Dare to say 'no'1
We’ve all had this experience before in some way or another: you’re talking with a fellow disciple and they say something along the lines of ‘so, I was praying last night, and I told God that I wasn’t going to do…’. When we hear of such prayers, our initial reaction is one of dismay knowing exactly how such a prayer typically ends.
That was me 16 years ago. I did just that. Not only did I say it once, but I said it on three separate occasions in a single year.
In my first twelve months of being a new believer, I distinctly remember saying to God that I wouldn’t A) enter into missions, B) go to bible college and C) enter pastoral ministry. In what can only be expected from such a declaration, I found myself joining a missions organization in 2016 and in 2018, I somehow graduated from bible college. How’s that for irony?!
In all sincerity, I truly meant what I said. I had zero intentions of doing any of those. It wasn’t even the faintest blip on my radar.
Lesson of the story don’t say ‘no’ to God. It has a funny way of creeping back to you.
In 2017 I felt my heart longing for St. John’s, Newfoundland. Out of the blue, without notice, I woke up one day and couldn’t shake St. John’s from my head. Now there’s more to the story than this but for the sake of space and time, 2017 was a significant year for me in the grand scheme of things. Thinking of life back home wasn’t a foreign concept – Newfoundland is, after all, where my family is from, and my heritage, and where many of my life experiences have originated – but this longing was different. I began to sense a desire to see Christ magnified and churches planted but, as I was living in Australia at the time, I had no idea how to even begin processing this. There I was living literally the FARTHEST spot a Newfoundlander could find himself away from Newfoundland. How my family and I returned to Canada is another story for another blog post. But it is rather ironic: the closer I was to graduating from bible college, the stronger these emotions grew.
When I look ahead at what’s before me, I think I can see why I have entered into theological education.
My wife and I, along with our two, beautiful children, moved back to St. John’s in early 2018. I don’t even know how we got here; I mean, I do, but I feel as if the last two years have been a blur – sort of a Spirit led roller-coaster where I was simply along for the ride. Short of the will of God, I am at a loss to articulate how we went from the initial emotions to being back in St. John’s. Maybe I don’t want to try and figure it out. I’m quite happy giving God the glory while resting and knowing that it was all Him. To Him be all the glory. Amen.
But here I am. I’ve entered into missions and I’ve graduated from bible college. And now my family and I are attending a church who also shares the same convictions and desires that we do - to see churches planted in St. John’s: Mile One Mission.
On top of that, I am now participating in a two-year program on church planting. The more I look at my life, the more I can see God guiding me down a specific path. It almost feels as if everything finds its roots in those three things I told God I wouldn’t do. Although I may not be planting a church yet or shepherding or engaging in pastoral ministry, it feels like life is moving in a direction where that could be a tangible reality.
I never thought in a million years I’d find myself travelling this path. I had ZERO desire to do any sort of church planting three years ago and yet I find myself working alongside an organization that is not only passionate about church planting but also seeing the Kingdom grow in a part of Canada that desperately needs the Gospel.
When I look back to my old self sixteen years ago – just a brand-new Christian – I was, for lack of better terms, the embodiment of the bare essentials. The mere frame of a car if you will. In automotive terms, my life in the proceeding sixteen years was something akin to a car being assembled in a manufacturing plant. As I grew, the more I learned about God and the more I learned about God the more I was being equipped and assembled for His good pleasure and purposes. I thought I was playing it safe (and smart) by telling Him that I wouldn’t do A, B and C. Little did I realize, and I now believe, He was both agreeing with me and also preparing me. In no way was I personally equipped to take on any of those areas. In much the same way that the Apostle Paul needed time to prepare for ministry (Gal 1:11-24), I too needed time to mature and prepare for what God was going to do.
Although I don’t know what the future holds (who can know the mind of God?), one thing is certain: I can trust in our Father’s will for it is good, pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:2).
Let’s see where this conveyor belt goes.
Matthew serves in the Multimedia and Communications arm of Mile One Mission. Matthew has a heart to see more Gospel centred churches planted around St. John's and area. After living in Brisbane, Australia for seven years, he struggles with remaining warm during the cold, frigid winter months. At the time of writing this post, it was 28 degrees in Brisbane. 28 degrees.