Today, October 6, 2014, marks two years from our very first gathering as a then-yet-prospective Life Mission Church! It was the very next day, Sunday, October 7th, that was the day that Katie and I were brought up in front of our church family to give the big announcement, pray for us, and send us out for this crazy task.
And if I were to be totally honest, it has been, by far, the most amazing two years of my life.
I don’t even know where to start as I reflect back on the past two years, so I guess I’ll just start with where I am at today, rather than try to catch up and risk writing another 20 part blog series.
It’s absolutely stunning to me, the enormous depth of God’s grace that He has given to me these past couple years. And oh, how I needed it. Because the truth is, I know this as a fact: I have no right to be leading a church. I don’t belong in the role that I have. I am not the poster child for a church planter. Even just typing that phrase, “leading a church,” is still just mind boggling to me. It really just doesn’t make much sense.
But in 1 Corinthians 1.25-31, Paul somewhat cheekily talks of God’s “foolishness” (as if God really actually has foolishness) in choosing the “foolish things” of the world to confound the wise. In God’s perceived foolishness in choosing someone like me, a foolish choice for a task like this, He proves that He is much stronger than we are even on our best days, because He is able to amazing things through weak people. That’s one of the things that makes Him great. The most gifted, talented, and charismatic leaders (think Saul) have nothing on God’s desire to have the world know of His glory as can only be seen through improbable and foolish means (think little David).
Think about this. Jesus wanted to change the world. If you were Jesus, and you got to pick 12 guys to be on your “Let’s Change the Course of Human History” team, who would you pick? Caesar Augustus? Herod? Esteemed Pharisees? Philip the Magician? Lawyers? PR professionals? Professional athletes? Celebrities? That all makes sense. Power, money, influence. That’s a recipe for success. And would you have maybe picked a different era to get the word our more effectively? Say for instance, any era that at least had electricity? Or Facebook? Or YouTube? Or even indoor plumbing?
But no, not Jesus. He chose all the wrong people, at a terrible era in technological history. Uneducated fishermen. Tax collectors (who were the scoundrels of their day). The weak. The broken. The foolish. And no #hashtags to get the message trending.
And what happened? The world has never been the same since, but yet no one gives credit to Bartholomew, or James, or even Peter. No, it is Christ who everyone points to. He did it all. But He did it all through the foolish and weak.
Why is this? Why is Jesus in the business of picking the unlikely and foolish? Why is He so awful at picking a good team? We must start realizing that when it’s the slick human ingenuity, gimmicks, the big personality and charisma, and simply our talents and our ability to put on a good show, that it is not God who gets the glory.
But when God uses the most unlikely and ridiculous means, we don’t have any room to brag (though sadly, often times, we do). People look at foolish means and think, “my goodness, God must be real if that is happening.” And personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will gladly make myself available to be a fool for Christ’s sake.
These past two years, I have seen the beauty and bigness of God in ways I never, ever saw before. I’ve seen so much more of the depth of His grace. I breathe so much easier, with so much more joy, so much more peace, than I ever have before. The Gospel has never been this satisfying, never been this liberating, and never been this life-changing. I am not the same as I was two years ago. I almost, at times, don’t even recognize myself in many ways as I look back.
Not only that, but I never saw the beauty and bigness of the mission that He has called me, and the church, to set out to give our life to. My vision before was so…small. If I were honest, it was very me-centered; yet, of course, with the Name “Jesus” sloppily scribbled somewhere on it. I really don’t know how to put it into words, but now, I don’t know, I just can’t get enough of it. I’m unsatisfied with a Jobey-sized vision, or even a Life Mission-sized vision. I want nothing less than a Jesus-sized vision for my life, my family, and for our church.
And to be honest, this used to scare me. Not that it doesn’t to some degree now, but now it’s an exciting fear. Before, it was just plain ol’ fear. Fear of letting go, fear of man, fear of failure, fear of losing what I deem as being precious. Giving up my dreams, my desires, my preferred future, for something that may actually cost me everything; it all just used to scare me so much. But now, it’s liberating to trust more and more in the sovereignty and power of God, and to actually put my hope more and more in the Word of God and His promises is so freeing. As a matter of fact, since God has been expanding His vision for my life and my family’s life, and as He has been sharpening the vision He has for our church, it’s true that the vision and mission and task at hand has gotten much bigger and more unlikely, but in some weird, surprising way, the pressure of leading the church has not gotten heavier at all. Rather, it’s done the opposite: it’s gotten much lighter. Which sounds a bit biblical, wouldn’t you think?
The thing is, a Jobey-sized vision is based on me. It’s based on my talent, personality, and ability. So where does all the pressure go? It goes on me. And I feel that. I feel the weight of pastoring, teaching, shepherding. I feel the weight of wrongfully trying to please everyone. I feel the weight of seeing people discipled, Community Groups grow and expand, sin to be confronted, finances to be stewarded, and opportunities to be taken. And it all very quickly suffocates me.
But now, the vision and mission has gotten larger; it has gotten beyond us and beyond the measly foolish abilities of our human ingenuity. It’s bigger than just putting on a nice weekend production, a slick presentation, all the right advertising and handouts and web design. And it’s in this place that it becomes so much more than those things that I am forced to cast my cares upon Him, because this thing is much bigger (and far greater) than me. And it is precisely there where my yolk becomes easy, and my burden light, because He is now carrying the burden. It’s up to Jesus, now, to accomplish His will. I just get the great joy of walking through it, by faith, as I continually and daily put my trust in Him.
The reality of my life right now is this: I have never been as excited for my life, for the future of my family, and for the mission and purpose of our church as I am now. And that’s saying a lot, because I’ve been pretty excited the past couple years, and I’ve been having an incredible time. But by God’s grace, He’s just been expanding my heart more and more each day, each week, and He is doing the same thing in the hearts of our church family. I’m mesmerized.
There really is no one like Jesus, and there is nothing like it when the church makes the glory of the Name of Christ central. To simply be able to be around people who are constantly pointing me back to Jesus, as well as join with me as we pursue Jesus to together, is just unreal, and it is something that I don’t deserve.
Have I mentioned already that this has been the best two years of my life?
I could go on. I could go on, and on, and on, and on. As a matter of fact, I’m a bit frustrated that this doesn’t even come close to capturing even a glimpse into what the Lord has been doing in my life and in the life of our church family. I wish I could do a better job, because it’s just simply amazing. And because of that, I just give God continual thanks as I stand in awe of Him at every turn of the corner.
Blessings to all of you…