On this very day one year ago I was released by God to pursue my calling. Seven years of preparation from 2003-2010 had come to an end and I was facing a new beginning. I thought I would become a lead pastor of an established church in a city on central Florida. Church planting never cross my mind. God’s plans were so much bigger and so much more exciting and full of life. The journey was full of disappointments and I almost lost my footing a few times but Jesus wouldn’t let me slip and he wouldn’t let go of me. In 2001 I found myself disillusioned with the church and ministry and began pursuing a second vocation as a salesman. It wasn’t until September 11, 2001 when I was in New York City on business that I realized I don’t even belong here. I am not a sliced fruit salesman I’m a pastor! 2003 I thought my time had come and I was called and invited to be the lead pastor of my home church. I thought this is absolutely it I have found my calling. A few days after the invite I was called back and told I was too young and too inexperienced and they needed someone to lead the congregation and beat the sheep into submission. I didn’t have what it took. A few months later I went to my last assignment before church planting. During those years God was shaping my vision. In 2003 I started a document called the Church of the Future, not everyone’s future my future. Over the next seven years God shaped my dream and placed a burning passion in me to lead. In October of 2008 I almost gave up while away at a conference on Atlanta. I learned the difference between conviction and condemnation. I called my wife Lorena from Atlanta crying uncontrollably and told her know why I am not a lead pastor. Of course she asked why and I replied, “I am just not good enough. God can’t trust me.” She told me that was ridiculous and spoke such powerful words of affirmation into my life and rebuked me in love. November of 2008 God spoke the name of my church City on a Hill to me while I was packing Thanksgiving Day Boxed dinners for the under privileged in our community. I thought it was a cruel joke at first because I still had feelings of condemnation and not being good enough. But then I began to dream again. Thank God for the gentle guiding of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus and a Dream
Psalm 126 1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. 2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” 3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
I treasured this dream in my heart for 16 months. It was grueling and it was the hardest 16 months I have ever faced. I heart and flesh almost failed but God was the strength of my heart. [Psalm 73] Finally in January I was asked by an individual, “What are your dreams and aspirations? Do you think you’ll ever be a lead pastor?” I responded, “I don’t think I know that know I will be a lead pastor one day.” I had another person take me to lunch that same month and encourage me to live my dreams. I had someone ask me, “Have you ever considered church planting?” My response, “Absolutely whatever God would have me to do.” It all came to a head the end of January I felt defeated. I was at my lowest point. I felt helpless and hopeless. Two things move people the push of pain and the pull of hope and I felt both. My wife came home and I told her, “They win, whoever they are, they win. I’m done. If this is all there is to church and ministry I can’t do it anymore. I’m done.” I said this with tears streaming down my face bent over in defeat. My wife turned to me and said, “You are a pastor. You know it and I know it. It is what you were made to do. I don’t care what it costs us I know God has called you and if it costs us everything to follow God then so be it. I can not and will not sit by and watch you die a slow death over the next 20 or 30 years.” It was my William Wallace moment for all you Braveheart fans out there. That speech resonated in my soul. “Wallace, Will you fight? Scotsman, “No we will run and we will live?” Wallace responds, “You will live for a little while but one day lying on your death bed you would be willing to trade every day from this day to that for just one chance to stand in the face of tyranny and say you may take our lives but you will never take our freedom.” I knew it right then. I had Jesus and a dream and that is all I need! I prayed and fasted like never before and God shaped the vision over the next few months. The timing didn’t make sense. Lorena lost her excellent job and her pay was cut in half. Our little bit of savings took a huge hit with dental work. I felt like Gideon. Every time I tried to figure out how we could make it God changed the game so there would be no question who was behind this. All I had was Jesus and a dream. No plan B, no church support, no benefactors, no denominational support, just Jesus and a dream. It sounds like a Bible story, I know! I absolutely love that because God gets all of the glory! No one can take credit for the miracle of City on a Hill Church only Jesus! The sovereign hand of God was so evident from the day we resigned to now it is unmistakably, undeniably God. Even naysayers have to admit it because they have no choice. Jesus and a dream works every time. As I sit here typing this in Panera Bread with tears in my eyes thinking of a testimony shared at COAH yesterday by a very special young lady, the four hands that were raised to receive Christ, and the number to be baptized on Easter I still have two things Jesus and a dream. This is only the beginning. God is just getting started. As long I remember, “It is all about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus.” We can’t fail. This past year I feel like I have been living in Acts 29 by the grace of God. I don’t know why God chose me but I’m glad He did. Let me encourage you dream! Dream God sized dreams. Pick fights with giants you can’t fight without Jesus. Go on an adventure into uncharted territory where only God can be your guide. Don’t let disappointments discourage you and don’t disqualify yourself. Consider your hardships, mud holes, mountains, hills, and valleys preparation for your future. Keep hold of Jesus and keep hold of your dreams.