By Kaleb and Kate Phillips
God has been doing work, and the enemy has been on the attack. I wish I could describe and explain all of the ways that God has orchestrated events in our lives and ministry over the past several weeks and months, but honestly, I’m still pretty overwhelmed. We have been, and are still, facing a lot of darkness. Sometimes it feels like we’re completely in the dark. Sometimes it feels more like drowning. Literally, we have been facing such heavy spiritual attacks that we are experiencing physical symptoms. Last night in our house church our family was feeling good, ready, excited. Then, several people walked in and the atmosphere completely changed, there was a heaviness, a burden, a darkness. Our energy was gone, our focus was broken. We prayed through it, happy even if perplexed that these people were present in our home. Honestly, we could have done better. We could have prayed more clearly, more specifically…but God knew our need, and your continued prayers have our back, we believe this. It’s a weird thing to step out of the routine Christian life and step into the real fallen world where people are dying and going to hell, and then to have those people step into your home looking for help. We forget sometimes, we forget that the time is short and that the enemy is real. That he is in our neighborhood and our community. God is good though, he really is, he too is in our neighborhood and community from within us, and we know without a doubt that Jesus is using our family and our simple churches for his glory and purposes in the midst of a lot of tragedy and brokenness.
In October one of the young men involved in our ministry, Donny, accidentally shot and killed himself. It was a senseless tragedy and it hit our church and community very hard. Many of the young men and women in our circles were close to him, and his death was a major shock and reality check. Still is. Will continue to be.
During the days following his death, our home was continually filled with grieving young people and it was a challenge to cope with our own loss and to counsel others. We were the only point of light that many of them knew, and so even some we had not seen for a long time found their way to us. This terrible circumstance is an example of why we are doing what we’re doing. We want to be available, whenever God needs us, to whoever God sends us, and it’s through hard circumstances that people often open themselves up to truth. God really came through in this situation and gave us the words and the energy to say and do what was needed. The ray of hope and peace in this situation came from the knowledge that Donny had given his life to the Lord and that I had baptized him last year. This was a major comfort to his family. I shared the video of Donny’s baptism on Facebook the day he passed away and within 48 hours it had over four thousand views. Hope, in the midst of heartache.
God was working amid the tragedy and I was asked by Donny’s family to officiate his funeral. I was able to share the gospel and to give hope to his friends and family, many of whom were marginalized young people who have never heard the truth about Jesus. I have no doubt that God used years of relationship building by Kate and I in our community to open eyes and ears to his message. Since this time, I have stayed in contact with Donny’s family and have tried to point them towards Christ. Please pray for them as they mourn.
Several of our young guys were deeply affected by Donny’s death and have used it as an excuse to turn back to drugs and alcohol. This continues to be a major daily battle for us, with some on the fringes of our church being recruited into selling and distributing drugs. The drug use and culture has led to deep depression and suicidal thoughts for several of our people, and it’s a challenge to balance our personal role in their lives and the role of prayer and the Holy Spirit. I truly believe that God is using this time to reveal unconfessed sin and bring them to a point of repentance, but it has been difficult.
In the midst of the hard stuff, there is also a lot of amazingly good stuff. Really. There are two young men involved in our church who are honestly just blowing my mind with how they are following Jesus. The transformation in these guys is undeniable as they have come from places of worry and hopelessness to contentment and joy. They are definitely sources of inspiration and role models for our other young men. Both of them can attribute most of their personal and spiritual growth to spending time in prayer and in scripture and in relationships of discipleship. The Word of God is life changing, and I have been really excited to see it changing these guys. I meet with one of them, Eli, every Wednesday for lunch, and the other, Chris, every Thursday for lunch, and lately these meetings have been my major source of encouragement. God has given them both a desire to lead others to Jesus and he’s giving them opportunities to do it. Chris sends out a group text with a scripture passage and devotional message that he writes every morning to over ten other guys and these texts have been powerful tools for him to encourage others in their faith. Please pray for these young men!
Our Wednesday night simple church continues to be blessed. New young people come each week as core members invite their friends to hear about Jesus. We had a great Thanksgiving meal and time of worship and communion last week.
Several young women we have been praying intentionally for during a forty day prayer challenge have moved into the inner circle of our simple church time on Wednesday. Over the past few months, they have literally moved from sitting in the back of their friend’s truck outside, to sitting in the back of our meeting space, to sitting at a table outside of the circle, to sitting within the circle and participating in discussion and prayer time. They also came to the church that meets at our house last week and brought a friend, who works every night except Sunday, because they wanted her to check it out. Before she left she told us she would be back because she wasn’t “into organized religion but this had a really good vibe and I think I need to be here.” Nailed it.
Kate and I had the opportunity to lead worship at a Simple Church Alliance Retreat in October. We were blessed to spend the weekend with other house church leaders in our area as well as from around the county and were able to share some of the worship music that we have written through our church. We left the weekend feeling very refreshed and encouraged and God used that strength to carry us through the last few weeks of hardship.
What Are We Doing With All This?
What’s our role as a missionary family? How are we tackling the real-life bad stuff and the tough days and the roller coaster up and down faith that we see? We have to ask ourselves this every day to make sure that we are doing what Jesus did. The environments that our young people live in our predominantly negative and devoid of the influence of Christ, and so our main course of ministry continues to be daily meetings with the ones that God has drawn to us. We make ourselves available, we eat, we drink, and we spend time together. We gather with two or three in coffee shops, one on one, or in small groups in our home; to pray together, to talk about the basic teachings of Jesus, and to reflect on his movement in our lives. To have God conversations. Every day. Each day. Simple church.
In the trenches of real life, we meet people where they are. These conversations are the bread and butter of our disciple-making. We make disciples one conversation at a time. Along with these conversations, praying together with those in our church is probably the most important thing we do. It keeps us connected, it reminds us of who we worship and serve, and it gives us an opportunity to invite God into the seemingly insurmountable problems that we often face. And then, when something big happens, whether it’s tragedy or triumph, the groundwork is laid, the relationship is built, the roots are there, and Jesus can step in move in really big ways because we did the little stuff every day, we sowed the seeds down in the trenches. If you aren’t making disciples right now in your life, I encourage you to start with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, one conversation at a time.
This is an excerpt from Kate and Kaleb’s most recent newsletter to their friends, families, and supporters. You can learn more about their ministry and view the entire newsletter here.