote recently about the power of our words, and again I think we forget that so often. Words roll off the tongue so easily and yet can have such impact, for good or for bad.
I am so grateful for my experience a few weeks ago, it was such a comfort to know that God was speaking to me, and in order to build me up and encourage me.