“I think I told you before of a conference I was at once. At the end, testimonies were asked for from the ministers as to what the conference had meant to them; one and another got up and said, ‘Oh, I have had a wonderful time; I have had a glorious time; this has been the best time of my life…,’ and so on. And then one man got up, his eyes were red, his face was strained; he said, ‘I do not understand this; I have had an awful time. This week has meant devastation to me. Everything that I held as important is gone. I am left with a necessity for a new Christ, a bigger Christ than ever I have known.’” – T. Austin-Sparks (The Great Transition from One Humanity to Another)
I have had one such experience where I was devastated and needed a new, bigger Christ than ever I had known…
In July of 2007, I stepped away from vocational ministry, aka being a pastor on staff at a church. In February of 2009, my wife and I stepped out of the institutional church system entirely. Roaming the wilderness outside of Babylon with naught but one family, we all clung to anything the Lord gave us: books, blogs, audio messages. Then, just a few months later, after what felt like an eternity, in the summer of 2009, a glimmer of hope, an oasis in the desert: He invited us to a conference in Houston, TX. This was to be a 4 day, 3 night event that promised a helping hand in starting a church, an organic church. Or so we thought. We were going to go learn from esteemed authors and experienced workers and bring that knowledge back to our small town in Oklahoma, so we could do this new-fangled church thing ourselves, and do it right. Or so we thought.
You see, back in Oklahoma, my wife and I wanted to buy or build a house. We wanted to settle in and raise our kiddos. We had another family that wanted God much the same way we did, so we figured we had the makings of a small church already. I was working a couple of jobs, Bridget was homeschooling the kiddos, we lived close to family, and we had friends pursuing the Lord with us. American dream-type stuff, right? So, it stood to reason that we’d all attend the Houston conference, learn how to function and do church outside the system, come back home, start a church, and live our lives with God. We were pursuing Christ, wanted to know Him more, and this was how it was going to happen. Or so we thought.
God, it turned out, had other things in mind.
When we arrived, we were greeted with songbooks. Strike one. Organized singing was obviously related to the institutional system, and we wanted nothing to do with it. With our excitement dampened, we found seats and awaited the beginning of the thing. Then we were asked to sing. Strike two. It was obvious that not very many people knew these songs, plus we were singing a-cappella. One more strike, and this thing, in my book anyway, was gonna be a failure.
However, the speakers started speaking. With as open a heart and spirit as I could muster, I listened. Then I received. Then I was totally blown away. We were presented a gospel we had never before heard. This was truly good news. This God I had known was bigger and newer than I knew. He was totally outside any box I thought I had. And His Church was the same. I had known the church I knew was sketchy at best, but what I saw that weekend was a Church that was newer and bigger than I had ever imagined. And that was only so because this Christ that I longed to know so much more was unlike anything I had even dared to dream.
My wishdream – gone. My imagination – too small. My plans – forever altered. My life – devastated.
I realized that I was still trying “to do” church according to the old humanity, my humanity. What I caught a glimpse of that weekend, and have spent every moment since learning, was that “Church” was only ever meant to be experienced and expressed according to the New Humanity, Christ’s humanity. He is the New Humanity. He is the Church. He is the All and in all. And even seeing the smallest fragment of that ruined me. It utterly ruined me. God ruined my life then and there.
We drove back to Oklahoma, and a little over a year later, we had all moved from Oklahoma to Florida. That’s how devastated and ruined we were. We had to quit jobs, sell homes, break families’ hearts, and choose to follow a new dream – God’s dream. We were so enraptured by the Lord and His purpose, we chose to leave ourselves behind and follow after Him. Even if it meant moving half-way across the country. Nothing else mattered. How could it? God was after something. God is after something. It was the call we had always felt, but never really knew how to answer. At that conference, we were finally able to answer the call. God made a way, His way, for us to answer that call. We could do nothing else.
Have you felt or heard that call? A call unto something more, something new, something greater than you’ve ever known? If you have, then you know about that of which I speak. It’s a yearning, a longing, a desire that just won’t go away. But maybe you just don’t know how to answer it? Maybe you’re a little scared to answer it? I know I was. Because it meant total devastation and ruination to me and my plans. It required a new plan. It required a new life. It required a new and bigger Christ. Dear saint, He is all that and so. Much. More. But don’t take my word for it, come see for yourself.
This is your personal invitation to join us at the To the Saints Conference in Austin, TX, in July. All I ask is that you consider it, and give God a chance to woo you. Allow Him to show you how new and big He really is. Allow Him to give you a glimpse into His heart, His eternal purpose. Am I that high on us or our conference? Absolutely not. I’m that high on HIM. It has nothing to do with me, the hosts, the speakers, nor anything else with the conference. It’s all on Him. And He’s big enough to handle it.
We have an early bird special going on until the end of April. If you register before then, you’ll get a special discounted rate. And if you’re married, there’s a special couple’s rate, as well. Check it out and register at tothesaints.com. I encourage you to do so, but beware, if you chase the Lord, He’ll ruin your life. Just like He did mine.