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. Strangely, the words of Patsy Cline always come to mind when I remember setting out on that fateful prayer walk just after midnight:
I go out walkin’
Out in the moonlight
Just like we used to do
I’m always walkin’
searching for you
I walk for miles
Along the highway
Well that’s just my way of saying I love you
I’m always walkin’
Searching for you
I stopped to see a weeping willow
Cryin’ on his pillow
Maybe he’s crying for me
And as the skies turn gloomy
Night winds whisper to me
I’m lonesome as I can be
I go out walkin’
Out in the starlight
Just hoping you may be
Searching for me
I remember exactly where I was on the sharp curve where Gumwood Road intersects Langdon Lane. Imagining myself not much different than Abraham some 4,000 years prior, I was staring up into the starlit sky that reminded Abraham of God’s faithfulness. I wondered if they held any significance for me, too. The stars had always made me feel closer to God, as if He were only as far away as my next breath. In fact, I would climb up on the garage roof in high school to try to get a better view of the stars and a deeper sense of God’s presence.
But tonight I wasn’t looking for a vague sense of God’s reassuring presence. I was well beyond that. I went out walking after midnight in search of a specific answer to a specific question. And so I lifted my eyes to the heavens and cried out, silently or audibly I can’t say, with the following plea:
“Lord, if you are the same God who called Paul to Macedonia, then do you still call apostles today? Do you still raise up ordinary individuals and call them to particular cities on a special mission? Lord, I have been tentmaking in this town for so long, teaching students so many things that I couldn’t care less about. Lord, is it possible that you have placed me in this town for a higher purpose? Is it possible that all of my hours of substitute teaching, basketball coaching and driving instruction have not been in vain, but rather have been part of your plan from the beginning? Can you redeem my time in Arabia somehow? Can you use all of my connections and relationships with the teenagers in this town to at last reach them with the message of Christ? Can you use my public profile, my large social network, my familiarity with the local churches — can you use all of this to raise up a new, fresh movement of radical Jesus followers through my leadership? Oh, Lord, please tell me if you still summon apostles to particular cities today! If you do, I am willing to be an apostle to the lost and bored teenagers of Mound. Amen.”
I continued my walk back home in silence. No thunderbolts or lightning flashes would come. No burning bushes appeared along the roadside. I saw no vision of a man from Mound urging me to stay and preach the gospel. Just silence.
Categories: Divine Summons