The Ananias Project
As pioneers made their way through the halls of Heritage Fellowship Church for the 2018 Fresh Expressions US National Gathering, they encountered many new, engaging tools and resources for their journey on mission. As they opened their detailed programs they came across a page sharing about the Fresh Expressions US Prayer Ministry referred to as The Ananias Project.
Who was Ananias? In Acts 9 we meet this man who is spoken to by Jesus in the night, we assume. This man is humble, yet bold as he wrestles with God about the instructions he has been given to go and speak to the man on Straight Street. Ananias knew who that man was. He knew he was an adversary to Christians. He knew this assignment would be dangerous. However, Ananias was also obedient to God. In this short chapter we see a nobody, Ananias, go and lay hands on a mighty man, Paul, who was called to do great things for the Kingdom of God. Ananias was to be the transformation tool in Paul’s life. The one to speak life into Paul, encourage him, draw near to him, be the instrument to heal him and empower him with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After Acts 9 do we ever hear about Ananias again? No. His assignment was brief, but poignant and purpose driven by the God of universe. This is the Ananias Project. We are raising up men and women, like Ananias, who are called to meet with, encourage, empower, and speak prophetically into the leaders and pioneers for this movement called Fresh Expressions.
Taking Time to Listen
I first met Cheryl McCarthy in July of 2017. I had no idea who she was or what her role in Fresh Expressions (FX) was. I had been invited to the FX staff retreat for the first time and Cheryl and I met in the living room of the retreat center in Pennsylvania. Little did I know the impact that Cheryl and her Ananias Prayer Ministry would have on my life and ministry.
At that retreat, the group spent time intentionally listening to God. I can’t tell you how many times I had encouraged my congregation to engage in this practice, but I had a very small view of what God might do or say in these times. When I considered prayer, despite my challenging people to not just talk at God, I still viewed prayer predominantly in this way. The FX team was actually doing very little talking at God and a lot of listening to God and they HEARD God speak (or at least they claimed to, I was a little weirded out and wasn’t quite sure what to do with all of this).
Over the next eight months God brought me on a journey that involved first and foremost, seeking him. Trying to understand how to listen more intentionally to God. I “experimented” a couple of times with my staff at church trying to take times to listen together. Quietly, God started to speak, and to be honest, I was still very skeptical.
When March 2018 rolled around, and I made the trek to Virginia for the FX National Gathering, I had no idea what God had in store for me. We started the event with a staff gathering and a prayer time, led by Cheryl and the Ananias Prayer team. I expected the prayer time to be sitting around talking at God and telling him how we thought the event should unfold and what we expected him to do, as well as requesting him to make our wishes a reality. It didn’t take long until I realized God had much bigger things in mind for this group during time of prayer. One by one, Cheryl, Missy Temme, Gannon Sims, Michael Beck, Luke Taylor, and others anointed and prayed over each and every person in the room. It was not the cursory fifteen-minute prayer time I was expecting. Instead, God showed up and spoke. As the team prayed over each individual the Holy Spirit ministered, encouraged, emboldened, and equipped for the week to come. It was not us telling God what we wanted, but listening to what God wanted for us throughout the week.
Everything that was spoken over me in prayer was so perfect. It was obviously not simple words from people, but the voice of God sharing his heart with mine. One of the things Gannon shared with me was that God was challenging me that week to be more open to him and what he had to do and say. I wanted desperately to explain all of this away, after all, I thought God didn’t work this way anymore, but God had greater things in mind for me.
Throughout the week, I sought out Cheryl, Luke, and others from the Ananias team to learn more. I sent my team to the Ananias team for prayer as well. Through each conversation, I experienced the unfolding of the Holy Spirit in a new way in my life. Doors in my heart were opened that I didn’t even know existed. Bars were swung open and God began to do an exciting new work in my heart and life. I left with a new understanding and great expectation for what God was about to do in my life and in his church.
We Listen, God Speaks
Upon returning to PA to my family and my congregation, I began to see God working all around me in ways I never expected. The Holy Spirit continued to show up in new ways and in power. He began to manifest his presence in worship, in conversations, and in alone times with him. I started to see and hear God do incredible things. God started to show me people who were already in my life who had been experiencing his working and moving in the same way. People in the church started to comment that “something was different” and that they could see the presence of the Holy Spirit in a fresh, new way. It is hard to contain the excitement for where God is taking us. I am so thankful to the Ananias Prayer team for their willingness to let God speak through them and their faithfulness to him. I can’t wait to see what is next as God opens hearts to the work of his spirit!
If you would like more information on how you can connect with the Ananias Prayer Team or schedule an Ananias Prayer Retreat, please contact us at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Snedeker is the Lead Pastor of Community Evangelical Church in Sinking Spring, PA—a congregation that averages about 400 in attendance on Sunday mornings. He began working with Community in September of 1993 as the youth pastor and has served in many different roles until becoming the Lead Pastor in April of 2012. Mike has a passion for church multiplication and fell in love with the FX model about 3 years ago. Over the past year, Community has passionately pursued making disciples in and out of the church and has partnered with Fresh Expressions to help establish new ministry models in and around Berks County, PA. Mike Snedeker is married to his wife Beth for 23 years and is the proud father of two girls, Allysa and Cassidy.