Archive for category Divine Summons
CLARIFICATION: The “Divine Summons” series is telling the story of my call to Mound and the Revolution ministry we planted back in 2005-2007. This is not to be confused with our current efforts to continue that work with MainStreet Community. =)
An Open Door of Ministry
With the opposition-filled narrative-world of Acts shaping my personal sense of an apostolic call to Mound, you can imagine some of the fears I had in the back of my mind as drove into the parking lot of Bethel United Methodist Church. I was looking for an “open door” of opportunity to begin strategizing how to bring the message of Jesus to the community.
The last thing I wanted was to be met with resistance by the first religious community I entered. Jesus’ words were also bouncing around in the back of my head: “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown” (Luke 4:24). And the next moment they were trying to throw him off a cliff!
So, I walked into the narthex and found a small office where I supposed the secretary was working. When I told her that I was interested in the Youth Director position she was very surprised. “Who told you about that position?” she asked. “We haven’t even posted that position yet to the public.” After telling her that her friend mentioned it to me at Caribou she went on to ask about me personally. Read the rest of this entry »
A Mustard Seed Revolution Begins
When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
The Apostolic Burden
Apostolic leaders are theoretically unhirable. They are already locked into an unbreakable contract with God. They answer to Him alone. Even if they were hirable, most churches will find them undesirable anyways. They aren’t easily tamed and don’t work very well under structured leadership. They are wired for the open road, and operating in their sweet spot when surrounded by a small band of like-minded visionaries chasing the same dream.
Apostolic leadership is often therefore a very lonely road to walk as well. Apostles often feel quite literally married to the vision, trapped in an arrangement, and required to carry the weight of the vision alone on their shoulders until God either releases them or brings others into the mix to share the load. Read the rest of this entry »
This series tells the story of the Revolution in Mound back in 2005-2007.
Divine Encounters and Open Doors
I don’t think it was more than a week later that Keri and I were out on one of our walks about town. We stopped by Caribou Coffee as part of our normal routine. We struck up a conversation with two gals, one being the parent of one of my basketball players. She asked casually, “What are you guys up to these days?”
Since I had just graduated from seminary and Keri was nearing her graduation from college with a Business and Finance degree, we told them were looking for jobs. Neither of the gals knew our educational background and that we were Christians. So, we were almost knocked to the floor at what happened next. Read the rest of this entry »
It was episodes like Paul’s Macedonian Call that so enraptured me that night some five years ago in the dining center as I read the Acts of the Apostles for the first time. The question that haunted me from that day forward was simply this: Do I have the same God as Paul? If so, then why do I see so little evidence today among American Christians that this God is still on the move, yanking people left and right by the strange and unpredictable Spirit of Jesus, and giving young men and women visions to go to this or that city with the gospel? Certainly you find this kind of thing with some of the missionaries our churches send over seas; and church planters often get a good taste of it too. (Here’s a good example of a modern day apostle.)
But I firmly believe the Paul-types typically don’t last long in many of our churches today. They tend to “rock the boat” too much, insisting that Jesus is in the business of calling us out of the safety of our churchy boats and onto the faith-filled waters of a risky obedience on a mission with God.
I carried these stories of Paul and these questions of faith with me as I rode around in that Drivers Ed car day after day listening to teenagers complain of a dry, dull, irrelevant Christianity unworthy of serious consideration. The convergence of these two realities — a spiritually vacuous city filled with bored teens in need of the gospel and my belief that the God who called Paul to Macedonia is still on the move today — left me with a question for God that needed answering.
I don’t know the exact date. It was in the latter half of the summer of 2005 since I remember Keri had moved in by this time. The smell of fresh cut grass and a warm evening breeze still brings me back to that night. Read the rest of this entry »
Paul was both an “Apostle” and “apostle.” The big “A” Apostles are in a class all by themselves. They played a unique, God-chosen role in the expansion of the church in those early days following Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension. They had to have seen the risen Christ. Luke restricts this this to the Twelve. Paul’s use seems to be a bit broader. The Apostles played a key role in the preservation and formation of the sacred testimonial stories that became our New Testament scriptures.
Then there are the small “a” apostles. The word apostle comes from the Greek word which simply means “a sent out one.” This is the wide, vast company of “the summoned” I have mentioned. In the broadest sense of the word, all Christians are apostles since the Great Commission sends us all out into the world to be salt and light, ambassadors and witnesses of Christ.
Yet, we read elsewhere that apostleship is also one of the spiritual gifts that is distributed to those God so chooses. “In the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues” (1 Cor 12:27-28). The gift of apostleship is manifested in individuals who sense a call to be sent forth to new frontiers with the gospel, breaking new ground and exercising a degree of visionary leadership and bold faith.
The episode from Acts 16 quoted at the beginning of this chapter provides a glimpse into the wild and unpredictable life of an apostle. Paul is pictured as a man completely ‘out of control’ — that is, being utterly dependent upon the Spirit’s guidance for what comes next. This episode is potent with radical obedience on Paul’s part and the supernatural provision of God by the Spirit. Read the rest of this entry »
Drivers Ed Car Confessions
“Turn left up here. Now, let’s pull over and try an uphill park. Don’t forget to S.M.O.G. Do you remember what S.M.O.G. means? Yes, Signal, check your Mirrors, look Over your shoulder, and if it’s clear you can Go ahead.”
Now, imagine carrying on like that for 4 hours straight, 5 days a week and for an entire summer — three summers actually! This is the glamorous world of a certified Driving Instructor. I would spend the mornings from 9 a.m. t0 noon with nearly eighty 15-year old students in an auditorium teaching the required 30 hours of classroom instruction to prepare them for their permit test. Then I would jump in the car and provide Behind-the-Wheel lessons all afternoon.
I would drive the same roads, make all the same turns, rattle off the same driving tips and try my best to keep a smile and make small talk with my students for our two hour lessons together. Two hours!
This was no small chore for me. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am no bubbly, outgoing “shoot-the-breeze” small talkin’ type. Read the rest of this entry »
A Vision in the Night
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
In the summer of 2005 I said those fateful words “I do” twice. I said them first to the love of my life, Kjerstin Jo Oslin, standing at the altar before friends and family at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Mora, Minnesota, on July 16th. I was 26 years old, walking on sunshine and blessed beyond measure. Keri moved in with me at the rental house my parents owned on Gumwood Road in Mound. She was 22 years old and only six months away from graduating a semester early from Bethel with a double major. (She’s a bright cookie!)
The second time I said “I do” was to the Lord, on a prayer walk which I will describe shortly. I think it is fair to say that Keri didn’t realize the kind of storm she was walking into. Neither did I. We were young, in love, optimistic and yet as clueless as every other newly wed couple in their first few months of matrimony.
Thankfully we had Christ as our rock and we intended to keep Him at the center of our marriage. For we knew that “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12). But even a love-triangle with the Lord can have a dark side with dangerous potential.
The next two years would involve what might be called a strained 3-way relationship that would eventually need to be resolved. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the “Divine Summons” series, I am sharing an exciting season of obedience and Revolution ministry in Mound from 2005-2007.
All Things to All People
The Apostle Paul was willing to wear a lot of hats and learn to navigate many worlds in order to be a more effective servant of the gospel. As he puts it: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22). Or, as Eugene Peterson’s The Message puts it: “I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!”
I could identify with Paul’s many-hatted lifestyle as I accumulated jobs in my hometown community of Mound. To paraphrase Paul: To the student I became a teacher; to the athlete I became a coach; to the 15 year-old I became a terrified driving instructor in the passenger seat holding on for dear life! I had become all of these things to all of these students if only to save some. Really? Is that where all of this was going? Was God opening up all of these miserable doors of thankless part-time jobs for some higher purpose?
When this thought crossed my mind I laughed it off immediately. I was no evangelist. Read the rest of this entry »
I have always imagined the apostle Paul spending every waking hour of his life teaching in a synagogue or preaching on a street corner somewhere. I doubt I’m the only one who has drawn this inaccurate assumption.
I mean, this is the impression the writings give us — especially the adventure-filled pages of Acts. Neither Luke nor Paul himself say more than few words about Paul’s day job as a tentmaker. And can you really blame them? This was hardly glamorous work worth wasting precious ink and papyrus to write home about! Yet, R.F. Hock has shown that, far from being peripheral to Paul’s life, tentmaking was central to it:
“More than any of us has supposed, Paul was Paul the Tentmaker. His trade occupied much of his time. . . . His life was very much that of the workshop . . . of being bent over a workbench like a slave and of working side by side with slaves” (Hock, The Social Context of Paul’s Mission, 1980, p. 66).
This fact is worth pondering a bit further. Think of how many waking hours Paul spent in the dirty, grimy, hum-drum work of leatherwork when he wished he were out sharing the gospel. Acts 18 seems to suggest he worked with his hands all week and only preached in the synagogue on the sabbath.
I have a hunch Paul frequented the ancient equivalent of Starbuck’s often and shared the gospel with many of the folks he encountered day to day. But I wonder how he could contain himself, keep himself sane in a hot, sweaty workshop surrounded by dead animal skins when he knew living souls out in the streets still needed to hear the life-giving message of the gospel. Read the rest of this entry »
Paul had direct orders to bring the gospel to the Gentile world. Aside from a short period of preparation in Arabia, Paul didn’t waste time in getting at it.
I, on the other hand, had absolutely no direction for my future. Sure, I was investing years of study and thousands of dollars into my theological education and ministry training. But for what? I hadn’t a clue.
What I did have was a desire to be part of something faith-stretching and Kingdom-impacting. I wanted to be part of an adventure as unpredictable and exciting as the apostolic ministry of Peter and Paul. But seminary seemed to leave me in an uncomfortable tension.
On the one hand, I loved classes that allowed me to study and explore the ancient New Testament church — especially Acts and Pauline Epistles. But these classes tended to treat the engagement of these ancient narratives and letters as a dry, detached academic exercise void of any real application to ministry today.
On the other hand, all of the classes I took related to practical church ministry, leadership, discipleship and evangelism for today seemed to be void of the reckless and unpredictable spirit of Paul’s apostolic all-or-nothing ministry approach. Read the rest of this entry »