Since this blog is committed to encouraging planters, prophets and evangelists, I thought I would bring you into my process as a young planter over the last year. I have been severely tested and I almost quit my current mission! I have kept this off the blog because I wanted to go through the process more fully (although it is not done) and stay focused as well. I feel now is the time to let you in, and I hope this encourages you in your mission.
My wife and I moved to Los Angeles three and a half years ago to take on a serious planting mission. Our charge by InterVarsity USA was to start Greek Ministry across LA, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties. There are 17 campuses that have Greek Systems in that territory, so basically I was asked to start an area network that reaches these students that InterVarsity was missing.
I couldn’t have been more energized and excited. As I have detailed many times on this blog, I am apostolic and evangelistic. What better mission than to go start a bunch of new ministries in a very dark and hard to reach places? My primary energy and focus every day gets to be entrepreneurial. Yes!
But these three years have been so tough. Last Spring especially was rough. Our ministry was severely underfunded and we ended with a $35k deficit that we are still trying to climb out of. The ministry had grown forward in many areas and then shrunk back. One of my staff had to be released, and the church we were part of planting went away leaving us with difficulty in community.
Every part of me wanted to quit and move on.
Especially on days when I would get really nice job offers in other places of the organization or even outside in a new ministry entirely. The shiny other pasture looked AMAZING. I was starting to resent Greeks, and the funding I had to do to move this mission forward. I am not one to get depressed but I was right there.
However, every time I prayed about moving on, God made it clear to me through scripture, personal prayer, mentors, and words of knowledge from strangers, that I was supposed to stay. My emotions were ragging and swirling in all directions, but my gut and spirit KNEW what I had to do – stay and fight. God had called us here to create a network of ministry across the Greek Systems of Greater LA.
Three Important Moments
Three important moments happened for me last Spring that shaped the entire year going forward.
First, I met with a supporter of mine and very successful businessman. I wanted to talk to him because I knew he was ambitious, successful, goal oriented, but also Godly and discerning. I didn’t want to be totally honest but I knew I needed to. I met with him and told him “I feel like a failure and I want to quit. What do you think?”
Besides asking great questions, he also told me of missionary after missionary that he had been reading about that went to lead breakthrough ventures and the first 2,3, 4 years – sometimes longer – were brutal and unfruitful. But every one of them stuck with it, developed girt and pressed into the Lord. Then breakthrough came. He encouraged me that I was normal, doing a great job, and this was time to press in and let God form me as a young leader.
I left comforted and focused. I come from a strong business family so to have a strong businessman bless me to stay in the fight and not be anxious about results or lack of them was so helpful to me.
Secondly, at InterVarsity’s directors meeting in April the president of our movement sat at my table randomly. After the session he turned to me casually and asked me, “how is Greek ministry going?” I wanted to lie and spin, but I couldn’t. So I told him, “I am really disappointed right now to be honest.” That is not what I wanted to tell the pres! But without blinking, and in just the way I needed to hear it, he said to me,
“What year are you in your mission?”
I told him year three and he said quickly again, “The tunnel is always darkest in the middle.”
He then went on to explain to me that entrepreneurs tend to have a shelf life of seven years and the middle years (3-4) are the darkest. Youthful exuberance and funding wears off and real problems start to come to the surface in year three and four. It is in those years that we can quit and bail out, or we can dig deep with God and have him help us move through the “dark” part to the other side of breakthrough and light. He prayed for me and moved on.
I was stunned to the core by God and that was exactly what I needed. He gave me an image, an interpretation, and encouragement to keep going.
Later in June at our Regional staff conference for SoCal, I was in the main session when the preacher gave a strong word on revival leadership. His essential point was revival and breakthrough comes through disappointment. And, when we face disappointment in leading, what will be do? Will we give up, or dig in? He talked about those two things and I then I heard God say to me as clearly as I have before, “or will you be distracted?”
That was important to me because God was saying to me in June that my problem wasn’t giving up, it was distraction from other opportunities. I had a new book out, and some speaking opportunities and outside conferences. I was also being asked to consider outside jobs once a month. That night in June I heard God ask me if I would focus in my disappointment. Would I channel all my disappointment into prayer and fasting for breakthrough in Greek Ministry in Los Angeles? This is why I brought you here the Lord reminded me. On days when I was “not busy” because the ministry was low, would I spend hours praying for breakthrough in the Greek Systems and our funding? Instead, what I had been doing and was tempted to do going forward was to take on outside speaking, write more, and look at other jobs and consider them when they came my way. The last thing I wanted to do was sit in disappointment feeling like a failure. No!
Here Is What I Did
I took all three of those moments seriously and when I came back from Regionals in June, I cleared my calendar: no outside speaking unless it was directly related to the Greek Mission or raising support. I had to cancel some things nationally. I had to pull out of some teams and I stopped writing (maybe you have noticed the blog has been light). I trusted God that through the businessman, the president, and the preacher, he was calling me to focus and fight for breakthrough and revival. He was teaching me to be a breakthrough leader and I needed to follow him into that. He wanted to give me a new heart for Greek Students and to refresh my vision, conviction and compassion for the 17-campus field.
A few important things happened that summer.
- The businessman, along with two others, asked me if we could start an advisory council that met every quarter and the three of them would encourage me as a young entrepreneur and missionary. They heard my challenges and wanted to help more. They believed in me. Uh…ya, you can!
- I hired a coach to help me make some strategic plans with getting the ministry funded. I had never been this in deficit and I am a person that loves raising support. But I was in a bad place. We met every week for 10 weeks.
- I spent my idle time in prayer and fasting. My partner, Nick, and I revamped our prayer times and how we met together. We prayed a lot – on campuses, in my office, and home, you name it. We revamped our ministry to make the number one strategy prayer and all else would flow out of that.
I also gave this talk on Revival Leadership during the summer and it seems to have struck a nerve for many. I preached for myself as much as for the church!
What Is Happening Now
This last Fall was incredible. The campus breakthroughs have been amazing. We came into September with a core team of students at UCLA, and one guy at USC. That is it. Remember I told you that many things shrunk back. Yeah, not encouraging when you are dreaming about 17 campuses!
But Nick, Kristina (my wife), and I had great words from God over summer and we went into the Fall with some specific strategies to pray regularly on different campuses and ask God to draw us students who wanted to learn to lead witnessing communities on campus. We also prayed he would draw us seeking students as well that we could connect into relationship with God.
A Look Back At My Updates
The best way to communicate to you is to have you read my updates to supporters I sent this last Fall. It is incredible to see how God has been breaking through and building this area. The verse in Corinthians that talks about how we plant and water, but it is God who does the growing, couldn’t be applicable than now:
- August 18:
- How to Pray For August & September: http://eepurl.com/bwjRlH
- September 14:
- 6 Greek Systems are Sparking: http://eepurl.com/bzbCuz
- October 27 :
- 8 Campus Update – Orchards From Apples http://eepurl.com/bDTuTf
- November 25:
- 8 Testimonies From Greek Students – http://eepurl.com/bITqx1
- December 8:
- Row To Row Christmas Party Video – http://eepurl.com/bIS0mH
- February 1:
- Good News & Difficult News – http://eepurl.com/bO7KsX
But the quick glance over look through a few numbers is below:
We have Core Teams of Students at 6 campuses that are launching or have launched regular ministry this Fall:
- Loyola Marymount
- Long Beach State
- UC Irvine
We have seen about ten students start relationship with Jesus since September and we launched our first West Coast Greek Conference where 200 Greeks came from32 campuses across the West and 55 of those came from 10 different schools in Greater Los Angeles. God has brought us an amazing team of apostolic and evangelistic students across these campuses. It is so fun to be here right now.
In fact, not only did we have all those students at Conference, the campuses that haven’t launched ministry yet got prayer to be commissioned by those that have started already. Students blessing students into apostolic mission!
I am so glad I didn’t quit. In fact, I can’t even imagine that I almost did. My cover photo on Facebook says it all!
I would have missed a gigantic harvest, new friends and disciples, as well as my own formation in leadership as a breakthrough leader.
Pray For Our Funding
Our funding is still in a tough place, but gaining momentum. We are trying to raise an additional $60,000 in recurring funds by July 1 if you want to pray for us. If God doesn’t provide that by July, we are in terrible financial trouble and I am not sure what we will do…eek. I have had many anxious nights asking God to grow my faith and trust in him as provider (the book below has helped me anchor my faith tremendously).
But I believe God has spoken that this is done and he is bringing in what we need. Please pray for us that God would provide. And, of course, if you or someone you know would love to invest in a mission like this, you can do so here.
I hope to make it a point to write a few more articles about this process of struggling, feeling like a failure, and digging deep with God to see breakthrough.
I am thinking a post on the most formative scriptures for me this year, as well as another post on failure and learning to embrace it – how it can lead to creativity and breakthrough.
What else would you want to hear about? How have you fought through wanting to quit? Let us know in the comments.
The last important point for the strengthening of our faith is that we let God work for us when the hour of the trail of faith comes, and do not try to work a deliverance of our own. Wherever God has given faith, it has been given, among other reasons, for the very purpose of being tried.