7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
A few months ago I did a message series on prayer where we asked the question, ‘What if Jesus meant what He said in Matthew 7.“ Sometimes I get too good at fixing my problems that I lose my desperation for God. I think that He only wants to hear my manageable prayers. I find myself only asking for things that probably would have worked out anyway. What happens when we begin praying for the impossible (or at least, the unlikely)?
God called me to church planting when I was 19. Over the past 20 months, He has made it pretty clear that He is directing us to Portland, Oregon. (read about that here) God can be so clear and unmistakable at times. In fact, this week I’m going to preach on the Call of God. I think that God leads us with his PEACE, Recurring PATTERNS, our daily PRACTICE of obedience, and His Spirit’s PRESSURE. All of these have begun to work together to form a giant North West facing arrow for Andrea and I.
In June I got to lead a missions trip to London. Before the trip, I met with my senior pastor. He asked me if I was still considering church planting. I told him, "Absolutely.”
He asked me, “Have you ever been to Portland?”
“No,” I responded.
“Great question,” I thought.
In preparation for London, I challenged our team to fast and pray about certain areas of the ministry. But I have a confession: I didn’t pray much about London. I prayed ALOT about Portland. Here is one of my specific prayers:
“God, I want to go to Portland. I’m a busy guy and I like to make things happen. But I need to see your will in all of this. I know I could save the money to go. I’m pretty sure I could raise the money to go. But I want to see your hand. If you are directing us to Oregon, I am boldly asking for you to give us an all-expenses paid vision trip. I don’t want to have to figure it out or make it happen. I am just asking for you to drop it in our lap.”
I know this is a pretty bold prayer. However, I realize that I’m talking to a FATHER that loves me. He is super rich and quite capable of saying “NO” if He wants. Why not go for the “Ask?”
When we got back from London, life returned to normal - except for the fact that my amazing wife had been dramatically impacted by our trip. One day while we were getting ready she turned to me…
“Aaron, we have to go and church plant. We can’t stay here.”
“Why is that,” I asked. I was especially interested to hear her answer because we had just recently discovered that we were going to become first-time parents.
“There are so many guys fresh out of seminary that could do your job. Blackshear Place is going to be okay. We’ve got to go where no one else will go.”
That’s my girl.
Our church agreed to host the local association’s leadership conference. We learned that the keynote speaker would be Kevin Ezelle, the President of the North American Mission Board. My boss Grady sent an email with all of our assignments for the event. He asked me to host Dr. Ezelle throughout the evening. I was excited, but very focused on the task at hand. I had to make sure to get him mic checked!
This conference was the 9th big event we’d had in 12 days. Dr. Ezelle arrived earlier than I expected. I got the text, and rushed out of my office to the main building. I was planning to be waiting for him when he arrived, so I was kicking myself for not anticipating an early arrival. I ran up the stairs to the green room where Dr. Ezelle was waiting. I made sure to pause before walking in - I didn’t want to seem awkwardly out of breath. (mental note: take up running again)
Grady was waiting in the green room with Dr. Ezelle. He introduced me by name and mentioned my interest in church planting. (I got excited. This was cooler than meeting that Real Housewife of Atlanta that I bumped into at Lenox Mall.)
Within 10 seconds, Dr. Ezelle said something like this:
Aaron, I’d like to send you on a vision trip to Portland and maybe even Seattle. All expenses paid. Just email me your dates.
I was shocked - but I wasn’t really surprised.
I was stunned - but I wasn’t surprised.
I was absolutely thrilled - but not surprised.
How can I pray for something, trust my awesome God, and be surprised when He answers? My God is so good.
I know that there will be tons of work involved in planting a church. However, that’s the part I’m not worried about. I like to work. I think that getting to Portland needs to happen through answered prayer and miracles - because that’s what planting Spring of Life will take. I’ve said numerous times:
We’re not giving up our lives to move away and start an organization. We are going to give up our lives to move to Portland, love the people, bleed for the Gospel, and beg God for miracles.
“Lord, let me remember Matthew 7. And thanks for being You.”