Big Changes, No Problems

I haven’t posted for over two weeks. I apologize. When I first started blogging, I figured a few friends and my wife would read, and maybe on a good day, I could get my mom to read. As it turns out, there are more of you reading that I would have thought. And now I’ve let you down. Please forgive me.

In October 2010, we planted a satellite campus of Puyallup Foursquare Church. This was a thrill for us; planting the first out-of-state satellite for a church we helped plant in 1998. We faced challenges, we were personally stretched, and Cheryl and I were greatly fulfilled in our leadership roles. The Lord is doing an incredible work here.

Several months ago, the leadership team at Puyallup Foursquare began working with us to make some adjustments. Through our planning and prayers, we determined as a team to plant a church under the Southwest District of Foursquare. Roger Archer and team encouraged and supported our decision.

I never purposed to become a senior pastor, and I’ve been very reluctant to accept the role. The pastoral examples I’ve watched over the last dozen years are charisma-driven and animated. I would call myself neither. After two weeks of careful prayerful consideration, I have pledged to become the senior pastor of Desert Foursquare Church. (Our denomination will still have to appoint me to this position).

At the age of 18, at Northwest Foursquare Church, a woman prophetically shared that I would be a pastor. Worship, teaching and ministry are all passions, but the responsibility of shepherding feels simultaneously constricting and freeing. This is not my comfort zone. Here I am, a willing, joyful servant who loves to see Jesus work in people’s lives.

The last several weeks have presented many obstacles. Our equipment is heading back to the NW to serve Puyallup’s needs (they have a very busy summer), and we are not incorporated as a 501 (c) (3). There are many other details, but I shared those two with a visitor to our church on the Sunday we made the announcement that we are transitioning to a church plant. I didn’t know this when the silver-haired couple asked me about our church that Sunday morning, but they used to pastor a Foursquare Church in La Quinta.

Dale and Patti Downs are their names, and they offered to connect us with the resources we require. The most important resources was the gift of their friendship, and the relationships they have here in the desert. Within two weeks of their visit, they connected us with many people in the desert that are excited and encouraged that we are launching this fall.

So for the last few weeks, my pastoral duties have just about doubled. Now we are going through the process of incorporating and building a team of people who will launch Desert Foursquare Church. We are excited to spend this summer incubating our core team of staff and members (about 30 people in all). This is a critical time for praying and seeking God’s will for our church. If you’re reading this now, please take a moment to pray for us in this journey.

I could write a book about our adventure, but I’ll keep it short for now. I’m happy to respond to questions to this post, so feel free to ask any question. Thank you to all of my brothers and sisters who are praying with us.

Discerning God’s Will

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian. I am just a believer, working out my faith. Your rebuttals are always welcome in the comments section.

Back in high school, I got into a conversation with my friend Luke Draeger about whether or not we need to pray about everything we do. On one hand, we are told to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17) and on the other hand we are admonished to use scripture as our guide (Psalm 119:105).  As high school students are prone to do, we threw out our best semi-educated guesses and left it at that. It is a question that, for me, needs continuous attention.

J.I. Packer writes in Knowing God, Chapter 20, “Thou Our Guide”, that there is a hyper-spiritualism in believing that God speaks directly to us more than he uses his Word. Why would he continue to whisper in your ear when he’s written down what He has for us? Our lives are best when guided by the Word of God. Packer shares some pitfalls that await those who pursue signs, supernatural insights and “open doors” in order to guide our lives. For the sake of brevity, here are four of those pitfalls:

  1. Unwillingness to think. There is a pseudo-spiritual persona lived by those who refuse to be wise and discern facts. So much of scripture guides us to sharpen our minds and get wisdom. Why? Because with wisdom, we make wise choices.
  2. Unwillingness to suspect ourselves. I had a wise teacher years ago who helped me to understand the importance of not trusting myself. My problem is that nobody can lie to me as well as I can. That’s where I have to constantly align my actions with Scripture in order to defeat deception that may exist internally. My senses and instincts seek gratification, sometimes at the expense of other senses and instincts. Psalm 139:23-24
  3. Unwillingness to discount personal magnetism. The more I depend on my own charisma to sell the Gospel, the less Gospel I am selling. Humility is the only way to counterbalance the pull of power and fame in a Christian’s life… especially a pastor.
  4. Unwillingness to wait. Prophets and evangelists have a very difficult time not saying anything. What happens when the Lord doesn’t answer? What do you say when there is spiritual silence? The human temptation is to fill in the dead air with a person’s educated guess. If God isn’t in a hurry, then neither should we make haste.

On several occasions, I have had visions or direct revelations from God about his will. When these insights come, they have to run through my filter:

Does it contradict the Word? If so, it’s more likely indigestion than revelation.

The concept of living life wholly dependent upon God to direct your every step distances us from the reality that we are called to live wise, disciplined and discerning lives. Hyper-spiritualism would have us believe that we are paralyzed until we hear from the Lord. This paradigm is sometimes evidenced within Pentecostals. On the other hand, we are completely dependent upon God for our every breath… he is the sustainer of life and the ultimate authority.

Vocational and familial choices can be difficult to discern because the Scripture doesn’t tell each reader which job to choose or which spouse to marry. These are decisions we make based on our understanding of God’s written will; His principled desires for our lives. He created us with a certain personality, at a specific time in a geographic location in order to pick our life choices, with the Holy Spirit working through us, and the Scripture in front of us. Our personality is who we are; character is what we do with it. If there is anything good in our character, it is because the Bible is working that good within us.