Never before in my life have I been so acutely aware of my weaknesses and immaturities. It’s a theme that’s come up a lot over the past year as I’m learning how to be a better man, a new husband, and now, a church planter.
My wife, Catherine, and I are less than 30 days from a cross-country move to Morganton, North Carolina, where we’ll be part of the plant team for Coram Deo, a new church plant being sent by Karis. It follows years of prayer and friendship on both our parts with our friends the Glossons, who are just a few short days away from moving there themselves. It gets more surreal every day that passes. It’s especially stomach-churning for me, a born-and-bred Missourian who’s never lived outside a city of fewer than 125,000 people… moving to a town on the east coast that didn’t top 17,000 during the last census.
All these hang-ups - being less than a year married, never having lived outside Missouri, and without any formal ministry training - have caused a great deal of anxiety within me, and it bubbled over in a recent meeting with a friend. I was outwardly lamenting my lack of qualifications, inwardly wondering why I was making the decision to move Catherine and I across the country.
“I think what you’re trying to say is you’re not skilled,” he told me. “You’re qualified because you’ve been called.”
It’s such a simple, Biblical truth, and yet one I’ve constantly forgotten during these last few months. It’s almost straight from Romans 8, a passage so foundational to my faith, I was surprised I’d missed it. Fortunately, the very same passage frees me from the shame I’m instinctually tempted to feel.
The call to Morganton has never been in doubt in my head: Catherine and I fell in love during our first visit together. There’s a vibrancy to the area that’s infectious. Every time I talk about our move, I end up spending way too much time talking about this city I barely know but has become a home I’m already desperate to get back to.
But in my excitement, my weaknesses have been a constant stumbling block. Just five years ago, I was deconstructing the faith of my childhood and wondered if I even believed in the existence of anything beyond this universe. Just three years ago, I had no theological training and couldn’t have told you the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism outside of, “it’s free will vs. predestination, right?” And just one year ago, I was an immature bachelor, living in a room covered in dirty clothes, unvacuumed carpets, and littered with fast food trash. (Catherine, thank you for your grace and love during the times when I still haven’t seemed to grow out of this phase!) But again, Romans 8, reminds me that my weaknesses and immaturities are not what qualifies me for this call to church planting.
“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” Paul writes. “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” I’m constantly thanking God these days that the sealed work of Christ and the continuing work of the Spirit are what qualify me and not my faults that disqualify me.
I recognize that while this may not come as a surprise to many people in my life, there may be others who are surprised to read my words so based in faith and Scripture - again, this is evidence of my weakness and hesitation to share the Gospel. If that’s you and you’re not sure what to make of this short blog post, let me leave you with this…
When Catherine and I pack up our lives and move to Morganton in a few weeks, I will still be (in many ways) the same person I’ve been all along. I’ll often be a doubter, a child, and a fool. I’ll even be who I was just a few nights ago, angrily praying to God and asking why I felt so much doubt when the call in our family was so strong. Viewed through the lens of these characteristics, my call to share the gospel in Morganton should be void.
But, ultimately, my call - and thankfully, my qualifications - are not based in my own work, but the omniscient calling of the Father, the redeeming death and resurrection of the Son, and the unflinching work of the Spirit. This is a truth that grounds me daily, and one that I hope can comfort you the next time you’re feeling inadequate or incomplete. The surpassing knowledge of knowing Christ and his finished work at the cross means I count everything as loss, especially the things that make me so unworthy to further his Kingdom in the first place.