Summary: This long series of about 30 posts narrates Jeremy’s own spiritual journey from 2000-2007 exploring his radical transformation in college, vocational doubts in seminary, a long season of “tent-making” jobs in Mound, and the God-encounters that led Jeremy to plant a new, apostolic youth ministry — The Revolution — reaching teens for Christ in his hometown. This is the story of how the Book of Acts came alive in Jeremy’s own life as he stepped out with the faith of the apostle Paul. This season of ministry would sow the seeds that would eventually grow into the vision for starting a new church in Mound years later!
Introduction: The Voice and the Summons
In The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, C. S. Lewis sets out to describe a story where the characters do not so much set out on an adventure by their own choice, but rather find themselves suddenly drawn or pulled into the Story by some higher magic. They have little choice in the matter. The story begins with two ordinary children having an ordinary day when suddenly they are summoned to extraordinary world, swept up into an extraordinary story and given a unique role that leaves them completely at the mercy of the One calling. Lewis knew exactly what he was doing when he framed the story this way. He was well aware that this is how all the great stories begin and how all the great heroes are made. A cursory glance at the saints of Scripture proves this point. Consider some famous stories of divine summons.
Abraham is minding his own business when a mysterious Voice calls him to pack up everything and leave his past behind. He follow this Voice into a strange new land banking everything on some far-fetched promises.
Moses is minding his own business when the Voice shows up in the form of a burning bush in the desert. Moses is summoned to the royal court of Pharaoh on a bold mission bringing an unpopular message. Moses’ moment of calling changes history forever. But it all started with an unexpected call.
Jeremiah is called from birth to be part of a story filled with great personal sorrow and grief — yet for a greater purpose. But summoned he was, and there was little chance for negotiating the terms.
Esther finds herself pulled into the role of the heroine quite unexpectedly, and yet, from the Author’s point of view, she was summoned to the stage “for such a time as this.”
David is tending sheep before he receives his royal summons to a king-sized task. Saul of Tarsus is more head-strong and hardened than most, and so it takes getting knocked flat on his back by a blinding light and personal encounter with the risen Christ to summon him into a radically new story and adventure.
While we’re familiar with these ancient heroes of old and their radical acts of faith and obedience, modern day examples are harder to come by. No doubt this is largely due to the cultural waters in which we’re swimming. We modern or postmodern Westerners drink daily from the fount of American individualism that celebrates above all the values of “individual freedom”, “self-sufficiency,” “self-determination” and “independence.” Like our first parents in the garden we desire to “be like God” so we don’t have to be dependent on God. We crave access to the control room. We want to call our own shots.
Rather than following the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we 21st century pilgrims tend to take our cues from the Enlightenment-shaped wisdom of William Ernest Henley and company who proudly declared, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Why, this is the American Way, is it not? You don’t believe me?
Not too long ago President Obama gave a controversial speech to the school children of our country hoping to inspire them to work hard and chase after their dreams. (The dream he’s alluding to, of course, is the American Dream: the narrative that champions the all-powerful Self letting nothing stand in it’s way in making sure they get to write their own destiny.) In his speech he confirmed this deeply embedded American value saying: “No one’s written your destiny for you, because here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.”
You can entertain this illusion of self-determination for awhile. But not when you suddenly find yourself in the company of the summoned. Not after you encounter the Voice and clearly hear His Call. When the call comes, all else fades into the background, and one’s entire life gets rearranged around this new task at hand, this new role to play.
In short, all hopes of playing the author of one’s own life are forever lost. Those summoned, called, pulled into and swept up by a larger story are merely play actors in the divine Author’s unfolding plot. We are no longer calling the shots. Continue reading Part 2