Hello everyone, I’m Steve Hofmeister and I welcome you to a long overdue episode of Quick Points.
So much has happened since last October, I almost don’t know where to start. I know the last episode was in February, but to really appreciate the journey I’m going to share, we have to wind back time a bit further.
Normally my podcast is straight to the topical message, and I’ve done it this way to keep the episode run time down in an attempt to not bore you. But in this episode I’m going to lighten things up a bit as it is more personal reflection I’d like to share today.
If you have been following me on social media then you are likely to know I have headed a small struggling ministry here in my home state of Maryland, USA.
Running this ministry has been an uphill battle of half hearted supporters, budget shortfalls, and challenges to our convictions and beliefs. Despite all of this I trudged forward.
In October (we are talking October 2023, for those who may listen to this at a later time) I had to hit the brakes for a few months and enter into extensive occupational therapy for a disease I have had since childhood called Lymphedema.
Sparing the extensive detail, this occupational therapy is physically taxing on my body, and exhausting on the mind, so as you can imagine doing any kind of work during this time ministry or otherwise is next to impossible.
This therapy commenced several days a week over the course of several months. Which brings us to March. Yeah I managed to get an episode or two out, but that was quite an effort I have to say. The payoff though is it did a world of good for my physical ability, and I learned just how generous people can be. Some of the items I require to maintain an active lifestyle with my disease are incredibly expensive, and there were many wonderful people who stepped up to help me fill this need. Thankfully if all goes well thanks to new legislation these items will be covered by insurance next year.
Eagar to get back to work after the COVID19 pandemic chaos that made a community based ministry next to impossible to operate I found it very difficult to get the pre-COVID momentum back that the ministry had been building.
Several key people I thought were going to be my strongest of supporters did not stand up when called back to the trenches, and others had drifted in their belief in the mission. I think the hardest part was calling on those the ministry had provided help to, that said they would help out but would not even return a phone call.
As for the money side of ministry, soliciting financial support has never been a favorite task of mine. You hear and see people grumbling that churches and ministries “Only want Your Money” I say to that money is what keeps the lights on and the doors open. It’s not about the money, its about the mission, and the mission needs resources, resources cost money. In the beginning days I was registered with a large well known wedding services directory online. This income resource proved to be very useful in financing our young work. That would come to a screeching halt one afternoon when I received an email informing me I had been removed for violating their terms of service.
That term of service violation was my refusal to perform same-sex ceremonies. This is a matter that I refuse to compromise on, I strongly feel it is not of God’s design, not biblically supported, therefore I don’t support it. This wedding directory resource being our sole income source meant that to continue I either needed to find other funding sources or finance things from my own pocket.
As you can imagine its not easy to obtain donors for a young ministry, especially one not affiliated with a denominational hierarchy. Add on top that we were not “Planting a church” but trying to be a catalyst to unite Christian and churches in a kingdom mindset in an inter community environment. This would prove to be our undoing in the end.
We had filed back in January with the Internal Revenue Service for a 501 (c) (3) Non-Profit Exemption. We had several local businesses that were willing to help out if we had this. This brings us to the beginning of June 2023.
Having spent a great deal of money from my own pocket to keep the ministry surviving, we received a letter in the mail from the IRS informing us that they wanted us to organize as a religious foundation. This would classify us in the completely wrong direction than we would need to continue.
I wrestled and lost a few nights of sleep on this as I knew I would have to enter that conversation of throwing in the towel. Surprisingly, I did not face the backlash I expected from those remaining on the Board of Directors, and a few supporters left with unfulfilled promises. Thankfully those supporters understood the situation.
Feeling some relief from the angst I was feeling but still feeling kind of lost in the space of it all, I prayed, “Lord, I know you have something in store here, and everything is to your timing and not my own. I feel you are doing something here, this is happening to smoothly and too fast not to be your work. I am ready to see if you are ready to show it.”
Now I have to tell you, I’m not normally the “Show Me Lord” kind of person. I don’t believe that God normally provides on demand like this. This night he did.
I said this prayer and went on to do my usual bedtime social media rounds not giving it another thought. As I scrolled through Facebook I saw the usual stuff some good, some absolutely horrible, but then I scrolled into an advertisement gleaming at me with the colors of red, yellow, and white advertising a new church plant in my community.
I had not seen such an ad like this for a church plant cross my Facebook feeds like this before so naturally I was curious. When I investigated further clearly visible in my inspection are the words “You Belong Here.” I thought my heart was going to skip right out of my chest. It was like God was pointing right to an X on a treasure map. I calmed myself and checked out the website to learn they were going to have their first public service Wednesday at 7pm. I said, “Whoa!, I have to check this out.” This transpired just before midnight the night before.
The following morning I went back to the website to fill out the registration form only to find it had already been made unavailable. Something told me to pick up the phone and call the number on the website.
A quick side note, I have never been a big fan of making phone calls. In the course of my ministry I had made many phone calls to churches in the community and rarely received a warm welcome let alone professional courtesy of speaking with the Pastor directly.
I dialed the phone expecting an answering machine or at the least a gatekeeper like the many I encountered. Instead, I got Pastor Michael Eufemia. I explained to him that I was a fellow minister in the area and wanted to come show my support. He welcomed me with open arms to join him for this first service. I felt and energy surge up my spine of excitement I had not felt in several years.
I would come to meet Andrew Cole the Assistant Pastor as well that evening, and would join them both later that week for lunch where we became better acquainted. Pastor Michael would confess our lunch that he initially was not going to answer the strange number calling him, but something told him he needed to answer the phone.
Several weeks in now I have been made to feel as one of the team and my son has come on board as well. The process to dissolve my ministry organization has begun, as I will be committing my efforts now on supporting Michael and Andrew and the growth of the wonderful church plant of Charm City Church in Abingdon, Maryland that has accepted me as part of their family.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) speaks of this best, and it would be fair to say that I lost sight of this until this recent course of events. God has an amazing and loving way of waking us up sometimes.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
Just as I am as susceptible to losing my focus on God as anyone else, we have to remember that not all things are meant for us to know right away. We can’t see through God’s eyes. But our “eyes” should always be attentive to God’s direction. I like what the Psalms share on this in Psalms 123:1-2.
I lift my eyes to you,
O God, enthroned in heaven.
2 We keep looking to the LORD our God for his mercy,
just as servants keep their eyes on their master,
as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.
Psalms 123:1-2 (NLT)
I can make a fairly confident guess that there has been a time in your own life that things looked bleak or you were in despair that things could only get worse. Instead something would happen that would turn the tide and make for a better overall situation. Don’t neglect to thank God in these moments. We might not understand the grand plan in entirety, but Does does. But how do we know this to be true? This aspect of God having a plan for us is not a new concept or fad of Christian design. The Prophet Jeremiah spoke of this in Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT).
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT)
Now Jeremiah was no novice to struggle and hard times. He often spoke and preached in environments surrounded by danger and to those who would not hesitate to argue against him and even potential harm him for doing so. He was a true example of faith during discouragement and challenges.
I want to note something about this scripture. Jeremiah prophesied God’s word let’s look at this portion for a moment, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
What I want to point out is bumping your toe or scraping your knees might be unpleasant and maybe a little painful sometimes, but this experience is still far from a disaster. Sometimes it will be in God’s plan for us to face some unpleasant experiences. We will face disappointments and trials. I recently shared in a bible study with my peers this example of God.
God is not a Father standing with is arms crossed with a scow on his face presenting an intimidating presence of terror based fear. The “fear” of God is another way of saying a respect for God.
God is more like the Father running beside a child on his first attempt to ride a bike without training wheels. Though the Father has a love for his child he knows that he will have to remove his hand from the bike for the child to face the challenge of riding unassisted. Thought the Father never takes his eyes off the child, the child may veer off and crash into the neighbors bush in the process, the Father is right there to pick the child up, brush them off and put them and the bike right back on the road to continue the journey. God knows we are not perfect, but even with that imperfectness he loves us and has plans for us.
Even when we are set on a course that might not go according to our perception or plan, sometimes just the experience of it is preparation for better things to come. I have no regrets now about my ministry closing down. It was just the process God was using to prepare me for his greater plan. Sure, I went flying off the road and crashed into that neighbors bush, but God was right there. Ready to dust me off and put me right back on the road again. The same goes for you as well if you keep your focus on God and have faith in his guidance.
I hope you have found what I have shared today to be fulfilling and thought provoking, and as always I’d love to hear your input or answer any questions you might have in future episodes. You can share your thoughts and questions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can record a voice message which I will share in the episode if you wish. I know sometimes typing something doesn’t ring as well as it does when you verbally explain it, and you can share this by clicking the record message button at quickpointspodcast.com/contact.
If you live or happen to be in the Harford County, Maryland Area, and would like to check out a wonderful new church of friendly people that meets on a Wednesday night instead of Sunday morning then check out Charm City Church. You can visit the website at c3abingdon.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/c3abingdon
I’m Steve Hofmeister, I thank you for listening to Quick Points, and may Christ be with you.