Two years ago, after turning 50 years old, I had the privilege of having a sabbatical, where for 10 weeks my wife, Michelle, and I were given the chance to be still and quiet : removing ourselves from the often maddening pace of life in ministry in Orlando. We had friends in South Carolina that graciously allowed us to move into their 4 bedroom summer home near Pawleys Island, where upon arriving, we discovered that there was not only no internet connection, but our cell provider did not have a signal at the home. For the first week, we were wondering how were we going to survive without our toys, but we soon settled into the solitude and received it as God’s gift to us….which became richer with each passing day.
While there, God began to allow some repressed questions about the church that had lingered deeply in my heart, to come to the surface:
1. Why was I feeling so bored with the church?
2. Why was I settling for a “status-quo” Christianity, when in my heart I knew there was so much more that God had for me and His Bride?
3. How can the church of the 21
Century live out true Biblical Community?
4. What is “true Biblical Community” and will I ever get a real taste of it?
5. Where do I see and experience the power of God that I read about in the book of Acts, manifested in my everyday life …..or for that matter in the lives of other believers that I know?
6. Why are there so many lonely people in a big church….so many people that come for the “show”; yet miss out on the wonder and beauty of loving and being loved; knowing and being known?
7. What is God calling me to do and be to become the answer to some of these questions….instead of being a part of the problem, how is God calling me to be a part of the solution?
At the time of our sabbatical, I was serving as the City (Orlando, Fl.) Director of a national men’s discipling ministry that God had and was blessing greatly and though I was growing discontent, I had no intention, upon our arrival in SC, of leaving my job once we returned home to Orlando. Yet, after the time for discomfort in getting used to the quiet and peace, God began to surface these agonizing questions in my heart and mind that I had to acknowledge and talk to Him about. I had brought many books that addressed some of my questions and planned on reading through Exodus and Acts in the Scripture.
My first response, as I began to wrestle in prayer and reading about these questions, was “you are 50 years old, dude…so just repress these thoughts and continue to go along with the crowd.” Yet, the more I read in Acts and books by Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, and Irwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force, among other books, I found myself unable to settle for a no response. I shared many of the revelations that God was giving to me with my wife and shared with her how I believed that God was releasing me from my current call to serve in the men’s Para-church ministry, and was calling me to team with a pastor to lead the development of “Community Life” as I was getting answers to some of my questions.
When we packed the car and headed for Orlando, Michelle and I both knew that I would be communicating with the “home office” of the Men’s ministry and I would face the challenging task of telling them that I was being called back into the church. Though we had no idea, about the when, where and with whom, we knew, that for us to be obedient to the things God was calling us to, I must first leave, before God would reveal the new call. I felt a lot like Abraham, as God called Him from Ur to a land He would show Him and it was only in Abraham’s leaving that God would lead him to the “Promised Land”.
In April 2007, I made the tear-filled call to the National Ministry director of the organization I worked for (and the one that sent me on sabbatical). Though they were expecting a rejuvenated and renewed leader to return, they heard of our encounter with God and the release of the call to serve alongside of them to a new call to the unknown. In October 2007, I “passed the baton of leadership” to a City Leadership team, made up of group of called men to lead the ministry until God raised up His next man to lead in my place.
For one whole year, I was without a job, as I wandered and wondered if we had heard from the Lord. In times of doubt and weakness, Michelle, my partner in life and ministry, continued to stand by my side as she reminded me often of God’s faithfulness through the years. And how, in my journal from the sabbatical, we could recount the ways He had led us to the point of release from one call and the faith walk towards a new call.
In October 2008, I began my new position as LIFE Community Director at a large, downtown, 130 year old, mainline denominational church…..the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. I have to admit, that as God called, I was thinking that He was going to have to do a MIGHTY work to lead an old, programmatic focused church into the vision of LIFE Community groups that meet all around the city to display the beauty and love of Jesus…..to be continued
In the meantime, maybe you could help this old dog out:
Have you ever pondered any of the 7 questions above?
What responses to you have to any or all of them?
How do you define Biblical Community…are there non-negotiable purposes that either make it true community or not? What are they?
Do you have any valuable tips you can provide, from a similar church experience?