I’m a pretty good public speaker, I think–when I’ve planned. If I have notes in front of me, I love it up there. Teaching suited me really well, and I’ve loved the chance I’ve had to preach overseas or at my home church in Vermont.
Spontaneous speaking? Speaking when I haven’t really prepared? Not so much.
Ira and I shared at Antioch’s staff meeting yesterday, and I had a lot going on in my heart that I wanted to say that did not come out. Not that I was unclear or spoke badly…it just wasn’t what I wanted to say. So I’m going to try here. Of course, this will be a bit longer than had I actually prepared, because there’s no time limit. Anyway, here goes.
1. I love being part of this group of people, this movement. There’s no other people I’d want to be doing missions with. We are a bit against grain–out on the support trail, as we tore through my aunt’s many Southern Baptist contacts in rural Kentucky, I would explain and explain Antioch and talk about what it was and how much I loved it, and still no one seemed to grasp it. The only question I would be asked is, “So…you’re not a part of the IMB?”
But so much of what others would describe as unusual I now find normal. I love love love that I can walk into that office and say, “I’ve been to 19 countries, most of them for missions” and most of the people would respond, “Nineteen? That’s all.”
I love our movement because we are a diverse and random group of people unified by a common Love and a common mission. The love of God has healed us, though we didn’t deserve it, and we’ve tasted what life is like when you follow His adventures for you. And nothing else will do. In the “natural”, we probably wouldn’t all click or stick together. But we are a band of brothers and sisters, and all gifts are present. Leaders, artists, servants, apostles, prophets…all there. Mixed through all of us. And so you get this great tapestry of different expressions of the heart of God, and I love it.
I love it also because I trust without question the people I work with, and the people who lead us.
We all know Jimmy & Laura are exactly who they seem to be. But I want to just say that if you needed proof, look no further than their kids. (You know how Paul instructed Timothy on the qualifications of an elder? Sometimes I think we use it as a checklist: “Should Bob be an elder? Well, let’s look. Husband of one wife, check, doesn’t get drunk, check.” But instead, I think Paul was describing the kind of person to look for. You find someone living like that–there’s your elder.)
Anyway, their kids are the fruit of their consistent love and discipline. I taught Abby & Lauren the past couple of years at TCA, and I saw them, particularly Abby, dragged through the fire and shine like gold. There was one day when Carl came to speak at chapel. (I love Carl. He is an anointed and challenging speaker. And “Otherness” still makes me cry every time I hear it. “But I refuse to be caught up in the midst of small stories that seem to be brilliant at the time but soon become faded glory…” My flesh runs to those stories, but my heart soars to the Real Story and this helps me remember that. Thanks Carl.)
Anyway, Carl spoke, and he challenged the upperclassmen in a major way to help build community at the school by reaching out and breaking through the clique walls and befriending someone other than the people you hang with every day. And he gave them a specific call–that day, at lunch, sit with someone you don’t usually eat with. Get to know them. He asked everyone to do that. And it was powerful.
Now, lunch was one period later. I go into the cafeteria, really expecting, since it was so powerful, to see everyone mixed around.
Nope. Only one person. Abby. Sitting with a group of freshmen girls, trying to enter their world. Everyone else is in their usual spots, and you can see them kind of guiltily eyeing Abby out of the corner of their eyes. Abby, who stood like a lone deeply-rooted tree against storm after storm at that school.
The fruit of lives well-lived. Thanks for being who you are, Jimmy & Laura.
And the same can be said of Kevin & Stacy, of Danny & Kathy, Jeff & Dorothy. They are who they seem to be. They don’t lead and talk one way and live another. They’re the real deal.
I love our movement because of the way we worship. World Mandate this year was incredible, and I think that we have the best worship leaders in the country. It helped us in a major way get our hearts ready again for Sheffield. World Mandate was so good for us this year, as it happened just weeks before departure. After Saturday morning’s spoken word thing–the “They said China…but God said…” piece that Vincent was in–Ira and I looked at each other with fire in our eyes. “We’re ready,” we said almost simultaneously. “Let’s go.”
We are thrilled and honored to be going to Sheffield. We both realize that there is nothing good in us to help anyone over there. But we started this support process nine months ago, and God has spoken to us over and over and over again some very big things. There have been running themes to the words we’ve gotten, and with humility we go over there expecting miracles.
I want to take a second to say how proud I am of my amazing wife. She really did not want to be called to England, but after it became clear two years ago through all these divine things happening to her, she made a pledge to not speak negatively about the place we were called, and she has honored that. And it has been fun to watch her slowly go from reluctance to acceptance to vision and excitement.
It is amazing that we serve a God who can take such foolish and broken people and use those people to rock the world. And we are asking God to use us. We have faith that we are going to bring joy to the team there, we have faith that we are going to see lives transformed, and that as we go, God will speak so clearly to us that it is as if we hear Him as audibly as Ira heard Him when He first told her about Sheffield. We are vessels, and though we don’t have a ton of close relationships within this staff, we are so glad we are a part of this particular army at this particular time.
We’re going to Sheffield. We have hope in our hearts, and we want to bring that hope and abundant life to a people who have decided there’s nothing to believe in. Wait till they see what God is going to do.