- "We are called to be radiant, at rest, overflowing. He desires a resting place upon His people, and when His presence comes to dwell in and upon us, He will give us rest."
In early 2010, I was introduced to a business owner in the Oak Lawn area of downtown Dallas. This man owned a chain of veterinarian clinics throughout the Dallas metroplex, and his flagship clinic and corporate offices were in the Oak Lawn neighborhood.
The business owner had decided to set aside the second floor of this prime business real estate space for Kingdom purposes. He wanted to see how God might use it, and specifically desired for it to be a space that would host worship and prayer. In February 2010, with the sound of dogs barking in the background, I walked into what he described as “the upper room” for the first time.
The room was about 5000 square feet. It looked like a former corporate office with old cubicles, a low white ceiling, and fluorescent lights. The centerpiece of the room were the southwest windows. From there you had a great view of the iconic skyline of downtown Dallas.
Passover was just two months away. In my personal devotional time with the Lord, He had been speaking to me out of Mark chapter 14 where Jesus instructed His disciples to go into the city and follow a man carrying a pitcher of water. If they followed this servant, they would be led to the servant’s master, the owner of a building where Jesus intended to host Passover, the last supper.
When I read Mark 14, I felt like it mirrored what was taking place in my life. I had found the “servant” in my city who introduced me to the owner of a building. This owner had made preparations for Jesus and His disciples to gather. At this point, all I knew to do was to be obedient to the Lord and accept the invitation to gather and pray in this upper room.
Passover would be the start date of a prayer meeting that I assumed would last for just a short time until we had greater understanding about next steps. In fact, we targeted our prayer gatherings to meet from Passover to Pentecost. That would be seven weeks in the upper room, allowing us minimal commitment to the neighborhood, but ample time to plan and pray about what God had next for us. I believed in prayer, of course, but I did not want to be on the hook to lead something that I was not fully committed to. Little did I know, God was setting me up big time.
Over those seven weeks, something beautiful began to unfold that we could not have orchestrated or anticipated. Each Sunday night that we gathered was uniquely marked by God’s manifest presence and leadership. The Lord was very intentional and particular with every step we made. He would not let us simply do what we thought we should do.
It was amazing who would come to these meetings. Divine appointment after divine appointment marked our community each week. As small as it was back then, we both could sense God wanted to do something big.
Even still, I was not certain anything was truly taking root. Church planting is not easy, and church planting in Oak Lawn is virtually impossible. Over the course of a few months, I had seen at least two other church plants come and go in the Oak Lawn area. It was described by one church planter as a “church planting graveyard,”
In hindsight, I realize that Oak Lawn was indeed a graveyard—my personal graveyard. The Lord was stripping me of my preferences, my strengths, and my comforts. I found myself cornered by the Lord in every way imaginable during the first year we lived in Oak Lawn. He was addressing my personal aspirations for a life in Christian leadership and rewriting the script of my ideal life and ministry plans.
Eventually, those early prayer meetings became the center of what we planted our entire community and family around. We did not focus on programs, evangelism, and traditional ministries. We focused on prayer. We did not have a newcomer’s interest class—we just told anyone new who wanted to get involved to commit to a weekly prayer meeting. Over time, the Lord delivered me of boredom in the place of prayer.
I realized that it was the primary and most rich way to connect with the Father, the presence of Jesus,
and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I grew in passion and conviction not just about what we were doing in our prayer meetings, but how we were doing it. I grew in the revelation of the first commandment—to love and minister to Him first—and how to fulfill it in our small prayer meeting settings. God met me in the most unlikely of places, to teach me how to personally love Him and lead others to do the same in a regular corporate expression.
The phrase “minister to me” challenged every paradigm of ministry I had. It would reprioritize my vision, goals, and focus. This kind of correction from Him would forever change me and the people that I lead. It has become one of the sweetest and most life-changing words I have ever received from Jesus, and it has strengthened and sustained me and Lorisa in the past twelve years of ministry.
The early days of the UPPERROOM were unto the Lord stripping me bare. His ways are not our ways. His ways are better and more effective. He was so jealous for this story—this ministry to Him—that He literally stripped me of all that I knew and desired to reveal something so precious: that His leadership is sufficient and so much better than mine. As I have submitted and sat under the Lord’s leadership, He has taught me the things I now offer to you in my book, His House, His Presence.
The Lord is pruning, and shaking everything that can be shaken, and we must embrace His leadership. He is stripping us of the superficiality of cultural Christianity and calling us instead into the depths of His heart. He is bringing His bride back to a pure and simple devotion to Him. He is stripping leaders of our strategies and formulas that sadly have caused His bride to be busy, distracted, and tired. For many of us, this will feel like a burial ground.
We are called to be radiant, at rest, overflowing. He desires a resting place upon His people, and when His presence comes to dwell in and upon us, He will give us rest.
Excerpted with permission from His House, His Presence: Calling the Church to God’s Original Design, by Michael Freeland Miller. Copyright 2023, UPPERROOM Global, Inc.
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