This is my story

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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.

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27 thoughts on “This is my story

    1. I hear you Stu, it’s one of those bitter/sweet things, I wonder if part of “fight the good fight of faith” is not just believing that in this God still loves you. It is hard when he removes the scaffolding from our lies and we realise how weak we are, because (in true Matrix style) we have never really used our muscles before. God loves you guys not for what you offer him, he just loved you from the start

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  1. great testimony. loved the matrix so prophetic. it seems the lord gives a vision then it has to die and then he resurrects it but it doesn’t quite look or feel the same but it is better, deeper and stronger. we cannot learn on the front side of ministry what can only be learned on the back side of the desert.

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    1. You are so right Ken, God has really been speaking to me about the letting things die. I think we vision cast and then action plan too soon after that, we always seem to skip the death part, just because we have the vision. What I didn’t share in that story is that God has been the most silent on the issue of worship for me. It has only been in the last 2 months that he has even begun to speak on that. It’s all got to do with that death thing I reckon

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  2. sure, i’ll buy the coffee, you can buy the plane ticket to cape town, deal?
    wow, God is also helping you put into words something really difficult to explain, thats for sure. what a journey & yes, i am encouraged. God is doing a very new thing & the more we seem to share the more we come accross others that are on similar journeys. love you stax!

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    1. Yeah I want to help people find that language so they can express themselves better. It’s fun sharing the journey of what God is doing in all of us

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  3. Honest and refreshing! Look forward to hearing about things going forward.

    God has been speaking to me from Zechariah this past month or so. Struck by 4:6 (MSG), “This is GOD’S message to Zerubbabel: ‘You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit,’ says GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies.”

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    1. I hear what you are saying but I think you misunderstand me. I just sensed that is what he said, I didn’t actually hear an audible voice. I was just sharing my story, so if there is nothing in my story that encourages you to hear from Jesus maybe my blog is not for you. I am glad that the bible is an anchor point for your faith and I hope that in it’s pages you’ll continue to fall more in love with Jesus who is the Word.

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  4. Dang! Now that you’ve got the language, tell us! This post is like a cliff-hanger! I have no idea how long God is going to keep me waiting, and I am not complaining (I’m even loving the waiting) but I totally relate to your story so far!

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    1. Hi Gordon, I love that you connected with my story even if it makes me feel less mad! As far as the language goes, I am no expert, like I said in an earlier post, I feel like my two-and-a-half year old son, who can communicate his basic needs wants and desires, but neither of us are a Shakespeare by any means. This is a life to be lived not just talk about, and to be honest it is more a shift of perspective that then gives new language. As far as the perspective goes, it just means seeing everything through and in Jesus, and hopefully that will become clearer as I share certain things. Anwyay it good to meet you on the journey!

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  5. I’ve been on a similar journey and was aided in that quest for words to express myself by Frank Viola’s books. I find that I’m always looking for variety in expression though too, because I’m still often misunderstood by some people will need a different perspective to get what I’m saying…of course, only if they are asking. I hadn’t heard of the Farley book you mentioned, or of Jacobsen, so I’ll be searching these out.
    Loved reading it, the comments and replies, and glad to have found your blog.

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  6. Justin, It sounds like you are willing to go through a lot to know Jesus who is Truth. My wife and I have also had a very different journey than traditional Churchianity. You may find some of the teaching on our website helpful, particularly Q&A #38.

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  7. Man, my heart just soared, reading about your journey, Justin! In many ways, it has been my journey over the last year, as well. Andrew Farley and Wayne Jacobsen have both been so helpful to me, as I learn to let go of religion, and take hold of Christ! I can’t wait to see where Father leads you, as you continue to rest in Him, and follow His lead in your life!

    On my journey, I felt God leading me to reach out to others who are also feeling led down a non-traditional path, and may be struggling, and in need of encouragement. I have started a website called Stories of Freedom, where I share other people’s stories, and offer links to helpful websites, books, audio & video, etc., for the purpose of offering people hope through the stories of others who have found freedom, as they learned to be led by the Spirit. I wondered if you would allow me to share your story on this site, as well as link back to your blog, so others can follow your journey. If you’d like to check it out, first, you can visit http://www.storiesoffreedom.weebly.com.

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    1. Sure thing, you can reproduce my story on your blog, (as long as you don’t change it) that’s exactly my heart too, I just want to encourage people and point myself and everyone else to Jesus.

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  8. Hey Justin. Great to hear how your story has progressed. I would love to chat through the similarities and challenges. I can’t find your email address but would love to catch up.

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  9. Hi

    I suppose we all have our walk out of the institutional church. Glad to see you came back to South Africa though.
    I too left a the formal way of church around a year or 2 ago and it has been a bit heavy in the sense that I am still involved with normal churches (I work with some).
    But I am encouraged by your story and I like the fact that the matrix was the movie of choice 🙂

    But where exactly in South Africa are you based?

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    1. Hi Lynley, I live in Port Elizabeth. I actually teach computers at a private christian school. To be honest it’s not always easy as I am often confronted with a lot of religiousness. But I think our Father had wisdom in keeping me in this situation because it forces me to learn to love people for who they are and not based on whether they are religious or not.

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