In December 2008, after a two week period of spiritual discernment, God led us (the Sunrise community) to bring that mission to a close. The fifteen months that have followed have been a season of listening and learning to listen to God. Amy and I, at the counsel of friends and mentors, have proceeded very slowly in choosing the next path into ministry. We have been waiting on the Lord.
Early on, following the close of the Sunrise Church, we thought another church plant was imminent. I never felt that the calling to plant churches was taken from me in the discernment to bring Sunrise to a close. The leading that we felt was more about the systems and structures of Sunrise, than it was about our role in starting churches. Therefore, we partnered with Storyline Christian Community as church planters in residence and Mission Alive, a church planting resource organization. Our initial commitment to Storyline was extended to last through August 2010 as we waited on God to lead us into a new church planting.
A priority early on in my residency was to dive deeper into prayer. As I began to participate and learn from my co-workers at Storyline, I made a goal of spending one day a month as a retreat day to spend time with God. I fell far short of following through with that commitment every month, but in September 2009 I did. I spent the day at Fish Creek Linear Park just south of my house. I decided to take a walk down the Fish Creek trail and back into the brush by the creek. I find that walking helps me think and pray. The trail led me to walk past an elementary school. As I watched the children playing outside during recess, I began to ask God to help me learn how to develop systems to help kids be formed spiritually because I will need to know this for my next church planting. As I prayed, I began to feel uneasy about using language like “when I plant my next church.” So I began to ask God how I will know if and when He wants me to plant another church. I remembered praying for my sister and brother-in-law, who were in a process of discernment about whether God was calling them to move to Uganda as missionaries. My prayer for them during that process was only that they be of one heart and mind in the decision they would make. As I walked and thought and reflected I got a strong sense that God was telling me that I would know the answers to if and when to start another church when Amy knew.
I would know when Amy knew. I needed to encourage Amy and help her make herself available to listen to God. So that is what I did. I told Amy what I had heard and she began to intentionally make herself available to listen to God. She developed a process of discernment that consisted of regular rhythms of prayer, scripture, listening, and fasting. She asked nine people to join her in prayer.
In the midst of this, in January 2010, I began to learn some knew practices of listening to God called Church of Two. I began to come alive in a new way and started hearing the leading of Holy Spirit in my life like never before. I began to understand the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33-34 in a very personal way. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I still had very little idea about what God was leading me toward off into the future, but I was very confident about what I needed to do today for his Kingdom.
In February, Amy and I had the opportunity to go on a little weekend vacation, just the two of us. Grandparents agreed to keep the kids, so we were off. The only thing we had on our agenda for this time away was to spend some time listening to God. I was very hopeful that we would hear from God in a special way regarding our discernment of next steps in ministry. I was becoming more and more excited about the possibility of a next church planting. We had recently participated in a church planting strategy lab that had been a spring board for my church planting imagination. I had also been approached by a co-worker at Starbucks who wanted to take some deeper steps into faith. However, I was sensing that Amy and I were not really on the same page. During our listening time, we didn’t hear anything that suggested God was ready for us to move forward. In fact, I heard just the opposite. Previously, my experiences of receiving a word from God were primarily through thoughts, words, or scripture. This time I had somewhat of a vision of a horse slowly pulling a cart. Though I had hoped to hear God say he was ready for us to move forward, my sense was that we were still supposed to move slowly. The word Amy heard was through John 14, an encouragement for us to trust God. We did, however, have a great weekend together and had some great conversations about our hopes and dreams for the future.
After we returned home and got back into the rhythm of life, we both began to settle in and find peace in not knowing what the future holds. We both began to really trust God, even as our fundraising income began to dwindle.
In late March 2010, something happened. Amy began to sense that something had changed. She began to feel like she had heard from God. Amy felt like God was ready for us to move forward in our next steps in ministry and that he was giving us a general freedom to decided what that would be. She emailed those she had invited to pray with her during this discernment and let them know she thought she had heard from God. Before she revealed that word to them, she invited them to share a word with her if they had one. Several responded, but one in particular seemed to confirm the word Amy had received. Amy shared the word with me and we both began to look for further confirmation. We each received a special moment of confirmation that week.
Amy’s came through a time of prayer while getting stuck in traffic. She was talking to God about what she had heard and asking if it had really come from him. As she was praying she began listening to a song on the radio. Several lines from the song were really meaningful to her. At one point in the song she heard these words, “I want you to know, that it doesn’t matter, where we take this road.” As she realized that traffic had stopped her right next to the daycare that the Sunrise Church used for our worship gatherings, she heard this line, “And I want you to know, you couldn’t have loved me better.” Both were very meaningful words of confirmation for her.
Mine came the next day. I had planned to go out and spend most of a day at White Rock Lake. I was praying as I walked the trails around the lake. I started walking down a small footpath that led away from the lake and began having a conversation with God about what Amy had heard. I was asking him if that was really what he was saying or if there was actually a specific path that he wanted us to take. Right in the middle of that conversation, the path I was walking on abruptly stopped with an open field before me. It was obvious and clear that God was confirming his word for us.
So here we are, with permission from God to move forward and freedom to decide how to serve him in ministry. We have decided to pursue another church planting. We still don’t know the answers to many of the questions that follow, but we are excited to start asking them. Please pray for us as we do.