heather zempel and i often joke around about how we sometimes feel like we are living in the book of acts. we talk about how our friendship and ministry has at times taken on a paul and barnabas like feeling- especially as i come and go between berlin and dc. with her in greece at the moment, it definitely has an extra dose of that- and when we get to be in that country together in may as she travels with a team there to work with trafficking issues, we actually might explode with biblical nerd-like excitement.
aside from that connection, i had another, what i can only describe as, ‘acts’ like moment today. at the very least i think that it was a significant spiritual moment, or rite of passage. i had the opportunity to meet with a church leader this afternoon. let’s just say that this person was a kind of large denominational leader. after sharing a bit of my vision and hope for the city, he gave me a very kind and gentle, yet stern and official: “i welcome you here.” now this might sound a little cheesy or sort of insignificant- but for me it was a really meaningful moment. it felt like a symbolic moment of invitation from the ‘church in berlin.’ i don’t want to overstate it, and there are many other parts of the church in this city that are not represented by this invitation, but nonetheless, it felt like an important confirmation spiritually. and it felt very ‘acts like.’
it was also significant, because no matter how hard i have tried to inculturate, be open, and patient, i have not always felt welcomed here by every part of the church body. there have been several moments of questioning, both direct and indirect, regarding the issue of invitation… as in, ‘who invited you here to come?’ this is something that i have wrestled with often; something that has left me unsettled at times. my experience today however, has really quenched that and i am extremely grateful for it.
as i grow in my faith, mature in spirit, and spend more time in ministry (especially immersed in a new culture) i am more and more aware of the importance and significance of elder ministers. over the years, i have learned a lot about what spiritual authority means, what it means to submit to it, and how to differentiate between submission and compromising. my hope is that my growth in this area will be something that leads me to show respect to those that have gone before me- as well as be an example to other young leaders on how this is done and the fruit that it brings in the Kingdom of God. and if you know me, you know that this has not been an easy road. it is however, a worthwhile one and something that always entails a certain kind of tension… in the middle of it though are the great mysteries and promises of God. and He always honors our obedience, whether we see the initial aspects of it or not. that is what faith is all about.