An Unexpected Journey / Confessions of a Professional Christian

The following is an article originally posted to PerennialProdigal.com

Early April 2007, while in prayer, I felt that God impressed upon me “Start preparing for what I have for you!” I was almost giddy with excitement and hopeful expectation.

I already had what most aspiring ministers and some tech geeks would call a “dream job”. I was the Worship Pastor at a mega-church in the Greater Houston Metropolitan area, and also in charge of creative video production. Pretty cool right? Yeah…..it was…a little. But, you see…things had been tough at work for about seven months or so. Really tough.

So, as you can see, what I felt God whispered to me in prayer was awesome. I just knew that things were about to get better, and I was ready for it.

Easter rolled around and it was awesome! We had prepared an awesome program, arranged and performed some amazing songs. The band and Worship team were in top form. As a special presentation, I sang an old Third Day song along with a video presentation that was very moving.  The audience was engaged, moved with emotion, that was what it was all about. All four weekend services went off without a hitch. Now we could relax a little. I took a much needed vacation the following weekend.

Upon returning from vacation, I was re-energized and ready to conquer the world…and ran slam into a brick wall. Difficult church staff meetings and tense closed door sessions with superiors, left me bewildered, hurt and confused.

Wednesday,. May 23rd 2007, I pulled into the church parking lot heading into work. The weekend services had been really good. Tuesday’s staff meeting had been difficult…again. But I was determined that today would be different. I had determined that I would try very hard to not rock the boat.

Upon getting out of my car, grabbing my laptop and brief case, I saw the senior pastor about to walk up the stairs to his second floor office. We exchanged pleasantries, as we always did, and he said, “why don’t you drop your stuff off at your office, grab a cup of coffee, and come up and let’s visit”. We had done this many times. We’ve known each other for well over ten years, most of which had been spent together on staff. Usually we would talk about a lot of nothing. He would ask about the family, I would ask about his kids. We would laugh about the latest joke or funny story we had heard. Sometimes we would talk 70’s rock music, because…we all know it was the last great era of rock and roll music. Most all of the time we would get around to talking about ministry and what God was doing in our church.

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Following Christ Out Of A Perfectly Good Plane

What does skydiving have to do with Christianity and The Church? Surprisingly, quite a bit. Recently I have taken up skydiving and during my second solo training jump I began to recognize a lot of parallels between skydiver training and what discipleship should really look like.

skydivingA few months ago a friend invited me to go skydiving with him. He wasn’t inviting me to go with him to sit in a hangar and listen to a trained skydiver tell me about skydiving. No, he was inviting me to go experience skydiving for myself along with him. Now was there a hangar and a trained skydiver? Yes, but his function was not to simply tell me about skydiving, instead he was there to equip and prepare me for this exhilarating, life transforming experience. After giving me instructions and equipping me with everything I needed we hopped into a plane, went up 14,000 feet, he strapped me to himself and out we jumped together. This was truly a leap of faith. I had to trust the instructor and the equipment I had been equipped with. As a result of that trust, I faithfully committed to jumping out of my safety zone, a flying box typically filled with those conformed to it’s comfy seats by the fear of what lies outside of the confines of it’s metal hull. Skydivers, on the other hand, calculate the risk and face their fears and discomfort in order to embrace the absolute freedom that is “free” fall. However, I did not have to make this leap alone. I had my friend and also an experienced skydiver there to guide me, encourage me, equip me and even be present right there with me.

My first two skydives were tandem, in which I was strapped to an experienced, trained and certified skydiver. On my first jump I was allowed to deploy the chute at the proper altitude, fly around once the chute was open and land us. The instructor was right there with me the whole time though, guiding me if I started taking us astray and giving me the proper instructions to make a safe, soft landing. On my second tandem jump I was also allowed to turn us left and right and do some tracking during free fall. I was already starting to learn and grow, and the experiences were getting more and more exciting. After the second tandem jump it was time to spread my wings a little, but before I could do that I was required to take a four hour class. Once again, this was not simply about sitting in a room listening to a trained professional preach out of the Skydiver Training Manual for four hours. Immediately after the class I was taken out, suited up and equipped to put into practice everything I had just learned in those four hours. I wasn’t just sent home that Sunday afternoon with some teaching and instruction about skydiving, with a few personal stories to elicit excitement. With the help and guidance of an instructor I was not a hearer of the words I received in that classroom only, but a doer of those words. Except this time I jumped out with an instructor holding onto me, instead of being strapped to him any longer. The instructor was there with me during free fall, but once the parachute was deployed he dove away from me and guided me from the ground via walkie talkie. He was distant from me, but still maintained contact for my safety and security. By training jump three the instructor will let go of you in free fall. After that they will release you more and more until eventually all you get is a pat on the back and a “good luck.” Even then though, the instructor will exit the plane after you and has their eye on you from a distance the whole way down. The goal of the skydiving instructor here is not to get you to pay them to teach you about skydiving from a manual or tell you stories about their personal experiences skydiving. The goal is to train and equip you to become a skydiver just like they are and eventually you may train someone else to become a skydiver too.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11 & 12) You see, it’s not about inviting your friends to go sit in a building listening to some preacher tell them about his experiences with Christ, nor is it about ministers simply preaching and teaching others from the Bible as a Christian Instruction Manual. It’s about inviting people to experience Christ and his kingdom for themselves along with you and then walking this crazy leap of faith out with them. Discipling others as disciples of Christ. Being present with others, preparing and equipping them to be disciples of Christ too. The purpose of apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers is not to build personal ministry organizations, it’s to build up the body of Christ. It’s not to make congregations of followers, but rather to make disciples, preparing and equipping them to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers just like you are, in order that they too may make more of the same.

All of this started coming to me on my second solo training jump as we were sitting in the plane ascending to the heavens. I was looking around at the students and our instructors fixing to exit the plane two by two as Christ sent out the 70 (Luke 10:1). In addition, there was a team of four highly trained skydivers on board. They no longer needed an instructor to skydive, but here they were, jumping out and flying in perfect formation together in unity. That’s when it dawned on me, I really wish church was a lot more like skydiving.

Follow Jesus, Not the Crowd

Perhaps the most simplistic, yet profound advice I have ever read, came in the form of the following short tweet by author and pastor Jarrid Wilson who simply stated…”Follow Jesus, not the crowd”

Standing AloneMy thoughts are this….

Jesus is steadfast, unwavering….crowds are fickle and prone to wander.

Jesus is eternal truth….crowds spout the rhetoric of the latest trend.

Jesus is Mercy and Grace….(most) crowds attribute grace and mercy as a sign of weakness.

Jesus is Peace and Love….crowds will suffer violence in the elusive search for the same.

The answer is simple….yet so hard for most to comprehend!

But…it takes courage to follow Jesus.

It will sometimes require you to stand apart from everyone else. It will require you to completely trust in God, to hear and follow what He is speaking to you. It will require you to speak what is not popular. It will require you to love those who are not part of the “in” crowd. It will require you to move outside of yourself to care for those around you. But, the benefits far outweigh what is required.

Follow Jesus, Not the Crowd!

Reposted from www.perennialprodigal.com #perennialprodigal

Relevant Christian Celebrates 6 Years!

Relevant Christian posted it’s first post on February 26th, 2007 entitled Rebel, or Progressive Thinker?, and at today’s count, have had over 316 posts, well over 261,000 visitors, and 1,890 published comments.

The purpose behind Relevant Christian was born out of a growing uneasiness about the state of Christianity, and a desire to start people thinking, or maybe even start a conversation. While it was not our purposeful intention to be controversial, we have at times, definitely succeeded in being so.

Our most popular post to date, “What Does the Bible Say About Tattoos?”, has been viewed 115,910 times, and was written by a very good friend and pastor Timmy Gibson.

We have had the pleasure of having some great contributors to Relevant Christian, and I would like to say thank you to those who have contributed (no pun intended) to the success of Relevant Christian.

Timmy Gibson
Joe Martino
Bill Reichart
Dave Anderson
Chris Elrod
Justin Heibert
Joel Johnson
Tracey Eldridge
Heather
Shane Anderson
Stephen McDonald

…oh yeah….Me and one or two others that I may have neglected to mention…and of course those that have written guest posts from time to time….Thank You!

It has been an exciting journey…so far!

One Lost Lamb

good shepherdHave been thinking about the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 to search for the ONE lost lamb. I think there are beautiful truths still left uncovered in this passage. What did the lamb do to be saved? Did he repent? If so, what led him to repentance?

Here’s what I am seeing….First he did NOTHING except run away, put himself in danger, risk starvation and loneliness. In this story, the only action I see in on the part of the Savior (Shepherd). The Shepherd left the 99 and searched for the one. The Shepherd picked him up. The Shepherd lay him across His shoulders. The Shepherd rejoiced at finding him. Sooo, again…what exactly did the lamb do??? The lamb did nothing except surrender to being carried. Nothing but submit to the strong but gentle grip of the Shepherd. Nothing but let go of the restlessness that had driven him to wander in the first place. The lamb did nothing except perhaps nuzzle in close enough to smell the familiar sweet scent of his Savior and hear His heartbeat racing with the flutter of excitement at finding His precious lamb!

And I ask you, is it not THAT very love so freely given, without merit or good works, that leads all of us to repentance?? Is it not in the sweet moment of relishing in the safety and warmth of the gentle grip of our Savior that leads us to regret our actions? Is it not in that moment when His love for us is realized that we want to make changes and start anew??
Roman 2:4

Husbands and Wives

marriageI have all too often heard and read husbands quote Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” as a way to CONTROL their wives…COMPLETELY dismissing how the scripture later instructs husbands to act concerning their wives beginning in Ephesians 5:25, where it states “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”…AND…”husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself”…AND…”must love his wife as he loves himself”.

Not to mention that if you really get down to it…if you say you love your wife, then you MUST define that love. Does it meet the guidelines of what the scripture says love is? Can you say that you love your wife as it states in 1 Corinthians 13:3? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Remember this husbands….if we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church, and Christ is our example in everything…then our love MUST be as outlined in 1 Corinthians…OR…we are not honoring God.

“He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the Lord” Proverbs 18:22

God Made Flesh

    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

So thankful for the ultimate gift. The gift of a savior who would pay the ultimate price for our salvation.

Christ left the heavenly realm to live life as a man, still fully God, wrapping himself in human frailty to not only be an example to us, but to give that same life for us.

Merry Christmas!