Today (October 18, 2015) is a significant milestone in my faith journey.
Fifteen years ago today, sitting at my computer in my dorm room, I gave my life to Christ and began a relationship with him. Along with that milestone, I also hit 10 years in full-time church ministry last month.
So I thought it’d be fun to reflect back and jot down a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
It’s So Easy to Fake It
Fake your relationship with Christ. Fake everything is going well. Fake there’s no unrepented sin. Always know what to say. Always know how to respond. Basically pretend you’re a mature Christ-follower.
It’s scary knowing you have that ability. At times, I have even leveraged it to some degree.
If you’re truly going to grow and thrive in ministry or your relationship with Christ, you have to be vigilant about pulling down any facade or mask that wants to go up. Transparency and vulnerability is the exact posture that will exalt you in the eyes of God. Pretending to have it all together only falsely exalts you in the eyes of people.
Life Lesson: You are only as strong as your willingness to be vulnerable.
Pop the Christian Bubble
This is one I struggle with all the time.
The more connected you get to the church and other Christians, the “safer” your bubble becomes. I’m embarrassed to admit, I am way more comfortable hanging out with my Christian friends than I am sharing the Gospel with people outside my bubble (invites to church don’t count).
Matthew 9:36 and 14:14 both say Jesus looked at a crowd and was moved with compassion. People moved him. If you look at the life of Jesus, he regularly walked the streets. Interacted with all different types of people. Saw first-hand their disease, sickness, and pain. Slowed down enough to hear their stories.
He was moved by them because he knew them. He walked with them.
I have not walked with enough non-Christians. And I can tell because my heart does not hurt for them the way I know God’s does.
Life Lesson: To have Jesus’ heart for people, you have to be willing to walk among the crowds.
Plant Yo Self
I’ve moved to four new cities over the last 15 years. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in each new city, I did two things that became game changers. They drastically raised the quality of my personal, relational, and spiritual life.
I would recommend everyone do these two things as well:
- Plant yourself in a local church
- Plant yourself in a small group
The Bible says those who are planted in the house of God will flourish (Psalm 92:13). I can’t imagine two better places to plant yourself.
The two greatest spiritual influences on my life have been churches. Churches I’ve invested time into, served at, and made friends in. There’s more in my spiritual DNA that comes from churches than any other single person or source.
And waaaaaaay more than you realize, your community (or lack of) impacts your personal, relational, and spiritual growth. There is literally zero aspects of your life that won’t improve from having a solid small group in your corner.
Life Lesson: Find a church. Find a small group. Plant yourself. Invest. Grow.
Below is a picture of me 15 years ago, just a couple months after I had given my life to Christ. The people surrounding me were my small group. They were the community that helped lay the critical first parts of my spiritual foundation. Without their initial influence, I would not be writing this for you today.
You Learn Random Skills in Ministry
Some of my favorites include chair stacking and scissor lift operation.
I would wager there are few people on this planet more efficient at stacking and unstacking chairs (into rows). I’m a professional chair stacker. No joke. And who would have thought I’d become a certified scissor lift operator. Along the way I may have put holes in some walls, but now I’m a seasoned veteran. I’ll maneuver that lift in and out of tight places all day!
Life Lesson: If you have a heart to serve people, the church, and God, no task is too small.
From Pursued to Pursuer
I remember early on in my relationship with Christ, everything was easy. I prayed and God seemingly answered immediately. I’d read the Bible and it would speak directly to my current situation. I would worship and tangibly feel God’s love and presence.
A relationship with Christ? Piece of cake. But eventually all those things became more difficult. As if the water well had dried up. It felt like God had stopped pursuing me.
I think we’ve all been here at some point in our journey.
God knows the maturing of our faith requires the testing of it. And in that season, I realized I was showing up for the wrong reasons. Jesus wasn’t the object of my affection. Getting what I wanted from Him was. I responded to God because of what He gave me. Not because of who He was.
Eventually, we all have to wrestle with our motivations and what (or who) we’re really seeking after. Will you pursue God because of who he is and not because of what he can do for you?
Life Lesson: Become the pursuer in the relationship and your intimacy with Christ will have no limit.
I’m sure there are countless other lessons, but these are the handful that came to mind immediately. What about you? What are some lessons you’ve learned as a Christ-follower?