I'm a pretty boring person...generally speaking, and not very smart, in comparison to others. Thank God for the perfect substitute, Jesus Christ! He and my wife, of seventeen years...along with my three sons, and my precious princess of a daughter, are the most valuable treasures in my life.
God's providence has at times been to me both smiling and frowning. I've been the recipient of unspeakable joys...as well as unthinkable suffering. But as long as He is closer to me than my hands and my feet...closer to me than my breath...I'll live by faith in the Son of God who loves me, who gave Himself for me, who promises to rescue me in each suffering, and who swears by heaven and earth to come to earth and get me one day.
I'm gettin' a new body...one that is free from constant sinus infections, acid reflux, constant fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, vasomotor rhinitis, and gout. This body will be replaced by one that can walk through walls, and still eat fish on the beach...one that can appear and disappear at will...one that can ascend and descend between heaven and earth. I'll be joined one day to the innumerable sea of human beings who've been redeemed from every people group and language, all around the world, all throughout history. That's the club I belong to.
So I really dislike denominations, labels, and weird stuff like that. Humans (including Christian ones) hide behind all of this and live with their suffering and pain, all the while pretending to be fulfilled in Jesus. The kingdom of God comes to wash that stuff away like the flood of Noah, and rescue, redeem, relieve, refresh, renew, and regenerate. The blood of Jesus destroys all walls of hostility that exist between people groups...cultural (national) or subcultural (people groups). It absorbs the sin and the suffering that comes with it, and it does so in one eternal moment in the time-space continuum known as the cross. And that wooden stake in the ground where Jesus died, as well as the empty tomb He passed through - the empty cross AND the empty tomb - both preach at me, to me, and in me that everything which separated me from God and from other people has been completely destroyed.
These are the truths I've come to love. It's taken a long time. It began way back before God ever created the world. But it clicked into motion back when I was 11 yrs old, essentially saving me from 39 years of drunkenness, adultery, fornication, greed, theft, perversity, wife-abuse, child-abuse, and idolatry. This work of progressive sanctification continued through to the age of 16 when I felt distinctly called to ministry, then again through 18 yrs old when I felt compelled toward the nations. At age 19 I found myself working toward that goal in a missions organization, Ambassadors for Christ International. This moved into assuming a local church leadership role for two years overseeing teens. My two years with the mission organization, and the two years with the local church were the practical foundation to my Bible college degree with Luther Rice Seminary and Bible College.
Then the next chapter of my life began. I married Sherri. She's incredible...as most wives are. She completes me in every way...when I treat her like an equal heir in the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:7). I have a hard time with that. I'm visionary...I see the future...I see what things can be like, might be like, WILL be like, and I get excited and run ahead. Usually without my wife. I end up treating her like an admin assistant...rather than a genuine partner in the mission. But she loves me, forgives me, forbears with me, and continues to show such gentleness to me. I'm glad she's willing to keep me.
Chapters 3-6 were born in 1995 (Harrison), 1997 (Joshua Owen, whom the Lord took to Himself at birth), 1998 (Eli), 2000 (Sophia), and 2002 (Kirk). During these years I attended the Master's Seminary for my M.Div., co-pastored a church in Brentwood, CA and in Grand Rapids, MI. Then I stepped back into a denominational church, which I pastored near Columbus, GA. The last one knocked the wind out of me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So I took a break and stepped back into the business world as a consultant. Business has always been a part of my life in between ministry roles. I love it because God made it and He wants to use His church to reconcile business to Himself. Making things run better, more efficiently, more profitably, more smoothly gets me as hyper as exegeting a text from the Bible. I'm weird that way.
This last go round in ministry has been the most exciting. On my consultation travels to Statesboro, GA I met and established some fellowship with an exciting group of young people. That developed into their desire to investigate whether they should become a church plant, and whether the city even needed another church. My family participated in this venture for four months - September through December 2007. During the latter part of this time the Lord made it plain that He wanted us to join them and lead the group. Eventually we did just that in July 2008. We kicked off officially in August 2008, celebrated a one year anniversary in August 2009, and made it past the two year mark at which 80% of church plants fail.
During this time period I experienced what I had only come to believe recently and have tried to teach biblically: the baptism of the Spirit. My viewpoint changed radically from dogmatic-cessationist to continuationist in a jeep with an airbag and the front window down (forget the seat belt baby!). I want the safety of biblical teaching and apostolic leadership (the airbag) with the wind in my face as I drive really fast. This has been the long lost sibling to my reformed theology. It was there all the time like a siamese twin...but my head was always turned in a direction so I couldn't see it. Hand in hand with Jesus, I was led at 19 years old to see the Father and His electing grace which brought me to reformed theology. And hand in hand with Jesus I was led at 37 to see the Holy Spirit and His baptizing power which led me to a biblical charismatic theology.
I greatly value biblical apostolic leadership, based on the necessity of those ministries as described in Ephesians 4:11-16. Most local churches either fail or do not grow out of neglect for at least two of those ministries: apostle and prophet. God intended for His church to be guided by all five of these ministries. And we desire to submit ourselves to leadership in order to grow. This is what we've done as I've led our fellowship to come under the direction and oversight of New Frontiers USA.
To summarize, 2009 was one of the most glorious in my life. Our church plant grew in quality and quantity...in fruitfuless and faithfulness. One Newfrontiers apostolic leader said one Sunday morning to us that we were blessed with an unusual number of leaders. And God doesn't do that, he said, unless there are plans to grow and reproduce beyond the borders of our city and county and state.
In 2010 we pressed forward with a clear vision for continued apostolic leadership, what it means to belong to a local church, and the refining of our leadership in development team. Official church membership at the end of 2010 with a view toward biblical discipleship in 2011 is what awaits us now. I can't wait to see where this leads.
I love the church. I love my church. I love our people. I love our leaders. And I love the lost. I love the city, though I don't care much for small towns. I love the university campus. I love college students. I love weird people. I love kids. I love suffering married couples. I love new babies. I love racial neighborhoods, like the one where I live. I love fatherless kids playing in my yard each day. I love dreaming of urban renewal. I love investigating opportunities all around my small city for additional church plants among the poor and needy. I love to love. God made me this way.
Enjoy my journey as you have time. I also love to explore the gospel, the wondrous cross and all its splinters...the empty tomb and every little pebble inside. Explore and discover it all with me as the Lord leads me. I'm so privileged to have you share the mission in this small way. Perhaps there's something here that will stoke your fires.