Discovering the Secret of Lasting Fruitfulness
With broken hearts, we sat in the Steak and Ale trying to celebrate our 15th anniversary, but the waves of discouragement and hopelessness that had overwhelmed us for months robbed us of any joy.
After seven years in ministry, the vision that God had given us to take healing and restoration to the nations had slowly drained away amidst the many disappointments and wounds that we had received in life and ministry. Our family was burned out because I had been more committed to ministry than to love and intimacy. We did not have any strength left to deal with another difficult person. We just wanted to run away to a deserted land and hide and medicate our pain. But where would we go and how would we make a living?
I asked my wife, Trisha, the question that we had asked so many others in pastoral counseling situations: "If you could do anything with your life, and money was not an issue, what would it be?" We both took time to quietly contemplate this question, and then wrote our answers down on separate napkins. As we compared notes, we were amazed to see that the Lord had spoken the same thing to both of us:
"Establish a place of healing and restoration for leaders who, like you, feel that they have nowhere to go to receive love, encouragement, and acceptance."
It was December 22, 1991, when that word from Father's heart began to lift us out of a pit of despair and restore to us a reason for being. A few weeks later, with very little money, we left our ministry position, moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and began Shiloh Place Ministries in a small home near the beach. We believed that one day we would have a cabin in the woods where leaders could find a safe place to receive healing and restoration in their families and ministries. Immediately, discouraged leaders began to come in search of someone who understood their pain. In the daytime, we would weep with them through hours of prayer ministry, and at night, make them feel like they belonged and were a part of our family as they stayed in our home.
As of 1995, our ministry had remained small and obscure, though leaders came almost every week. We slaved away trying to raise enough money to survive and to see the vision that God had given us fulfilled. My aggressive striving to build the ministry influenced me to fall back into old patterns of spending my life giving to others that which rightly belonged to my wife and children. I had a deep need to be needed and a desire to appear spiritually mature and anointed, but I had very little energy left to love at home. Trisha had been that route with me before, and she had had enough; she was contemplating a way out. Others respected and believed in me because of my compassion and for the long hours I put in ministering to them, but Trisha seemed so jealous and angry at my dedication to ministry.
The busier I became, the more our marriage deteriorated. So I took her to Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in November 1995 in hopes that she would experience something that would “straighten her out” and help her appreciate what a man of God I was. I had been involved in renewal for about a year, but she did not see any value in it. She said that she would not accept that it was of God until it caused her husband to focus more upon love and intimacy at home than using the anointing to build a ministry and to try to impress people and God.
It was during this trip that I found myself on the Fire Hall floor at TACF, crying uncontrollably for 45 minutes in the loving embrace of Father God.
Years of insecurity and fear from striving to earn love and acceptance through hyper-religious activity began melting away. For the first time, I could see how much I had neglected and hurt my wife and children by always seeking to be there for others who were in need within my church but rarely being available to comfort and nurture my own family.
During the four months that followed, I would often break down sobbing when I looked into my children's eyes. I would see the pain that they carried of not feeling like they had a safe and secure place in my heart, and I would end up on my knees before them weeping and pleading for forgiveness for my inability to nurture them. Those months transformed our two youngest children as humility and repentance opened the door for Father's love to flow through me into their broken hearts. It took several more years for it to affect my oldest son. Trisha's and my relationship began to step into realms of intimacy that we never knew were possible. She now says that those 45 minutes in Father's loving embrace in Toronto changed me more than the previous 15 years combined of getting saved, being filled with the Holy Spirit, going to Bible school, and receiving years of deliverance and emotional healing.
Once we began to experience intimacy at home, we no longer needed ministry to get our needs for love and acceptance met. We just knew that Father loved us in spite of our faults and weaknesses, and that we were created to give His love away to each other at home. With each new breakthrough in healing and restoration in our family came greater fruitfulness in ministry to others. It took us 15 years to realize that it is not spiritual knowledge, gifts, position, and hyper-religious activity that lead to true success. It is love and intimacy in relationships that precede lasting fruitfulness in life and ministry! (See Matthew 11:25-30, 22:37-40; John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, 13:1-13; Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 5:8; 1 Peter 3:1-7; 1 John 4:7-20.)
Over the last eight years, Father's love, humility and intimacy has expanded our vision and abilities and Shiloh Place has impacted millions of people throughout the nations. We had previously only wanted a small cabin in the woods where one couple a week could come. But now, we are building a retreat center on 58 acres of secluded, beautiful forest land with ponds and wildlife. There are 11 staff members, 54 ministry team members, and many volunteers who work together to see the world experience the Father's healing love through the hearts of leaders.
Each week, leaders from the nations can be found weeping in our prayer ministry rooms as Father's love displaces the fear and pain of feeling like they have never had a home - a haven of rest where they are loved and accepted just as they are. Regular retreats are being held that equip leaders to minister healing and restoration in their cities. Shiloh Place teams are traveling to the nations to conduct leaders' retreats. Ministers and missionaries have come from every inhabited continent and are having intimacy and vision restored. Our videos, books, tapes, and training materials are being used in many countries and languages to equip parents and leaders to help their children and the broken-hearted experience Father's affectionate love.
John & Carol Arnott have said many times, “The greatest gifts you can give to the local church are leaders with healed hearts!” Healthy leaders do not guarantee a healthy church, but unhealthy leaders guarantee an unhealthy church. Our chaotic world is ripe for revival. But first, this renewal is preparing our hearts so that our character is able to sustain an increase of His power and signs and wonders. If our hearts are not first rooted and grounded in love and intimacy, we are easily tempted to consume the blessings and power of God upon our own lusts, and we leave a trail of broken relationships behind.
We are so thankful for John and Carol and the church family at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship for being a safe place for us.
You were the mail carriers God used to deliver a love letter to us about what an affectionate Father He is. That revelation became our experience and saved our marriage, restored the hearts of our children to us, and empowered us and the Shiloh Place team members to be the message of Father's affectionate love in the nations. And this is only the beginning!