I arrived at Saddleback Church in early July of 2010, slightly less than a year ago. And in early July of this year, I’ll be leaving after exactly one year of serving on staff as Editor of Pastors.com.
I will most likely continue as Editor on an interim basis but will be serving the kingdom in a new role – we’re planting a church – the first in what will come to be known as the Saddleback Network, and we hope we’re only the beginning of a multiplying, church planting movement.
At the suggestion of a couple of mentors, including my own team Pastor at Saddleback, I’m going to be offering a weekly column here on Pastors.com with an update on the process of planting Grace Hills Church. And I want to do more than “report.” I want to learn and discuss the entire process by listening to you, our Pastors.com community.
We’ve begun preparing to plant Grace Hills. We’re setting aside money, contacting potential team members, and raising support (yes, we’re looking for partners). We’ve written articles of incorporation, bylaws, and a prospectus. But at the end of the day, there is a school of preparation through which God wants us to walk. We don’t know yet what all of the learning experiences will look like, but I’m sure they are coming. Just look at the biblical examples…
Joseph was born to the large and wealthy family of Jacob, a privileged and preferred son, only to be sold into slavery and forgotten in prison before finally ascending to greatness in Egypt.
Moses was reared in the home of Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world at the time. He was trained in the finest schools and had access to the wealth and power of the world, but spent forty years raising sheep in the desert before leading God’s people to freedom.
Saul studied at the feet of Gamaliel, was trained as a Pharisee, a keeper of the law in every point. He was born to Roman citizenship and was ascending to power when Jesus blinded him. From then on, he counted all of his past privileges loss for the excellency of knowing Christ.
And David was anointed early by Samuel, spent his teen years leading great military campaigns and living in the palace with his best friend, Jonathan. He even married King Saul’s daughter and became a part of the royal family. Then… he lost it all and hid in a cave for his life.
God prepares the heart for greatness in mysterious ways belonging to His wisdom alone. His process of discipleship involves pain, loss, and suffering. This is the tough side of spiritual growth, but it’s God’s way of getting us ready for His ultimate purpose for our eternities.
David suffered five significant losses from 1 Samuel 19 through 22.
- He lost Saul as a potential mentor and the palace as a home.
- He lost Jonathan – they never meet again after this.
- He lost Michal – her affection and devotion.
- He lost Samuel, never getting to see him again either.
- He lost his own dignity and acted insane in Gath.
I see, in David’s experiences, four huge lessons God wants us to learn during our preparation for His calling…
1. HE is worthy of praise.
In loss and suffering, in abundance and blessing, we realize the greatness of God. That is, our own powerlessness reminds us of His awesome power.
2. HE is to be trusted.
Through loss, God keeps His promises. Through lean times, He comes through. He continues and finishes the work He begins in us. That doesn’t mean our plans will never suddenly change mid-stream, but the work of shaping us into the image and likeness of Jesus, He is determined to complete this great work.
3. HE is to be feared.
David learned, during this very difficult period of his life, to fear God. And the more we fear God, the less we fear everything and everyone else. I personally struggle with this one. I often seek to please people or at least give them as few excuses as possible for being upset with me. But deep down I know, and I’m learning it daily, that God alone is to be feared and fearing Him erases fear of everything else.
4. We are to walk before HIM.
The reason He spares us is that we will learn to walk before Him, to relate to Him, and to live for Him.
God’s processes of discipleship are totally unlike our own. We can teach people habits to form and patterns to follow. We can equip, instruct, and train. But God disciplines. God alone understands the truest path to greatness is the complete brokenness of the heart and utter dependence upon Himself alone.
This is His goal for us. Are we willing to walk that path?