The post is the latest in the 2021 Season Change series. In the last few posts we explored the discernment process Brittany and I have been through in this last year, and I shared a bit about how I've processed the uncomfortable reality that the Lord has asked me to bring the season of my leadership of School of Kingdom Ministry to a close. In this post, I unpack the followup question nearly always immediately asked: "So what are you going to do next?"
What we don't have...
In most transitional spaces in our lives, it is wise to line our plans up so we don't have big gaps in between them. It's typical to leave one job with another one lined up, or sell a house with your eye on another one to purchase (or at least a place you want to find a new place to live). I'm all for this type of planning: in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is the wisest way to go. That being said, sometimes God asks us to do something that doesn't make a lot of sense, and that is where we have the chance to take a risk and give God the room to show up and do something different than we would have the ability to line up. It seems to me that is what God is setting us up for at this point in our lives.
All along the journey of the last year, we've been asking God to speak clearly about the next season: God, where specifically are we supposed to go? What specifically are we supposed to do? If I've asked that question once I've asked it a hundred times, and each time the sense I've had is exactly the same: "You're not going to get the next until you're moving in obedience of what I've already asked."
In transparency, this has been super difficult for me. It's hard when God asks you to lay concrete things down that are meaningful to you, but doesn't give any sense of clarity as to what will be placed in your hands next. Everything in me resists it: But it's dumb to not have a job lined up! It's stupid to sell your house when you don't have any idea where you're going to go! What are you going to do for income? These are all good and very legitimate questions! Questions that we should ask and think about.
The tension is that God isn't always trying to do things the way that looks smart to us. God enjoys pulling his divine trump cards and demonstrating his Godness:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:27–29
Sometimes God wants to pull the solution out of thin air to prove he's amazing and so much better than we human beings are, and that can never happen if we don't allow ourselves to come to a place where our situation looks foolish. I'm all for wise planning and thinking things through carefully with the long view in mind - I just would be reluctant to expect that's how God always does things. At times he revels in doing exactly the opposite. He gives us the Comforter because following him is often uncomfortable.
And this seems to be one of those moments. This is a moment where God hasn't let us in on the next, he's just told us to be obedient to say yes. To allow him to close doors before we can see the ones he's opening. It's hard, it's scary, but that's often how faith feels in the moment. What we don't have is a super clear plan. What is God doing here? What should we be heading towards? Fact is, he hasn't made that clear to us yet. Sometimes it seems to me that can be how faith works. Looks to me that's how it worked for Abra(ha)m:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you... Genesis 12:1
What's God's call? Leave. He doesn't say where to go, he just says to get moving and to trust that God will show him in due time. (At one point I read somewhere that tradition states that he actually followed his animals from Ur to Canaan as they grazed, but I can't find any sources on that, so I won't claim that here.) God doesn't clarify before obedience. He does the same with Moses. When Moses asks "why me?" here is God says he will give Moses a sign to prove it is real:
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:11-12
In essence, God says to Moses, "Here is your sign: I will meet you in your obedience and it will all work out." Sometimes the point is that we obey without a clear plan. After a year of God making clear he intends to ask us to obey without a clearly defined "next", that's what we intend to do. I guess we get the joy of being a bit of a public example of God playing his God-cards. May he be glorified!
What we do have...
While we don't really have any sense of clarity specifically where God is taking us, there are a few things we do know and I think it does make sense to share them. They're a little more at a meta-level, but I think it's valuable to share them. Here are the things we do know:
God runs my life in 10 year seasons, and this is a season change
During the year we've taken in this discernment process, one of the steps the Holy Spirit impressed upon me was to timeline my life. I'd never done that before, and when I did, I discovered something fascinating: almost to the month, the Lord has run my life in very precise ten-year seasons. Every decade, God upends my life and introduces a new season:
- Summer 1991: My family moves to mainland China to be missionaries.
- Summer 2001: I leave home for college and begin my journey with physics.
- Summer 2011: I fully leave physics, join the Vineyard staff full-time, and start SoKM.
- Summer 2021: The present moment!
Each of the previous transitions involved concluding a significant season in my life and opened up a whole new trajectory. Seems that God is intent on doing the same this year.
I still feel called to catalyze Holy Spirit ministry
One of the questions I've asked myself during this whole season is what me stepping away from SoKM means regarding stirring things up with the ministry of the Spirit. The sense I've gotten is that season isn't concluded, in fact if anything I sense a potential stepping further in there. The message I gave at the Vineyard USA national conference in 2019 was about the importance of my generation (and the ones coming next) having the same opportunities for Holy-Spirit-flipped-my-life-upside-down-encounters as the previous generations in the Vineyard had. If anything, I feel that conviction growing in importance. I suspect that will be a key part of my next season. I also sense it might be time to invest more in church leadership and movement catalysts more intentionally.
I sense church pioneering will take a more central role
For the last number of years, God has been talking with me about different forms of church that are more native to our 21st century context. This has really stirred a lot of passion in me and I know it's something I need to begin to figure out what putting action to looks like. I have no idea what specifically that looks like (do I need to church plant? experiment outside of church planting? something else?), but I sense that will be an important part of the next season. I'm excited about whatever that winds up looking like.
So we're setting off to explore these themes. Where do they lead? I have no idea! I do know that as we go, God will begin to speak and clarify, and in due time this will all make a lot of sense and God will look like a genius. It's only right now it looks somewhat confusing.
To begin to take obedient action , Brittany and I plan to transitionally move to Chicago this summer and create a space where we have a lot of room in our lives to hear God speak and guide us. I have no idea how long we'll be in there or if our next assignment has any connection to Chicago, but as we've weighed all the different factors that matter in this transitional season, that step seems to be the best choice of action to begin to move forwards and watch God color in more of the picture as we go. We would appreciate your prayers!