I’ve been describing the struggles of our transition as we pioneered in a new ministry. Many others were going through this transition and we joined them in the “move out west.” But before we go any further I want to answer the question; “Was it worth it?” Although the trail looked nothing like we imagined I would say it was more than worth it! Jesus has done some incredible things along the way and by no means have we reached the final destination.
God was calling us to San Antonio, Texas with a big vision; 2020 by 2020 – 2020 disciple-making groups and/or churches by 2020. When we got to Texas we started a ministry on Fort Sam Houston and it looked very similar to what we had always done. Our Bible study went from five soldiers to thirty-five in the first four months we were here. But through the chaplain’s sermon, unbeknownst to her, I heard the Holy Spirit asking; “Do you want this post or do you want the city?” I said, “The City!” So we moved off post. We started partnering with some folks who wanted to see the city reached for Christ and planted a church with Brett and Abigail Wilson, John and Janelle Williams, Nacho and Sara Pecina, Bud and Denise Abbott, Jason Ross, and Ben Hanna. We called it the “Timothy Church.” It was twelve people strong. In our first two years we trained over 50 local pastors and saw 111 groups and churches using the disciple-making and church planting principles we were learning. As we grew in confidence and competence most of the Timothy Church members started training others in different countries. (Some were already training in other countries) We were making disciples and planting churches all over the world. Not all those groups and churches lasted. Not all the people we trained stuck with it. Not all the “converts” continued in discipleship. But now, six years later, the leaders in that church are still working hard to reach the city and beyond.
Deb and I began to assist the Sundells around the US and overseas. We trained in Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, France, Ecuador, and Japan. The Abbotts joined us in our adventures. We were coaching and advising disciples of Jesus who had a heart to reach their own people with the gospel. During one of the trainings in Athens, Greece we were challenging the practitioners to pray and ask God for some big goals to reach their people. I was sitting in the back, kind of day dreaming and I had checked out because I was a trainer, and I didn’t need to pray and set any goals, right? Yeah, right! Of course, I snapped out of it and started praying. Once again, the Holy Spirit was speaking; “Do you want San Antonio or do you want the world?” That sounds crazy doesn’t it!? But that’s the deeper waters Jesus was calling us to. I said, “The World!”
We started seeing the online influence take off through Facebook, YouTube, and Video Conferencing. There would be online meetings where we would have 4-5 continents represented in so many time zones that one participant shows up at 1 AM. Thousands of people are sharing the gospel and making disciples. Many leaders are taking the training we put on video and running with it in their own cities and countries. Deb and I were influencing people for Jesus’ kingdom on six of the seven continents (and if the penguins would have listened, we would have Antartica too). We spent one hour with a couple from the Ukraine casting vision on the importance of church identity and they went back and planted 4000 churches. Let’s pull a “Addison” and cut the number in half because people tend to exaggerate. Ok, that’s 2000 churches! We’ve heard of 30,000 baptisms in Africa, training in 6 Balkan nations, 2000 Irainians reached for Christ, or even one Japanese person coming to Christ every week in some of the hardest soil in the world. Again, cut the numbers in half and it’s still amazing and that’s the tip of the iceberg. And Deb and I can’t take a bit of credit for any of it because we did it as a team and we just pointed people to Jesus and threw gas on their fire.
But I have saved the best part for last. Through all of this my relationship with Jesus as grown sweeter than it’s ever been. My prayer time is the best part of my day. I’ve seen things in the Word that has absolutely blown my mind. I saw things in my life that needed to change and He was giving me the grace to transform. You know it is not perfect but I’ve seen some of the “disciplines of the Christian life” turn into the “delights of the Christian life.” Walking with Jesus is the best part of this whole deal and if I had to do it again, I would, every bit of it.
This sounds like a big “Bragamony” and it is. I’m bragging on Jesus. He is the one Who has done every bit of this. As Dallas Willard used to say, “I was burning through grace like a 747 airliner burns through jet fuel.” Was it worth it? Oh yeah! And remember, it all started by saying “Yes” to Jesus and pushing through the challenges. Amazing grace, how can it be, that Thou my God should use a wretch like me. Thank You Jesus!
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15.1-5)
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29.11-13)
Do you believe that Jesus wants to use your life for His glory and to advance His kingdom? Are you willing to be pruned by the Master in order to see more fruit? Will you stay the course even during the tough stuff? Are you willing to give the credit to Jesus as the Vine and you are just one of the branches?