Resolved to be Risk-Takers

This journey of faith continues to define us as we daily move forward in the walk Christ calls us to live.  Admittedly, stepping away from a secure position as a Lead Pastor of a church is not advisable when you have nothing to step to.  I would never have recommended anyone to do what we did.  There simply was far too much risk involved.  Yet, we recognize that sometimes Jesus calls us to be risk-takers.

How do you explain to others that what you are about to do is worth the risk you are taking, especially when you don’t know exactly what it is you are going to do?
And when understanding begins to dawn you fumble for words to share the vision.  Nothing you think of seems adequate to express the idea you hold in your heart.  Your best attempts come with a totally silly feel to them that embarrass you as you hear the words come from your mouth.  It just seems impossible!

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This is where we found ourselves just a little over a year ago.  Family and friends thought we had lost our minds as we set aside the security of a job we’d held for 23 years to begin a new adventure.  David’s Mom expressed what most thought, “But David, how are you going to live?  I mean, how will you pay your bills?”  Yes, it’s true this adventure started out void of any plan, income, or destination.  Some might describe it as a whim, a fancy of sorts, where people hit their midlife crisis and do weird things.  It seemed like an insane thing to do, and the people around us had no problem pointing out the insanity!

Actually, this reality didn’t bother us at all because we knew the motivation was love for us.  Their questions were good as they forced us to dig deeper in our own hearts to discover the reason why we would take these steps.  The questions pushed us to this crazy thing called prayer to find answers we didn’t have.  If it wasn’t a midlife crisis, then what was it that had driven us to this action?

One thing we discovered in this journey is not everyone is concerned about your future, and their questions aren’t meant to help you.  All they really want to do is keep you from doing something extraordinary.  Ok, maybe that last line was over the top and cruel, but it is how you feel in a few of these conversations.  Who knows what the real reasons are?

  • Maybe they don’t want to be challenged themselves to a life of faith in Christ.
  • It could be they have experienced some sort of trauma keeping them from risk-taking.
  • It might simply be they are one of the people in this world whose personality kills the sense of adventure in themselves and any others they can influence.

Matthew Barnett posted on his Twitter feed this statement, “Trying to convince a doubter that your leap of faith makes sense is a massive waste of productivity and mental energy.”  What a true statement.  Sometimes, in our efforts to convince the naysayers, all we really do is get frustrated and waste energy.

It isn’t that we think it’s a waste of time to help people who love you to understand the steps you are taking.  They care, and you need their understanding and support.  In fact, experience has taught us some of those you talk with become your biggest supporters for the journey.  When you feel like giving up they are the ones who step up to challenge you to go one more step.  They are worth the energy spent to explain Jesus’ calling.

However, it is a waste of productivity trying to change the minds of people who doubt that you heard from God.  If they don’t think God is in the idea then you just have to wait for God to show that He is.  And that is up to God to do; don’t even go there out of some narcissistic reason to validate yourself.  You don’t need the frustration or waste the time.

As we move further down the path of faith we discover more evidence that the Holy Spirit is going with us on this journey.  There are some days when that is such a relief to our souls.  Multiple times we have seen things that let us know Christ has gone before us and prepared the way.  Here are a few simple examples:

  • 4 days after our final service at Bridge of Hope we were asked to be an interim pastor in the greater Canton, OH area.  God knew the need of that dear church, and He knew our need of income.  The interim time ended just as we had been accepted into U.S. Missions and knew we needed to focus all our time there.
  • After arriving at our current destination we had to shop for a washer/dryer.  Money was going to be a factor at some point, and so we searched for the right situation.  Our prayers were answered as we found a good deal, and the salesman also gave us a slightly damaged microwave for free.  Coincidence? Maybe, but we rather think that God was answering a need.
  • Every time someone becomes a part of our Support Team we are humbled by the reality that another person has chosen to stand with us and say that they believe we have heard from God.  As a pastor serving the local church we never understood what this meant to a missionary.
  • When church planters seek us out for a little advice or a bit of training it encourages us.  There really is need for what God put in our hearts to do, and there are people waiting for someone who can give them the time.  Incidentally, these conversations happen at just the right moments.  Amazing!

This is the kind of thing that gives us the resolve to move forward, growing in strength with each step we take.  When these moments come that defy explanation, we find ourselves compelled by the Holy Spirit and this walk we are on to finish the course and see it through to the end!

*If you would like to know more about the mission that we are on and how you can be a vital part of it, please feel free to contact us.  We would love to share with you what we are doing and how you can best help us out in the journey.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

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Questions Asked About Our Mission – Difficult Places (Part 2)

What are you referring to when you talk about planting churches in difficult places?

(Part 2 of 3)

ImageOur personal focus (Kandy and myself) is the people of the University District Villages of America. That is a mouthful to read and say, but each of the words is important and descriptive of the people Christ has called us to. One day I will write what I have discovered about each one of them, but that isn’t the focus of this series of blogs.

In short, we are interested in being an influence to other influencers. In the university district you will find there are many different types of people who make up the variety of villages within its boundaries. They are the men and women who work in and around the university, who are the influencers of others: the professors, administrators, teacher assistants, admin staff, coaches, security staff, and business people who serve the school. It is a vast and diverse group of people with some common ideals that tie them together.

Few would argue the thought that the American University is one of the most influential places in our culture. Daily it influences the people of this village. Their influence is felt in the cities where they are located. You even feel their influence across the states where they are established. If you pay attention and follow the dots you will see the influence of the American university around the world. The university is a place of great influence.

OK … so the university is a place of influence, what is the big deal? The big deal is that in all of it’s influencing, the American university is often void of the influence of God. There is a spiritual presence on the campus, but it isn’t always the spirit of God that is present. This means that in all the influencing going on through the university, very little is being influenced by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This grieves our hearts as we see a people who often times feel marginalized by the church because they hold a very different worldview. There it is again, that word “different,” a word that sometimes scares us because we don’t understand what “different” really is or what it means.

Let me say something important. The problem isn’t that churches have not been planted before in these areas or that churches do not exist there today. We have planted churches and some have done well, especially when we are talking about establishing churches to reach the students of the university. Unfortunately, more often than not, it seems that most of the churches have struggled to make it and fail in the process. Our hearts are glad for those who are reached through these works. We also recognize there are many people in the universtiy districts who for various reasons remain unimpacted by them. Could it be as simple as we don’t understand them and they don’t understand the Church?

Through Converge Group we want to treat the universtity as a mission field like we would any foreign mission field we send a missionary to. It is important to discover the nuances of any culture so that you understand them and can communicate better with them. We are talking about loving people enough to know them. This is what missionaries do all across the world.

We feel that we can best impact the people of the university village by taking time to get to know them first, genuinely care for them, and become part of their world. These are some of the difficult steps that must be taken when crossing cultures and finding ways to share love with others. It is what growing in love for your neighbor is about.

Some may want to argue that this involves compromise and we shouldn’t cross that line. It isn’t that we deny our faith or compromise ourselves in terms of our walk with Christ. This is about the truth of Scripture rather than the expressions of worship that are dictated by tradition and culture. It is about returning to the basics of truth found in God’s Word rather than living out the ideas of people on how to live that truth. We are simply looking at doing what missionaries do: take the message of the Gospel and find ways to live it in the context of the culture of the people.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Musings from the Great Northwest – Part 3

ImageOur travels through the Northwest area of America brought great encouragement as we met some wonderful people. People, who with open hearts, welcomed us warmly as they shared their lives with us. As we broke bread and discussed the lives we each live friendship was born and Christ’s love was evident.

We walked into a room filled with people neither Kandy nor I knew. There were some busy serving food to those who had come in off the street, others were painting pictures for those dining to watch as the image unfolded, and another played the guitar and sang softly in the background. Conversations took place around us; some were loud while others softly spoke to one another. You could hear laughter from some and saw a tear welling up in another. Church was taking place as this body gathered together from the streets of Freemont. Love was given and received as people experienced the Gospel.

Across town we found ourselves once again in a new place with people we didn’t know. The table was quickly filled as everyone took their seats. It was a tight fit as we squeezed more bodies into the space than it was intended to hold. But that didn’t seem to matter. We laughed at the stories being shared, enjoyed the food that had been prepared, and found new friends with whom to share love. Rob, Sheila, and Ethan are fun people to get to know. They are full of life and willing to share it with others. They opened their home to us and treated us as friends. What better reception could you ever receive?

A few hours to the south on the east side of Portland, it was loud with conversations taking place all around us. We gathered in this public place with a group of young men and women. The eight of us ordered our food and the drinks with which to wash it down. We talked about our lives as we got to know one another. The discussion moved from funny tales of the past to impressions of the places we had visited and the people we met along the way. Soon we found ourselves sharpening one another as we talked about the things of God and what He had done in our lives. With open arms they received us and treated us as their friends. Who could ask for anything more?

And so, we once again discovered that wherever we find ourselves in this world it is the people who make the difference in a place. It’s not the mountain ranges on each side with peaks majestic standing tall, nor is it the bodies of water that bring peace with each lap of the waves. The buildings and bridges add to the landscape and are beautiful to look at. But in the end, when you reflect back on your time spent in an area, you realize that it’s the people that make the difference.

We found the beauty of God’s people and how His Church is still the greatest witness to our world when it is functioning in healthy actions of love. There were some who walk with Him today and know the power of His love and others who have yet to realize the truth of the gospel. We grew together and community took root as love began to change us.

Each one gave us something that no one else could give; a priceless exchange of love and life. Whether in Portland or Seattle, we found people who were ready to love and willing to give of themselves. With family and friends we experienced the love and care that occurs when people come together.

In the Northwest the need is the same as it is in the Midwest (and I suspect time will reveal it to be the need everywhere we travel): people need to see and experience the true church walking in Christ’s love. We can complicate this whole thing to the point where it immobilizes us from any activity that can provide what is needed. This is easy enough to do and our enemy is glad to try and make it happen. We can also choose to live another way, the way of Christ’s love where community is grown and disciples are matured.

Thank you, Northwest America, for being an encouragement to us as we continue in the journey of faith to the mission Christ has called us to!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Musings from the Great Northwest – Part 1

ImageThe last 2 weeks have been interesting as we traveled to the Great Northwest region of America.  As candidate missionaries we spend a lot of time traveling and meeting new people as we share the vision God has given us.  At each stop we find people who are interested in what we are doing as they ask questions and share their own hearts with us.  It amazes me how many people have been captured by the same basic call to live the mission of making disciples.

It doesn’t seem to matter if we are talking to people in our home state of Ohio, travel a little north to Michigan, or out here in Washington and Oregon.  God is speaking to people about His mission inviting them to join Him on an incredible journey. Through this we experience the joy of encouragement as others join us as a part of our Support Team.  We are not alone!

The expressions are different in each situation.  Some taking a much more radical approach while others making subtle adjustments to what they are doing.  Either way they are being directed by the Holy Spirit to refocus their attention to the basics of the Gospel.  As we share about identifying and training missionary church planters to reach the marginalized we get to hear wonderful stories.  Stories of support as people tell us about the refocusing of their lives to the call from God.

This trip has brought the joy of seeing our 2 sons who live in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  With each friend of theirs we meet our eyes and ears go to work as we learn about the lives they have lived and views they hold.  Wonderful people who experience life in different ways yet hold a similar desire in their heats: a desire for a better way to live that is real, genuine, honest, and worthy of trust.

People like Verlon who are courageous as they lead their church forward in the mission of Jesus.  This group of people has set aside the comforts of worship as usual to establish a different kind of church that is active in feeding those who are hungry.  About 5 times a week they gather in different parts of the city meeting the need of hunger while leading in worship. Their gatherings are filled with a mix of people sitting around tables sharing love as they break bread, sing songs of praise, and listen to a message. It’s an incredible experience to be a part of.  The mission is awake in their hearts and infectious to all who come around them. They are not just meeting the need of the marginalized; they are becoming friends with them.

Wow, what a story!

As we continue our quest to build a Support Team who will stand with us in this missionary venture our hearts are encouraged.  We are encouraged because . . .

  • the people God has called us to train as missionary church planters actually do exist.
  • we have meant them and they have beautiful faces and wonderful names.
  • each place we go we discover others who hear what God has given us to do and choose to go with us as part of our Support Team.

Thank you Northwest America for being an encouragement to us as we continue in the journey of faith to the mission Christ has called us to!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Mission Explained

Can you describe what you will be doing in missions?

At the heart of our mission is a desire to ignite a fire in others to fulfill the mission Christ gave to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Here is how we see it happening.

We will identify, train, equip, resource, and walk with others who are willing to live as a missionary church planter. Through an apprenticeship type of program we are able to multiply ourselves as we share our 30+ years of ministry experience with others.  Instead of doing one church plant, our hope is to do multiple plants at a time as we work with and through other missionary church planters.

Our desire is to establish multiple churches in difficult situations where people often feel marginalized by the church.  These are people who most likely would never walk into an established church because of various understandings they hold.  They are interested in talking about God, but for different reasons are not interested in attending worship in a local church.  We want to send missionaries to them so that they can discover the love of Christ.

You could say that we will be like a coach or mentor as we help others learn how to live as missionaries in our world.  Then we will send them out to befriend others and experience life with them as they share the gospel message of Christ’s love.

Until we are fully appointed we will be focused for the next year or two primarily on raising funds to do the job we believe God has given to us to do.  If you are interested in helping us feel free to contact us so we can share more with you about the vision.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.