This is a guest post by Jessica Leep Fick. When she is not building Lego’s with her sons, trying to squeeze in a run or bake a loaf of bread, she serves with InterVarsity Christian fellowship as a Regional Evangelism Coordinator in a 4-state region in the Midwest to preach the gospel, teach and train in churches and campus groups across the country. You can find her blogging at www.sidewalktheologian.com
This has been a difficult post for me to write. I feel caught between what I read in scripture. What I have been told is normative and what I have personally experienced.
A few years ago I read Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways. It blew my mind for about six months and I was reeling from the implications he outlined in one simple phrase- “the priesthood of all believers.” Though Alan’s description of apostolic genius- “the DNA that the Holy Spirit gives to believers to move the kingdom forward” I was gripped by this idea that I too could be, or actually was a legit priest in the royal priesthood. In part this post has been difficult to write because I don’t want to disparage the churches I have part of in the past. I don’t want to critique their doctrines, practices or structures. I just want to be a nice missionary to the college campus.
Yet I’m not simply that. I’m an evangelist. I speak prophetic words into people’s lives and structures. I feel gnawing turmoil inside when I see the church doing business as usual without asking- “are we in the right business?” I have seen too many of my friends who passionately led people to Jesus in college, planted bible studies with their study groups and organized campus outreaches be relegated to passing out church bulletins or working in the nursery on a Sunday morning. They are serving, yes, but not to the full potential of priests serving King Jesus in his royal priesthood. And the church, communities, neighborhoods and families are suffering because of it. They are living in darkness, sin and despair because evangelists like me have been told “leave it up to the professionals” instead of being empowered go and preach the living word.
In the past three years the Holy Spirit has been setting me free from the lies I believed about myself, the church and my ministry with InterVarsity Christian fellowship. Getting free has been a wonderful and painful process involving seemingly simple actions as well as crazily bold actions. It has involved a fallow season of wondering if God would use me and being extremely depressed when I felt like my ministry was unfruitful. It involved getting my long hair chopped off into a pixie cut and dying it platinum blond to be the evangelist rock-star Jesus has invited me to live into. I’m learning, as Rihanna sings “to shine bright like a diamond.” Not because I’m a narcissist (ok, maybe sometimes) but because scripture tells me in Phillipians 2:14-16 “you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life.” I shine because of what Jesus is doing inside of me.
One of the most significant moments in getting free to be the evangelist Jesus has called me to be happened recently. Because of the crazy amount of babies being born in our church plant Velocity, and having young kids myself, a few girlfriends and I planted a MOPS group.
This summer a woman named Joey joined us for a playgroup at a splash pad and began to share about how she was searching for something in life that she felt like church could provide. As any evangelist can tell you- those are words that make your heart sing with the possibility of Jesus breathing new life into a person. Joey and I continued to develop a friendship and around New Years we met for cheesecake where I shared the gospel and invited her to respond to Jesus.
With a look of assurance on her face Joey said “yes, that is what I want” and prayed to accept Jesus. Again- my heart was singing with joy at the transformation Jesus was bringing through our church, MOPS group and in my friends life.
When Scott, the pastor of our church invited me to baptize Joey I felt both elated and conflicted. Elated because as a para-church minister I had never baptized anyone and had longed to proclaim the words “Because of your confession of faith and your belief in Jesus I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!” over someone I had led to Jesus. Conflicted because doubts still linger in my heart from people and churches that have sent me the message- “you can’t do this. You aren’t allowed. You didn’t go to seminary. You’re a woman. You aren’t legit. Who do you think you are?”
Baptism Sunday in the gym of the childcare center our church meets in was packed out with friends and family coming to take pictures, celebrate and offer a towel after their loved one had been dunked in the tank that had been set up for baptisms. I sat with Joey feeling nervous, checking my iPhone to make sure I had the words correct for when I baptized her. My feet were freezing because I had neglected to bring flip-flops and it was a cold winter day in Cleveland. Parent grew teary as they baptized their son or daughter. Friends smiled with joy as they baptized neighbors who were once strangers who had now become friends of God. Finally it was our turn.
I didn’t remember the words correctly but ultimately the words don’t matter. That day in my loudest and strongest voice I proclaimed to Joey, Because of your confession of faith and your belief in Jesus I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!” Then I dunked her. And gave her a big hug afterwards as we listened to our congregation cheer her decision to follow Jesus as Lord. Those baptismal waters were a symbol and public declaration for Joey that the old had gone the new had come in her confession of Jesus as Lord. But they also symbolized the same thing for me. Gone are the lies about who I am as a minister and evangelist. New freedom in my life and ministry had come because I chose to submit to Jesus all that I am and as I hold out his word of life.