My life was pretty typical of the average young person who is passionate about following Jesus and who feels called into full-time ministry. I was born in South Africa but I was living in California, church planting a cell church, when my freedom story really started.
I felt discipleship and worship had always been in my heart and was starting to feel like God was calling me into some sort of worship pastor type role in the church. (You’ll often hear me talk about God initiating things in my life, here is where he started with me). So I knew what that looked like, and I knew what type of churches had worship pastors, so I began pursuing this call. No problem right?
Well no sooner had I landed a call as worship pastor, my lawyer informed me that our visas weren’t going to be renewed/extended. This meant we had 2 months to pack and ship our lives back to South Africa. We were devastated, in South Africa the only churches that can afford worship pastors are the rich mega-churches, and our hearts were just not into that. I prayed and asked God what he was doing and he said “just go back and get a regular job, don’t chase a ministry position just for a pay check”. As it turned out this was God’s way of initiating a new journey for us, one I would never have conceived of or chosen.
We came home disillusioned and unemployed (2008), with no plans and no clue of what to do next. I got a part time job teaching computers at a christian school 2 days a week, but for almost 18 months we lived between my parents house and my in-laws. Also God just seemed silent. I didn’t hear from him for 2 years (January 2010), but the weekend he spoke absolutely floored me. I still have not heard him speak more clearly than he did that weekend. I felt like he sat me down and basically explained what he had been doing up to that point. But in true God style, he didn’t tell me what he was going to do in the future. He has a sense of humor like that.
To put it in a nut shell, he took me through a bunch of guys in the Bible like Joseph and Paul and showed me how he pulled them out of a system so that he could show them how to live free. The word he gave me was “traumatic”, he said that most people (including me) would never choose to leave the old system, just because it is so painful and traumatic. He also told me to watch the movie The Matrix again as a parable of what he was talking about.
The funny thing is that I thought, “wow that’s right, this has been traumatic, and he’s right I wouldn’t have chosen this, but I am glad he has done it anyway. Sweet now I am free!” My celebrations were a little premature. He was only getting started with me.
At the time I was leading worship in a little church plant but growing increasingly frustrated with how we as the majority of christians worship. I tried to do different things but I didn’t have a clear vision of what changes needed to take place and people just seemed to want the usual from me. I prayed and prayed and eventually I felt like God say to me that this new worship thing I wanted was not going to be something I could just transition into, rather I would have to unplug from it and God would plug me into something new. So I pulled out of worship and that’s when things got CRAZY!
I always suspected that Grace had something to do with the answer, but I could never understand grace. I started reading a book called The Naked gospel by Andrew Farley and it blew me away, it sounded too good to be true, but the more I checked it out the better it got and it was all true, right there in the Bible the whole time. The best way I can describe it, is that since God had spoken to me in 2010 it was like he was birthing His freedom in me, but that book was like the onset of labour pains. (Now I am fully aware that I am a dude, with no concept of how painful labour is, but I was there for both my kids birth, and what we went through was every bit as violent as labour). This was August 2011 and for the next two months, it felt like every paradigm and reference point we had was turned upside down.
As I said we had been heavily involved in a church plant but we knew that what was happening in our hearts was a very different vision to what the pastor had in mind. It was so difficult to leave that church but we just knew in our heart of hearts that if we didn’t God couldn’t do what he wanted to in us, and that we would try and impose our vision on the church plant and cause more damage there, so we pulled out. At this stage we were convinced that we were going to church plant because that was the only thing we knew to do to give expression to this new thing, but again we were wrong. The worst part is that we didn’t have language to accurately express ourselves, and that probably caused mis-communication too.
It was weird because once we left the church, it felt like that “child” was born, because everything changed again. Kinda like the difference between reading books about parenting and waking up all hours of the night to feed and clean your new baby, it’s just not the same. So I think we looked like idiots (and maybe we still do) because once we left, God said to us “whatever you do, don’t plant a church, because it one thing to take yourself out of religion, it’s another thing to take religion out of you.”
This began quite a process in which he cleared our table of all our preconceived religious versions of the cross, prayer, the Gospel, bible reading, church, community, leadership, grace, calling, ministry, parenting etc. It was here that God used the teaching of Wayne Jacobsen immensely. God used Wayne’s materials to redefine the cross of us and how it dealt with our shame. This was essential to us because it allowed us to let go of all those other things I just mentioned and to still know that God loved us.
This first year was a time of deconstruction as we felt God detangling all the religious stuff we had in our hearts. It was also a hard time as there was lot’s of loss and stripping, losing friends who didn’t understand us and losing that support too. Do I blame them, not at all, because I would have done the same and have done the same. It was also frustrating because we couldn’t clear up misunderstandings as we didn’t have the language to explain what was happening to us. We felt like a couple of paddlers being carried down a river. The other even bigger issue is that we were loving every second of the journey as we were becoming more and more free and secure in God’s love.
God then in the last year has been doing more of a constructive work in us as he has redefined for us what he means by the cross, prayer, the Gospel, bible reading, church, community, leadership, grace, calling, ministry, parenting etc. He has also been giving us language to be able to describe and share what he is doing with us. In the last month or so there seems to be another shift as I feel him leading me to engage other people along this journey.
If some of this sounds arrogant, like I am better than other christians, like I have arrived on some secret truth that others have missed, I am not. I feel like my 2.5 year old son Noah, he is now at the stage where he can walk around and communicate with short little phrases. In many ways even though I gave my life to Jesus as a young child, I feel like I have truly been born again, I feel like a little kid, just hanging out with his loving family. Would I have chosen this path, definitely not, but am I glad God has chosen it for me anyway? Definitely! I still don’t know what’s ahead for me but I have now learned enough to take it one step at a time with Jesus.
This is my story so far, sorry it was so long, but I couldn’t make it shorter. If you are on a similar journey I hope that this encourages you. If you want to know more I am willing to chat, provided you buy the coffee, jokes.