In the Tension

Fatherly Affirmations, Fire Alarms, and Fruit Roll-Up Hugs


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We start all of our Sundays with Prayer and Prep at 11:15AM. It’s the most important moment we get as a team to center ourselves as one body, one family, and one movement before we start to serve God’s vision for Radical Culture. But Sunday, November 13 (the Sunday after the elections), God was up to something in our community and in me.

In the days after the elections, I’d spent a lot of time thinking about the question:

What role does God want the Church to have in our country in this season?

As I wrestled with (and continue to wrestle with) this question, I had a fleeting thought that I could have greater influence for the Kingdom if I went back to a legal job. After leaving my job as a lawyer, nothing has gone as I anticipated. The challenges have worn me down and worn me out.

That fleeting thought went away almost as fast as it came and the Lord kept whispering Fatherly affirmations to me about my ministerial calling, my commitment to Radical Culture, and my vision to build-up people into their God-design.

Even as I confront my own challenges in the tension, I’ve learned an important life tip: steward what’s right in front of you.

God allowed that post-election question to marinate in my mind and spirit and with it He had given me clear instructions to do this Sunday a little bit differently. So, my assignment was to steward that question and those instructions.

My objectives for our Worship Experience were two-fold:

  1. Create a safe space for our young people to share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the elections 
  2. Start to engage in a dialogue about what role do we, as Christians, need to play

During Prayer and Prep, I looked at our team of leaders and volunteers who were serving and noticed that 12 out of the 16 people were young people 22 or younger. As I looked, I felt God affirm: “I’m doing it. I’m making my vision for Radical Culture to be a movement of young people radically committed to the kingdom of God a reality.”

With that Fatherly affirmation, I went over our two objectives for that Sunday. I affirmed the power of their presence and the power of their service to God’s vision. I shared some words from my prayers that week about the reason I serve young people and serve alongside young people. I told them it’s because I want to build sustainable bridges for them to cross into the future. I told them I want to dig deep wells for them to drink living water from as they stand in the gap for the Kingdom. I told them I want to train them well, so that they will train the generation that follows them well. We prayed together and we started to serve God’s vision.

As affirmed as I felt by God for this particular Sunday, I know that I can never take the opportunity to teach, preach, and build young people lightly. Our young people needed to hear from God’s voice in a way that resonates with them, so that they could be comforted by God’s words, confronted by God’s ways, and conformed to God’s will. And that…well that is not an easy assignment. In these days, where our young people are bombarded by the noise of voices that influence and form them, how could I offer a kingdom-cultural voice?

Here’s another life tip: Pray for prayer people. Choose them. Use them. I have prayer people and I had already chosen the prayer person who prays me into the hardest battles to pray. She prayed specifically about my influence and that I’ve been chosen to have that influence because of my righteousness before God. She affirmed our objectives for that day and my calling. I was ready.

We followed up the worship set with an open-ended question about general thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the elections. I shared from David’s story about a moment when he embraced the mystery of God’s timing and seized an opportunity for reconciliation. Then, we opened up the conversation again to make some observations about Christ-like reactions and responses to this moment in our culture.

As one of our young people shared about the challenges of a Christ-like reaction, the fire alarm went off.

Are you kidding me right now? Talk about mysterious timing! There’s always a message in the mystery. 

I grabbed my guitar on the way out, determined not to miss out on the momentum of this moment. I rallied our community and the young person who was talking during the fire alarm finished sharing.

As the fire alarm went off and the fire trucks approached the church, we prayed. We prayed for those who may be feeling fearful about the future. We prayed for those who were hurting and in shock. We prayed for God to have His way. We prayed for our newly elected president.

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The fire alarm stopped, the fire trucks left, we got an all-clear to re-enter the building, but we stayed outside of the church praying in a parking lot.

Then, one of our leaders led us to keep holding hands and wind up in circles – basically like a fruit roll-up – until we were all in a giant group hug!

In that fruit roll-up hug, I played my guitar and we sang, “No Longer Slaves” as one body, one family, and one movement of young people radically committed to the kingdom of God.

In that moment, I had one of those out of body experience where you’re watching yourself. I watched us the way I imagine God may have been watching us. I smiled as at us. I smiled realizing this generation is bright with the light of His presence outside of the walls of the church. I smiled seeing the power of our young people. I smiled confident that God isn’t waiting to use them until they’re older, but that He’s using them now. I smiled at myself, thankful that He chose me. I smiled affirmed that although I’m in the tension, I’m leaning into and living out God’s calling.

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Fatherly affirmations, fire alarms, and fruit roll-up hugs, have taught me (and are teaching me, because I’ll need to keep learning this) the depth and truth of what the author of Hebrews says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and since which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may no grow weary or fainthearted…It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline…For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. [Hebrews 12:1-3, 7, 11]

In the tension together,

sg

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