By Tim Collier
November 20, 2018
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” - Isaiah 54:2
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” - John 12:24
Over the course of the life of the Stockbridge Boiler Room, these two scripture passages have been prophetically prayed over our community more times than I can count. Lord forgive me, I think I’ve even rolled my eyes a couple of times when they were prayed over us as a community because we had heard them so many times. I think because of my own stubbornness and personal belief in smaller grassroots, local community-based initiatives as well as the cumulative power in the faithfulness of a long obedience in the same direction, it took me a bit longer to recognize that God was bringing a significant transition and I/we began to pay attention to what that might be. We are excited to see that the Lord is leading the Stockbridge Boiler Room into a new season with an expanded mission spanning the Great Lakes Region and our own city with prayer and spiritual friendship continuing at the heart of it, as it has been from the start. I want to take a moment to share a bit more about how we’ve come to this point---and this includes pieces of a few different stories that are intertwined: 1) my own personal story as a primary leader of the SBR, 2) our local community’s story, and 3) the larger unfolding story of our parent organization/extended family, 24-7 Prayer USA.
Two years ago, Christmas Eve day, I was trying to enjoy a low-key celebration with extended family. This phrase entered my mind out of what seemed like no-where, “Fostering Prayerful Friendship.” It continued to resonate louder and louder in my mind throughout the day and got to the point where it felt like I could strangely feel this phrase bouncing around in my body, (yes, that’s weird, I know). I took stole a moment by myself in a bedroom and just acknowledge what was happening to me with God, and surrender myself to whatever He might have for me in this. Throughout the next year, I continued to discern and surrender to what this might mean, and it led me to simply spending more time intentionally connecting with other leaders around our city to simply foster a spirit of friendship, and pray with and for one another.
That following year, our community took six weeks to wait on the Lord together with no agenda up to worship and listen to His voice. One of the primary themes that came out of this season was to “steward sacred space.” We took this at face value and began making plans to renovate and recommission the prayer garage as a permanent prayer room---a place of encounter.
Alongside these two movements in our community locally, the Lord brought us into a much more significant and strategic partnership with our parent organization 24-7 Prayer USA. I accepted an invitation to step onto the national lead team as we gained a wonderful new national director, Lisa Koons, based down in Charlotte, NC. We began a campaign to reconnect with individuals/communities around the country who are walking out the vision and values of 24-7 Prayer in their contexts but haven’t been as connected to the wider movement as in the past. Our eyes were opened to see that God IS AT WORK in incredible ways through people and prayer around the country and the Great Lakes---although there’s too much to tell to do justice to it here. We also began implementing a new structure to support the relationships and movements of God’s work, which is to begin identifying and releasing leaders in their cities as 24-7 City Coordinators.
As I (Tim) continued to get more involved in this national initiative, especially in the Great Lakes Region, this story of God’s movement on the national front has become more intertwined with the story of our local Boiler Room community. I went through a long journey of internal work during this time, asking myself some big and hard questions, paying attention to my life story, natural graces and gifts. After much soul-searching and prayerful reflection, I penned this WHY statement: My WHY is to foster communities of belonging and encounter and build bridges of relationship and thought, so that everyone will know the Father’s love. It soon became clear that the Lord was inviting me to step into a new role with 24-7 Prayer USA serving the Great Lakes Region as a regional coordinator. Later in the year, we discerned a similar shift for our local Boiler Room community to reposition ourselves as an ecumenical prayer community along these same lines of serving a broader arena for the Great Lakes states and our city. Many of our current community members have such a grace for this orientation already, and we are excited to see how the Lord will build bridges in the church through relationship and inspire and catalyze new movements of unity, prayer, mission, and justice in the church as we seek His face together. We anticipate that this will open new doors of relationship, partnership, and foster new breakthroughs in transformation as the Lord works in ways we cannot yet see in our city, region, and our nation.
PLEASE BE PRAYING with us as we walk through this transition. We trust the Spirit’s guidance and know that His wisdom is brilliant and trustworthy at every turn. We also trust the Father’s provision for everything that we will need as we step forward with Him.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
So what does this mean practically for the Boiler Room in the short-term?
Resume Prayer Garage Renovation Projects: Last winter we had a fundraiser to renovate the prayer garage. After pausing this project so that we could put some clear focus on the big questions we had begun discerning with the Boiler Room Network oversight team and 24-7 Prayer USA leadership, we are now resuming the renovation project by tearing up the damaged carpet and replacing it with some beautiful and water-proof vinyl flooring. We believe this will be a great improvement. We are also, consulting with some permanent prayer room leaders around the country about practical prayer room set up to make this prayer room accessible and welcoming for people and demographics of all kinds.
Closing the current chapter of regular Love Feasts: Another thing that seems clear to us is that the season for regular Love Feast community meals specifically in our neighborhood is to come to a close. We have loved these beautiful evenings of shared meals and celebrating the Father’s Love with neighbors for the last decade, but we know that to give ourselves fully to the work God has put before us, this is one of the “kernels of wheat” that must fall to the ground in order to produce many more seeds.
Discern a new rhythm of gatherings: We have bared witness to the great transforming work the Presence of Christ does in our midst when we prioritize gathering around shared meals in His name and praying together. We want to continue to prioritize this in a new rhythm that will fit this new season. We want these gatherings to be more accessible to friends from all different churches in our city and all walks of life, so we will use some time to receive input and discern the location, frequency, and flow for the new rhythm of gatherings.
What does this mean practically for the Boiler Room as a community and non-profit ministry?
Embracing our roots anew as a monastic house-of-prayer style community: The SBR started as a monastic prayer community and hospitality house with a mission for the local neighborhood---which evolved into a missional community church plant. We’ve learned so much about being the church and God’s family through this journey and now we are sensing a lead to embrace that original identity as a monastic/house of prayer style community, stewarding sacred space in the city, fostering prayerful friendship throughout the church[es] and offering hospitality to 24-7 Prayer pilgrims from around the Great Lakes Region.
Leadership structure: We will be making adjustments to our leadership structure and stewardship teams to make sure we are set up for longterm health and continue to grow shared ownership among community members. The SBR will continue as registered 501c3 with Tim as director.
Name Change: We anticipate a name change in the very near future. Look out!
Boiler Room Network Partnership in the Great Lakes Region: One exciting thing to note about all this is that as this is all happening, the Boiler Room Network (the other wing of the 24-7 Prayer organization) is also strategically regionalizing. Milwaukee, WI is being established as an apostolic resource hub to catalyze new church-planting communities, and the strong partnering relationships that exist here between 24-7 Prayer and local Boiler Room Network leaders will bring much new opportunity for a focused renewal of the church and transformation of the culture in our region! Come, Lord Jesus!
What about the local neighborhood mission?
Remaining in the neighborhood, Partnering with local churches: While we are expanding our focus and mission to a much wider geographical area, The Prayer Garage and Community House continue to be based out of the local West Side neighborhood. The last several years have seen an explosion of beautiful new church plants in the West Side (and older churches growing in strength and mission!). Many of our community members also live and own homes on the West Side still and we know that the Lord will only continue to use us and the many new church plants and ministries targeting our West Side neighborhood to reach neighbors. Though our primary strategic efforts won’t be focused on local outreach, we trust that the Spirit’s work through our presence in the West Side and partnership with others in this season will bring about a deeper and wider impact than we’ve experienced before.