Lori Wilkerson Stewart
It's a God Thing
Updated: Jan 18, 2021
Matt and I are pastoring at Harvest Assembly in Chesapeake, Virginia because of God and God alone. I want to share the back story of how this came to be and also share where God is leading Harvest in 2021.
As many of you know, in 2009 we planted Three in One Church in Suffolk, Va. (now Relate Church). When we stepped down from pastoring there in May 2018, we were looking for a church where we could rest and take an extended sabbatical. After 30 years in full time ministry, we felt God leading us to take a much needed break. Harvest Assembly is one of the first churches we visited, and we were amazed by how friendly everyone was. I think 20 families came to shake our hands that morning! However, when I realized the church did not have a pastor, I thought to myself, “Whatever we do, we must not attend this church. They will find out Matt’s a licensed pastor, and they’ll want him for the job.” Don’t get me wrong … I loved the church, but I really needed a sabbatical!
So, we found another church and got plugged in. About that time, I moved into another role at CBN as Managing Producer for 700 Club Interactive, a job I never would have taken as a pastor’s wife. Matt’s real estate business grew and he also started health coaching. Fast forward to February 2020. I received another promotion and became a line producer for The 700 Club (another job I would not have taken if I was a pastor’s wife!). Simultaneously, God began to stir us to look for another church, so one Sunday in February we visited Harvest again; we enjoyed the service but a guest speaker was preaching that day. So, we decided to try it one more time to hear the pastor. About that time, COVID hit and all churches moved their services online. That’s when we began to watch Harvest and discovered their phenomenal pastor- Ray Kirkland! What an amazing preacher! As soon as Harvest announced they would meet in person again, our family made reservations to attend. We immediately loved Pastor Ray and Pastor Gail, and little by little we became good friends. Soon, Pastor Ray gave Matt an opportunity to speak on a Wednesday night, and we finally felt like we were where we belonged.
In July, I could see my husband was very unhappy in real estate and was seriously considering getting back into ministry. I realized this could mean us having to leave Hampton Roads to take a church somewhere else, which made me sad because I really loved it here. Ever since we moved to Virginia in 2007, I felt like I was home—like I’d finally found my 3 “p’s”: my place, my people, and my purpose. But I loved my husband, and I knew it may be time for me to lay that all down. On July 25th, I told Matt that I wanted him to feel free to pursue ministry, no matter where that might take us.
Matt knew he needed to hear from God before he made any major decisions. So he decided to begin a 21-day Daniel fast on July 28. That’s when things started getting very interesting. In the weeks that followed, Matt received two prophecies from two people at church that we didn’t know—both mentioned a new promotion/ministry coming. Then, on August 12, Pastor Ray invited us out after church on a Wednesday night. During our meal he told us, “I invited you both here to share with you some important news. Because of my mother’s illness, Gail and I will be leaving Harvest and moving back to Arizona. Matt, we want you and Lori to take over for us and pastor this church.” Matt and I almost spit out our food! We were completely shocked and speechless!
I’m pretty sure we zoned out for much of what he said next—was this really happening? This seemed too good to be true! Was God really handing us the lead pastor position of a wonderful, spirit-filled church only 8 minutes from our home? Pastor Ray said it wasn’t official yet—we would need to meet with the elders, and they would need to give their approval before we could proceed. I’ll never forget what he told us that night … he said, “When people begin to find out you are going to be the new pastors and they ask how this happened, we all just need to say: ‘It’s a God thing.’”
So, we prayed for God’s will and waited for the big meeting with cautious optimism. Then, on August 17 (exactly 21 days since Matt’s fast began!), we met with the elders and received their full blessing. WOW! This IS a God thing! However, we wondered how the church would feel about us as their new pastors—after all, because of a prior change to the church by-laws the members would not get to vote on us. We didn’t even have to “try out!” A few weeks passed. Then, on the last Sunday of September, Pastor Ray announced he was leaving and then proceeded to introduce us—the new pastors—to the church. And the miracle continued ... on that day and ever since then, the church body has welcomed us with open arms.
The following Sunday, we were installed as the new pastors of Harvest Assembly. All the leadership gathered around us, prophesied over us and gave us their full blessing. It has been a whirlwind of wonderful! We feel like we were born for such a time as this. Then, three months into our new position, Matt and I both came down with COVID. It’s obvious the enemy does not want us to start 2021 with vision or momentum. But he will NOT have the victory! What the enemy has meant for evil, God will use it for good! On January 3, Harvest began a 21-day fast, and at the same time our church moved back online because of a spike in COVID cases. What will happen at the end of this fast? If God answers our prayers, I believe this is what’s coming: more salvations, more healings, more people filled with the Holy Spirit, more love for our community, more volunteers who have a heart to serve, more God-dreams birthed, more answers to prayer, and my personal favorite: more prodigals returning to Jesus! In other words, BREAKTHROUGH is coming! And when the unexplainable miracles happen, you know what I will say: “It’s a GOD-THING!!”