A look at divine appointments as written about by Todd Parish of Redemption Church in Houston, Texas. Todd’s post compliments another post that I read on the Eastern District blog earlier this year by Peter Johnson. My post, which I hope the EFCA will find both encouraging and challenging, is this aspect. Does the EFCA realize the divine appointments that are around them? In this unpredictable and uncertain era, does the EFCA realize the opportunities that are around them? Its an exciting time to be a pastor, do many in the EFCA fully comprehend this?
“Change is terrifying for people who feel immune to it by virtue of status, divine appointment, or imagined irreplaceability.”
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
John 1:12-13 NIV
A while back on the blog for the Eastern District of the EFCA Peter Johnson wrote about relational evangelism, and when its difficult. I enjoyed reading his post and believe its tied into what I am going to write about today. You can read Peter’s post called “Relational Evangelism Even When It’s Tough.” For those of you who do not know Peter Johnson is the Associate Superintendent who serves under Eddie Cole in the EFCA’s Eastern District. Peter comes from Montvale Evangelical Free in Montvale, Mew Jersey. Then for ten years he served as the Senior Pastor of Northern Valley Evangelical Free in Cresskill, New Jersey. He then joined the Eastern District staff in 2007.
I personally wonder if the EFCA realizes the opportunities that exist around them. I wonder if the EFCA is aware of the divine appointments around them as they go about their life. That’s from the District staff, to the HQ in Minneapolis to the individual EFCA pastors around the United States. In order to maximize on those opportunities I hope the EFCA realizes that the Gospel should not be mixed with politics. But we are living in a fast changing world that is getting faster and always on the edge due to changes in communications, the internet and technology. The world today is very complicated. I personally view the internet as the modern equivalent of the printing press, and that it has ushered in a new way of thinking and made access to information, and disinformation easily accessible. As I have written this blog I can see how disinformation causes harm. As a result it leaves me wanting to re-dedicate my efforts to be personally committed to always telling the truth. Its always important to be accurate for writing purposes.
I wonder if the EFCA realizes what a joy it can be to be a pastor and all that is around them in life. I wonder if many of the EFCA’s pastors are deeply aware of the changing world and how they are needed now more then ever. If many pastors become consumed by the culture wars then they are going to miss opportunities around them to show love and grace and become involved in people’s lives. What can some of those opportunities be? Here are some examples rolling around in my mind.
- The opportunity to come alongside a single mother who is struggling with a child or two who works and is trying to make ends meet but is personally wrestling with life.
- The ability to befriend an atheist and listen to them as they reject Christianity because of the problem of evil, or believes that to be a Christian means you have to give up your belief in evolution and categorically reject science.
- Show compassion for the bi-sexual man who found out that he was infected with HIV and is trying to come to terms with what that means.
- Lovingly support the battered female who filed for divorce from her husband who has domestically abused and afraid that it will trigger more violence.
- Be intrigued by the high school student whose world is sports and video games. By all accounts a normal, ordinary life.
- Express sympathies for the senior citizen who is dealing with a partner who is in early stages of dementia.
- Understand and support the U.S. Army (USA) Captain who has done four tours to Iraq or Afghanistan who struggles because of what he has seen or dealt with. Perhaps he was forward deployed or shelled at the base he worked on. Or understand the complexities of the tolls that deployments have taken on his marriage.
- Love the young child who is in a hospital room dealing with leukemia and the parents who are concerned about it.
- Celebrate and be excited for the young family welcoming in their first child after being married for a couple of years. Its an exciting time as the husband’s career is taking off as well.
- Mourn and grieve the family who just planned their Mom’s funeral and is struggling with that void and feels profoundly lost.
- Learn about the young adult dealing with ADHD that struggles to process information at times, has challenges in school, and is often mis-understood.
- Lend a hand to a foreign exchange student from China who is in the nearby university for classes and is overwhelmed.
- Comfort the recent immigrant from El Salvador who is in the United States and trying to adjust and struggles with language skills. Assuage his fears that exist that he will face discrimination as a new arrival.
- Learn and listen to a member of the dones, someone in their 40’s who believes in God but is done with the church. This is a movement of people I would like to see the EFCA target. I very much would like the EFCA to be stretched and challenged in un-conventional ways.
- Love the person in their 50’s who is frustrated that he is still single who doesn’t want to enter old age alone.
- Love and understand the blogger in Washington, D.C. who is psychologically stuck because of an act of spiritual abuse. He still can’t believe that he learned why rape and sexual assault is a problem, and that it was a false accusation that taught him that fact. He still can’t believe that his world is turned upside down.
These and many other situations are around people daily. The question is this…does the EFCA and many of its pastors realize what they could be a part of? Especially if they step out of their comfort zones and normal ways of functioning? Does the EFCA realize the people they could help? Or the people they could get to know? Or are many people in the denomination going through life and walking past many of the above situations and not paying attention to what is in front of them? Many of the above situations start with a relationship and being intentional about people and reaching out to them or listening to them. Each and every one has the potential to be a divine appointment. That is the beauty of Peter Johnson’s post is that it speaks about relationships in that context. Many evangelicals fail miserably in this area because they can be short sighted or have a narrow goal. This can be true sometimes of pastors or regular congregants. Others get wrapped up in toxic churches and get the basics of Christianity misunderstood. I still can’t believe that someone from a former Sovereign Grace church, walked away from an opportunity to lead a follower of Christopher Hitchens in many ways back to the Christian faith. I can’t believe that someone who boasted of how healthy his church would due something that would be so abusive, painful, and traumatic. When I read about what Peter Johnson wrote about in his story of his friend I almost wept. My story is not like that, and actually when I did something that many Christians do not do – own their mistakes, it still wasn’t good enough. Repenting and owning my mistakes to about 150 people over most of my life and it still was rejected. I don’t get that at all. I have banged my head on the wall and I still can not figure that out. After all I did something that even Mark Driscoll and C.J. Mahaney did not do. Is that the problem for Jordan Kauflin or an Air Force Captain in Colorado Springs? In the end did I invalidate their “sound doctrine” and showed how unstable and toxic Neo-Calvinism is? I don’t know, I ask myself this regularly.
The point I am trying to make is that in his world, people are looking and opportunities are around them. If I were an EFCA pastor I would be excited for what is at my doorstep or what my life may come into contact with. You don’t have to go far to find that the world is broken and in need. Love is the answer, and grace is medicine. I hope that the EFCA finds this post as motivating and that it will give them something to contemplate as to what is in their midst. Here it is, its close to 1:00 a.m. and I am pounding out another post and I still can’t believe that I am writing such a blog. I view everyone as a gift, and am thankful for getting to know them, wherever they are in life. Life is too short to be angry or short at others. But if I were an EFCA pastor I would consider that there is an adventure in front of me each and every day, and that I will not know what is around the corner. There are many opportunities to be used by God, my question is will many pastors go outside their normal walk of life and live a life of faith in an unconventional and challenging away? If people reached out and go to know people I think many would be amazed as to what they can discover. People who are seeking, and people trying to find themselves, and people who want to discuss. In this day and age its an exciting time to be a pastor as divine appointments are all around. Peter Johnson’s life speaks much to this issue, especially when you read his post. My prayer is that many in the EFCA realize this fact.
Its with that in mind that I would like to feature a blog post that comes from an EFCA Church in Houston, Texas. Its called Redemption Church and its led by Zack McCoy and Todd Parish. This is not the first time I have written about this Evangelical Free. Earlier this year I wrote the following post based off a blog post that Zack McCoy composed. Its called, “Zack McCoy of Houston’s Redemption Church Asks What do you Believe?” Having said that I want to introduce you to Todd Parish. Todd is from the Alvin/Friendswood area of Houston, Texas. Todd met his wife at Baylor University where he majored in sociology. He then helped lead the College and Career Ministry at Cypress Bible Church while attending Dallas Theological Seminary and picking up a Master of Theology (ThM) I would like to turn the rest of this post over to Todd and his post on his church blog which is called “Divine Appointments.” Take care guys and I hope you are having a good day.
What if it is no accident that we all live and work precisely when and where we do? What if there is a reason behind it all? How would this affect the way we see the people around us? As Christians, we believe that God exists and that He is active in this world. But that’s not all. We also believe that He is in control, and that His control even reaches to the extent of all of human history.
This has profound implications, not the least of which is the realization that the many “coincidences” of our everyday circumstances are in fact no mere coincidences, as if they just happened by accident.
While some people take this to the extreme and over-spiritualize everything that happens, this doesn’t mean that we should take this to the other extreme. In a very real sense, God is actively arranging what might seem to us to be just common, everyday circumstances of no real significance.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made my man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us (Acts 17:24-27).
God is very present and active in this world. And He is intentional. There is a purpose behind all that He does. If this is the case, shouldn’t our prayers and expectations reflect this?
One way that we can live like God is active and in control of this world is to boldly pray fordivine appointments.
A divine appointment is a meeting with someone that God has prepared beforehand so that he/she would seek after Him. Why not pray for God to arrange things like this? Why not ask God to bring us into contact with people who are ready to hear about real hope? The people around us are looking for something compelling. They don’t know it yet, but they’re looking for God. Won’t you join me in praying for divine appointments?