Several years ago God spoke a word over us (Roger and Brooks) that we could not comprehend:
“Your feet are going to walk on many nations and all the continents… You will plant churches… like a Johnny Appleseed dropping seeds and watering them… And many will help the vision come to pass.”
Having planted just one church in California, and finding that it was a very big project, we could not imagine how we would be involved in planting churches like Johnny Appleseed scattering seeds throughout nations.
Death Comes First
As often happens, we had to hit a very difficult season before God could point us toward this vision and His new purposes. Here is my (Roger’s) account of what happened:
“Roger, you can’t go on. You must unplug from ministry and church for an extended period of time. You have no choice!”
I had never been so shocked or devastated as when I heard these words from Dale, a trusted friend who counsels pastors in the throes of clinical burnout. I was completely unprepared to accept his professional opinion even though, deep in my heart, I knew I was experiencing an emotional emptiness unlike anything I had previously known.
“How long do you mean?” I asked.
“At the minimum, six months,” he told me matter-of-factly. “But most probably, you need twelve to eighteen months to get back on your feet.”
I can’t begin to express the level of unbelief and anguish I experienced as he said this.
I was the founding pastor of a ten-year-old church that had been blessed with traditional success markers: consistent growth in numbers, new buildings, a well-developed and funded staff, and a vision for an even bigger future. We were on our way! Except for one thing: Something had happened to the lead pastor. I was literally unable to continue doing what I had been doing for years—leading and guiding our church forward toward that traditional definition of “success.”
As I walked through the agony of telling my Board what was happening to me, they were as surprised as I was. They already knew that I was undone in some way, but they were unfamiliar with the level of depression and burnout I was experiencing. After all, I had always been the epitome of strength, even during difficult times, vulnerable yet durable. They offered me a generous, long-term sabbatical. They cried for me and with me. They were as supportive as any group of people could be. Yet I could barely rally myself to get up in the morning, let alone continue to guide this church family.
Perhaps even more difficult was the deep sense I felt that I would never return to ministry the way I had known it. Perhaps I would never even return to this church that I loved so dearly. As it turned out, I was correct on both counts. But rather than cast me aside, God was about to use this dark time in my life as an awakening of sorts, a paradigm shift that would completely re-define my understanding of both “church” and “ministry.”
I wrote more extensively about this experience in The Simple/House Church Revolution book.
In time, we began to see that this ‘paradigm shift’ was preparing us to train leaders in the multiplication of disciples, simple churches, and leaders. As God began to connect us with key, young leaders in developing countries, we saw tremendous fruit as disciples could quickly reproduce disciples and churches among some of the neediest people on earth.
God used a dark season of our life to birth new purposes that were far above and beyond anything we might have dreamed on our own!
And Many Will Help the Vision Come to Pass
This vision was never about two people but, rather, a growing family of friends throughout the world who are part of what God is doing. We began to seek ways to integrate meeting the needs of the poor with the spiritual transformation of the Gospel.
- We began a school where children can eat a nutritious meal and have the opportunity to receive an education that will lift him out of poverty.
- We are training abused and vulnerable women and giving them resources so that they can lift their own lives.
In both cases, the poor are changed spiritually and physically as the Good News of Jesus Christ is multiplied from one family to the next.
What You Can Do
Get involved and join with us. We are currently believing that God is unleashing a new explosion of churches among the poor. You can learn more here.
You are the key to this vision fulfilling its full potential. We hope you will be part of this unfolding story as you join with us.