A Tale Of True Power
Part of the Church Planter Apprentice Series with Michael Badger...
Michael and Kayla Badger are at the beginning of their church planting journey. They’ve gathered a core team and are moving to Burlington, VT, where Michael will begin a church planting apprenticeship with New King Church. We’ve asked Michael to share posts regularly throughout the process to encourage existing and prospective church planters along the way.
Taking Part In The Grand Narrative
A love for reading seems to be a common thread for many who are within the church planting sphere and this is no different for myself. However, while I enjoy reading books on theology, leadership and church planting, I must admit, that is not where my taste in literature ends.
I have spent countless nights exploring ancient castles, uncovering intergalactic conspiracies and rescuing kingdoms from the grips of tyrannical kings! As you may have surmised by now, I am somewhat of a nerd and falling into these intense and wondrous narratives is a pastime I have enjoyed since I was a child. I wanted to be that valiant knight or that space pirate with a heart of gold!
If you are reading this blog, you may be familiar with life being compared to a grand narrative, the author of which is the Creator of the universe. After all, it’s in the Scriptures that we read a story that intertwines the lives of kings, prophets, warriors, slaves and simple fishermen. It is a story filled with miraculous events and unparalleled adventure. It is the story of how the God of the universe chose to save a rebellious people. But the question that comes to my mind so often as I prepare to church plant is, “How could God possibly use someone like me, someone with so many flaws, for His glory?”
Not The Protagonist I Would’ve Chosen
When I begin a new novel, it is not uncommon for me to first find the main hero rather annoying. From the start, he or she is often riddled with character flaws. Whether it be timidity, arrogance, physical weakness, or ignorance of how the world works, the hero of the story does not often first appear as someone you would follow. But the more I read, the more I recognize that my annoyance runs deeper than I first realized. The lack of confidence, ignorance, fear and all the other flaws found within these protagonists were the same issues I was (and still am) dealing with in my own life! Reading the descriptions of these characters is like reading my diary play itself out in a novel.
Each flaw plays an important role in the development of the character. These imperfections have been placed there by design from the author. Because of the shortcomings, you get to see the lead character change and develop over time. Once a brash and short-tempered young hero, the protagonist becomes patient and even-tempered through the various trials and obstacles he or she faces. The problems in the personality, or even physical ability, of the main character is what endears him or her to us because we can see our own flaws mirrored in them. We root for the hero to overcome these inadequacies because deep down we believe that, if they can do it, maybe there is a glimmer of hope for us in our own life stories.
One Nervous Young Man
All of this reminds me of the story of the prophet Jeremiah, specifically in the first chapter of his book. Jeremiah was a nervous young man who lacked any semblance of self-confidence. He probably felt as if his life would be a simple one, not amounting to much.
Yet, despite these character flaws, God came to this jittery youth and told him of his destiny to become a prophet of the holy God! This nobody was given an invitation to the adventure of a lifetime! Jeremiah was asked to be the mouthpiece of God Himself! He was commissioned to go before nations and kings and bravely face them down because the Creator of the Universe had set him to this task! But elation, bravery and excitement were not quite the emotions that first flooded into the mind and heart of Jeremiah: “Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth’” (Jeremiah 1:6). His shortcomings are more than apparent.
As I mentioned earlier, an imperfect character can often endear us to them because we often see ourselves reflected in them. I see myself clearly in Jeremiah. In the narrative that God has written for my life, He has chosen to call my family and me to church planting. And, just as with Jeremiah, my inadequacies fill my mind and heart. My age, lack of experience, inability to speak eloquently and insufficient knowledge begin to feel like chains, holding me back from the life I know God wants me to lead. How could I possibly be an effective church planter with all of this baggage holding me back? How could I affect change in the area God has called me to, when my character is distorted in so many ways?
As Jeremiah was contemplating these very thoughts that so often run wild in my own mind, God spoke the words to him that would be the catalyst for the development of his character:
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” (Jeremiah 1:7-12)
Who Saves The Day?
You see, Jeremiah missed the point. So often we read novels where the fate of the world is balanced on a razor's edge and only by the skin of their teeth do the heroes vanquish the evil adversary. Ultimately, it is by the stroke of luck, or some inborn strength, wisdom or skill of the protagonist that saves the day. But in the real story of Jeremiah, the outcome was not dependent on him. The beginning, middle and end of the story did not rise or fall on the abilities of a simple man. No flaw of Jeremiah’s could overthrow the power of God that would be the true strength of Jeremiah.
And so it is for me. From the moment we are conceived, we are walking within the pages of the story God has written for our lives. I am just beginning to walk in the chapter that God has written for my family and me in church planting. And try as I might to come up with excuses as to why God cannot use me, His words to Jeremiah remind me that this is His story. It will be accomplished with His power through our weaknesses. Instead of seeing our weaknesses as chains, we should see how God has placed them in our lives by design to show His power and grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
The development of my character, my glimmer of hope, does not come from becoming more adept and skilled. Rather, the development comes through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit using this broken vessel for His glory.
As we go forward with our journey to church plant, my desire should not be that I become a better speaker, gain more confidence in my ability to lead or even that I acquire more theological knowledge. While all those things are not bad, my ultimate prayer should be that I gain more faith in the power of God, that His Spirit speaks clearly through me and that I see my weaknesses with renewed eyes.