When I was in high school, my family and another family used to do fairly regular hiking and camping excursions. My best friend and I enjoyed walking fast which meant we were going to be out in front of the pack, and since we had an abundance of energy, and they didn’t want us clipping their heels for miles and miles, our parents were cool with letting us ‘lead’ these excursions.
On one trip we got a little ahead of ourselves and stopped noticing the blaze marks on the trail, and after a little while the trail became narrow, overgrown, and eventually it went away altogether and we found ourselves all bunched up at the edge of a cliff at what was obviously a deer trail. There seemed to be a trail for a while, but as we pressed on without checking, it became clear that the trail ended in, well, a very definite end.
As it turns out, God doesn’t always work through clearly marked pathways and wide open trails. I know that’s a real shocker, but it’s true. There are some people out there who call themselves ministers who act like life should always be pleasant, you shouldn’t have any problems, and God only has tangible blessings in store for you. If you haven’t read my previous post -Build Where No One Has- then you should probably click the link and read that first. It will pop up in a different window for you. I’ll wait…
Since God had been speaking this message to us to go and lay a foundation where no one had before, and since we had been praying and letting Him know that we were intentionally seeking Him out and willing to go on an adventure, He began his process of laying out a breadcrumb trail for us that went over the course of several months. I’ll throw a little disclaimer in here, too: God speaks to His children in a number of ways, we were not given a single, prophetic voice, there wasn’t a final ‘aha’ moment, nor was there a fear that He wasn’t going to lead us somewhere new to serve Him. It was one step at a time.
In November, so 3 months after I determined that I was going to be leaving our then current location, I received a phone call from a friend. This isn’t just a random friend, and while we do need to talk more often, he and I are very much alike in many ways, we were roommates in college, had most of our classes together and were in each other’s weddings. So, we were pretty close, and my friend calls me to tell me a story. Here it is:
“Hey Ben, there’s this guy at our school (where he works) and he’s kind of known for walking up to people and telling them that he has a ‘word from God’ at seemingly random times. Now, he’s never said anything to me, and I’ve never quite known how to take him, but today he started walking up to me when school let out. I figured it must be my ‘turn’ to hear form God, and so I was ready to take whatever he said with a large grain of salt.”
Well this man proceeds to tell my friend some very personal information about ministry that he is doing and opens up Ito some information that only my friend and 1-2 other people in Honduras would know anything about. That’s pretty impressive. He also has a message about another friend of ours from college (it was intensely personal, so I didn’t even ask.) And then he said this, “And you have a friend named Ben who is looking for a job. Tell him that God has need of him in North Carolina.” and that was it. No other details, no other information. Just a “get to North Carolina.” No when, no where, nothing else. First Breadcrumb.
It was wonderful to have a lead, because up until that point, I had been interviewing all over the place, and I was being very intentional about where I was looking, and was asking a lot of deep questions of my contacts and interviewers because I didn’t have it in me to be in a toxic or unhealthy environment again. The number of legitimate options was simply overwhelming, but most of them didn’t answer this call to lay a new foundation.
So, I ran through my short list of friends in North Carolina or Eastern Tennessee and praying very specifically about what this might mean. So, I called a friend in Tennessee, filled him in on everything and told him that God seemed to be calling us into church planting again, or possibly even missions. He thought about it and prayed and then told me to contact a friend of his in central North Carolina who had his finger on the pulse of church planting in the area. Next Breadcrumb.
So, I reach out to this friend, he has an awesome name, but I didn’t know him at all. Getting a hold of ministers can be tricky sometimes, and having spoken on the phone with my fair share of cold-calling ministry teams, touring children’s choirs and wandering preachers, I had a pretty good idea of what my phone call or email was going to sound like to this guy who didn’t know me from Adam.
So, I approached with a cautious ease, let him know I was on his schedule, and told him that my friend had sent me and to feel free to contact him to verify if he wanted to. Well, about a week or so later we finally had a chance to talk. After laying out our situation, my potentially prophetic phone call, and the message that God had laid on my heart about laying a new foundation, he promptly said, “Well I don’t really know about anything in this area, and I agree that you need to get out of where you are as soon as possible, but let me put you in contact with another friend of mine further east.”
So, this was now our fourth breadcrumb. This was becoming funny. So, I call this next minister, talked to his office manager and set up a time to talk. Again, about a week goes by until he is available to talk. So, we have a nice long conversation, I lay everything out and he offers to pray over me and my family. He has seen this hurt before and he sees the timing of my call. In about 6 weeks, in the new year, his church is going to be hosting a church planters assessment center with a major, nationwide church planting agency. “You need to be here,” he tells me. And he put me in contact with the appropriate people. We now have a calling to come to North Carolina. The fifth, big breadcrumb.
So, by the time all the communication is done, we have two weeks to take on the massive task of cramming what should have been 13 weeks worth of reading and prep work. But we are so confident that this is precisely what God has called us to that we pay the large fee, that most people usually get a church to support them with, completely out of pocket, make our reservations and plan our trip south.
It turned out to be A LOT of work. And going into the CPAC, we still had no idea what to expect (like, really, 0% of what we were doing) but that was okay. We were thrilled to finally have direction after 6 months of waiting. And what happens next is the subject of two separate posts.
Here are some awesome church planting organizations and a few articles. If you’re thinking about entering into the realm of church planting, start here:
- Orchard Group
- Kairos Church Planting
- Here’s an article by Ed Setzer
- Another from ACTS29 Network