I tend to make things complicated. I guess we all do. Three years ago God wonderfully ruined my life–in terms of changing all the plans I had made or wanted to make. He opened my heart from an intellectual assent of what Jesus did for me–one I said “thank you” to and continued to live my life–to a humbled amazement of what He really did for me. I have not been the same since. Religious disciplines and responsibilities were buzz kills and obligations. Now I desire to obey God out of love and gratitude for the grace I have received. It’s an understanding of what Jesus saved me from and wanting–needing–to tell people about it! God chose me, when He saved me, to do this: to make His name known throughout the whole world because it is His desire to be worshipped by everyone.
Some of the teachers and studies God used in these past three years completely changed my perspective. I haven’t read the Bible the same way since. Before, if I did read at all, it was very me-centered. What can I get out of this? But then scales fell off my eyes and I saw in every letter of the Word that this story is not about me at all, but about God’s glory and it’s a rich redemption history that points to Jesus Christ. Now (ironically) I can’t get enough of this book! I fell into the American dream spin of the Church and realized I’ve only lived as a Christian consumer. That’s a complete oxymoron. I accepted the system that said pray a prayer, go to church, give and serve some defined amount, and you are fit for heaven. Was faith there? Maybe; but I don’t know. I did a lot of good things for Christ. But the Bible speaks very clearly on how such people fool themselves about their standing before God, and I could have very well been a fool. Because was there a biblical obedience of faith there? The kind of authentic faith that induces repentance and willing obedience. Certainly not. But when God woke me up to the fact that my unchanged heart was really no heart for God at all, everything changed.
One of the teachers in the Perspectives class I took in 2012 had a very similar analogy of what we’re prone to do in the American church. He said we invite people to say some words, sit them in a pew, give them something to do like the “coffee ministry” and tell them they are good to go. Well, I’ve come to realize in the past few months that my “coffee ministry” has been my work at church as the technical director. I’ve lived under Satan’s (or my own) misdirection that said I was fulfilling my purpose in this time and place by doing what I do for my church. And don’t get me wrong, what I do is a very good thing and I have a huge passion for making the gospel seen and heard through the wise and excellent use of technology. But I took it too far and said “this is it; someone else can tell others about Jesus”.
12 years later, I am not satisfied with this any more. And that’s because God is not satisfied with this. There are 2.6 billion people in some 6,500 people groups who have never even heard of what Jesus has done for them. No access to the gospel. They are born, live their entire lives, and die having never heard the gospel. They are plunging into an eternal hell. Speaking of technology, how is this possible in such a time of global interconnectedness? I don’t know, but it is the reality. And we are the workers who are commanded to take the good news. This is no obligation I avoid any more. After encountering Jesus in a way only God could reveal Him, I know this is my glorious privilege and purpose.
So it is that I am taking an extended leave from my responsibilities at church. I have to separate myself from this ministerial crutch. I’ve given so much time and effort to it, I have begun to see the signs of burnout. (Two renovations, a whole host of unique and unexplainable technological disruptions, and having to work with some tech that I have no understanding of will do that.) I don’t know if it is in God’s plan for me to be a biblical teacher, but being behind the sound board or PC as much as I am, I feel mired and frustrated by not having opportunities to tell and teach what God is doing in my life and around the world. What He has given me in a way of understanding Scripture from a God-centered perspective, I want to give to others. I want to pull my brothers and sisters out of complacency, to no longer settle for a “come and sit” mantra but one of “go and tell”. And I want to be a part of the going and telling! To take hope and light where there is such great need and darkness. We must complete this task together.
During this time, I will be working on a personal disciple-making plan, visiting churches and leaders to gain wise counsel about global missions, and focusing on an area of personal spiritual growth. The noise of busyness makes clarity from God difficult for me. I’m sure He’s up there shouting and shaking His head at me as I ask for Him to say something. My lack of understanding is totally on me. Sometimes when I start thinking about this break/focus time, it feels a little dramatic or religiously over-the-top. Am I over-complicating the issue? But I have to think that God is going to bless this time and send me exactly what I need. For three years, He has been preparing me. It hasn’t always been forward progress. In fact, hardly so. But the pull toward global missions has not waned, and I seek clarity on how to align my life to His role for this mission. I’m not asking if I’m called or what God’s will is. I’ve–we’ve–already received that answer. Just look in Scripture. We are called. We know God’s will. How that specifically looks for me is what I seek. In many ways, I just need some practical advice. Is it short-term, long-term? Go full-time, or via tent-making opportunities? To know that, I need and want to know more the One who is commanding my affection and obedience. My love and trust for God is primary; the Bible assures me that His desires become my desires and then I will know that I know my role. So this time, ultimately, is to allow God to grow my love for Him by setting aside a period of spiritual focus.
The plan for now is for me to take this break in February and March. At the very latest, until Easter. I think I’m going to sign off social media during this time too. Heck, if I could take a leave of absence from work, I just might’ve asked for it. But a guy’s gotta pay the bills! I do hope you’ll pray for me during this time, but more so, I hope what I’m doing serves as something for you to think on and be challenged by. Pray for the unreached people. They’ll stay out of sight, out of mind if we don’t start there. Pray for an awakening in the Church, particularly in America, where there is ready access to the gospel yet it is where we spend 95% of our efforts and money. Pray for your own role as God’s ambassador and that God will begin working in your heart about your role. Our hearts are so hardened by the only way we’ve ever known for the Church to be as consumers, we are too quick to reject the notion that God calls us all to be missionaries. The opportunities are so much more than our cliché mentality of selling everything we have and moving to a mud hut in Africa. If we don’t see it as a privilege and aren’t humbled by being counted worthy to suffer for the gospel’s sake, then do we really understand who Jesus is?
I’m certainly not trying to come off all pious. I certainly know where I have come from and how long it took before I let God get through this thick skull. I have an excitement and urgency for this task. I have a need for God to grant me boldness in areas of social timidity. To seize opportunities where I’m at now. To live above reproach, like Christ, and become His disciple in order to make disciples. I just want to be able to say and mean, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” Looking forward to the journey!