What God Did To My Heart Through Croatia

I preached on most of this last Sunday (and the audio may be up, we’ve been having some issues with the church website) and I think it is fitting to end the Croatia posts with it as well.

A mission trip or camp experience is very different for the leaders of the trip. Often times the details of the trip, the stress of keeping everyone safe, the hassle of being “the point person” for every decision can get so overwhelming that you end up missing what God is doing. We don’t mean for this happen. In fact, we’ll try very hard for it NOT to happen. But sometimes it does.

That didn’t happen this trip for me mainly because I was traveling alone.

The other danger is to get complacent. It starts with actually believing what is in the brochure with your name on it – “Come listen to this guy from the states because you know he has it all figured out.” Part of that MAY be true – you may bring something or a message that needs to be heard. But it is equally true that God has you there to still listen and be molded by Him.

My biggest fear has been to lapse into this latter category, getting complacent with where I am, and all of a sudden one morning I realize that I haven’t talked or heard from God in a long time. That’s what a Pharisee is. Not some evil doing jerk, but a person who honestly loves God but has honestly quit hearing God and is still doing the same old things.

This trip was God’s wake up call to me.

The Big Ideas

Just do it, figure it out later
A missionary that had been kicked out of his country said this to me in response to my question of what he was going to do next. Great answer. “God’s wired me to tell these people about Jesus and disciple them. That’s what I’m going to do and we’ll figure out the rest of it later.”

There’s nothing wrong with a strategic plan as long as it moves you. I’ll take my unorganized mess over your organized theory any day.

How I Graded Out: F
The last two years I’ve spent more time planning than doing. I could give you a ton of reasons why but then I’d just undermine the whole point.

Level of vulnerability = depth of ministry
Teams that have high vulnerability see God do great things. Teams that don’t reach a certain level of work and plateau. Missionaries constantly came back to this reality over every other obstacle they face. I thought they’d talk about the falling dollar, the communist way of life, the difficulty of language and culture. Those are real obstacles as well but the one that hindered them the most was this one.

How I Graded Out: C
I didn’t know what to do with this one. On one hand, I’m pretty vulnerable to a fault. On the other hand, it’s hard to be vulnerable when you are too busy being strategic and smart. When I got back to the states, I got to sit down with my youth team and walk through this. It was embarrassing, humbling, and worth it. What amazes me about this whole process is that there was nothing “new” that I learned but rather a reminder of God what real ministry is.

Worship = trading what you have for whatever Jesus has.
This particle night rattled my cage pretty hard. We’re sitting around talking about the whole lack of vulnerability and all the possible reasons why this happens.

I leave that conversation to teach students on John 9 – the man born blind. The first three verses cut me to my heart. The disciples see the problem of the blind man and start asking how this happened, who is at fault. In other words – they start making a list of all the possible reasons why this happened. Jesus rebuked them for asking the wrong question and in the process missing the bigger question of “what can God do through this situation.”

In the course of 45 minutes God had spoken clearly. Trying to figure out the reasons is asking the wrong question. Focus instead on what God could do through this. That’s the punchline of the rest of the story – are you at a place where you are willing to trade whatever you have for whatever Jesus has. The blind man traded his dignity for sight. To put another man’s spit on your face was the ultimate insult.

How I Graded Out: F
The truth of the matter is that there is comfort and security with a plan, with a process. Here’s where God really drilled me. On the surface, our student ministry looks good. If you look at the process of the last 20 months, there is much to celebrate. Moving from 2 to 30 some odd students, a couple of retreats, couple of ski trips, starting Life Groups. Lots of changes with little stress or drama.

But at the core – and I have to own this – I wasn’t willing to trade that process for whatever Jesus had. I wanted the security and the plan more than I wanted to follow Jesus. Maybe it’s not that black and white. Maybe I was following Jesus as best I could in the context I was in. Maybe I followed Him a majority of the time but not all of the time.

Maybe all those things are true but as I came home trying to figure out what to do next in student ministry, I was faced with the real decision – do the next step in your plan OR trade whatever you have for whatever Jesus has. It’s a sinking feeling having to go to your volunteer team and your boss and say – “Ummm….hey…let’s punt everything we did last year and instead do this.”

“The Job” is following a Person, not a location.
Spend two weeks with people who have left their country, family, and friends to follow Jesus and you’ll get humbled pretty quick. Every missionary has almost the same exact story:

“How did you get Africa?” (Because all missionaries are in Africa….)

“I got on a plane and it landed here.”

In other words, we left and came here because this is where Jesus was leading.

I was in a church where a terrible split happened and many people got hurt. In the middle of that conflict the phrase was said “I love it here, I want to die here, this is where I want to finish my ministry career.” Great sentiment (maybe) that had some painful consequences.

As pastors – we don’t get to make that call. We can feel that way – content with where we are – but our job is following Jesus, not a location. And He gets to determine when and where and how we finish.

How I Graded Out: F
I love Parker. I love Colorado. I love my church. But I had to make a phone call when I got back to the states. A few months before I left for Croatia, I had said the exact words to a buddy of mine asking me to pray about a ministry opportunity somewhere else. I never really prayed about it because how in the world could Jesus want me to leave Denver???

No, I’m not leaving nor am I looking but it was a heart check from God. Would I? Would I follow him even if it meant leaving my beloved city and church? Would I follow Him even if it meant leaving the ministry all together? Was I more in love with my job and vocation than I was following Jesus?

I didn’t like the answer.

One more post to go to wrap stuff up…


4 thoughts on “What God Did To My Heart Through Croatia

  1. Thanks for all of your vulnerabilities in your post! Good lessons for me, too, and your sermon was great! As far as praying about any other opportunities, selfishly, please don’t!! My son NEEDS you!!!


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