The following blog was written by Aaron Etheridge, the Campus Pastor at the Cannery Ballroom. Aaron is husband to Amy and father to Elijah, Toren, and Dahlia. It's our hope that his blog will be a source of encouragement to you as you pray and think about entering into this season!
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As we head into this month long journey of prayer and fasting, there is bound to be a myriad of responses and emotions circulating in our church family — some are filled with excitement or anticipation about how God might move while others may be experiencing nervousness about fasting, confusion on why we’re doing this, uncertainty as to whether or not you should participate, and probably even some cynicism or skepticism about the whole experience. All of these responses are normal and understandable. I love our church family and wanted to take a moment to encourage us all in this unique season that is launching us in to 2018.
Around four and a half years ago my wife, Amy, and I, visited Ethos for the first time with our sons Elijah and Toren in tow (then ages 3 and 1). At the time we were only visiting Nashville in an attempt to discern whether or not moving here was the next right step for our family.
Spiritually, we were tired… exhausted might be a better word. We had been working as church planters in Vancouver, British Columbia for the past five years and although there were many joys and victories, the experience had taken its toll on us. Dave & Sydney Clayton had been close friends of ours for years, and we had been watching Ethos from a distance ever since Ethos was just a dream in the Claytons’ hearts. So we were excited to visit this church we had heard so much about.
I don’t think we were quite prepared for what we would experience that Sunday.
The moment worship began Amy and I began to weep. The emotions that welled up in us were unexpected and honestly a little overwhelming. We weren’t moved by the talent of the worship band (although they were good), and it wasn’t that we were convicted by the lyrics of the songs (I honestly don’t even remember what songs we sang). As we reflected on our emotional response that morning we both said the same thing, “The Spirit of God was powerfully present in that group of believers.”
We had no way of knowing then how important the family at Ethos Church would become to us. Over the past three years, God has used this church family to heal us, stretch us, grow us, and encourage us as we have continued in our journey with Christ.
So...what does all this have to do with you and this season in our church?
I share all of this because I have a sense that for some in our church family, it will be tempting to hear an unintended message from the church leadership in all of this talk of fasting, prayer, and drawing near to God. The unintended message would be, “Hey Ethos, you’re not doing enough for God. We think you’re lukewarm and don’t have enough faith. In order to get you into shape, we’ve come up with a regimented plan for spiritual improvement. You WILL fast and pray for 30 days in order to make God happy.”
This message, if you’ve heard it or been tempted to listen to it, is the furthest thing from the truth…it’s actually the opposite of the truth! It is actually our belief in God’s present work in our church that excites us about walking into the next 30 days with you.
We see your pursuit of God and the ways of His Kingdom in your selfless generosity. We see your love of His word in your fervent note taking and flipping of well-worn Bible pages during sermons. We see the servant heart of Jesus in the way you respond to the needs of others in our church family and of those in our city. We see your desire to know God more in the way so many of you showed up at all hours of the day & night to pray during a 24 hour prayer vigil. We see your dedication to Kingdom purposes in the way so many of you take initiative in starting and leading new ministries for our city and our church. We see your courage and leadership in the way you step out to lead House Churches or to put yourself out there in order to grow in community.
In short, we see clearly the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our church family. We believe in what God is doing in you and we believe strongly in all that God wants to do through you. If God has already been drawing near to this family, can you imagine what will happen if we take Him at His word and begin this year with even more radical steps of drawing nearer to Him? “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
I love you Ethos Church. My family loves you and is thankful for you. We are proud to be on this journey with you, and we are full of anticipation about what God is going to do.
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD!” Psalm 31:24