Wednesday, January 7, 2009

From Prevision to Vision to Provision: my journey of faith and call to church planting

I am currently studying Abraham's experience of hearing from God, as recorded in Genesis 12-15, and Hebrews 11:8-10. I have also read and studied Nehemiah and his return to the ruins of Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of that city; the birth place of his ancestors. Also, Jesus, Himself, and how He saw things and responded. Most prominent to me are the words recorded by Matthew.

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt.9:35-38, NKJV)

From verse 36 we see a Biblical picture of what a "burden" is. The Scripture says (of Jesus) that "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them..." That is what a burden from God looks like. It is not merely thinking about a person or people. It is thinking about a person or people in such a way that it burns its way into our hearts and tugs on us. Burden moves us to take action, out of love and compassion, as opposed to getting a plaque or some other earthly reward.

A burden in me says this, "I see these people. I see them struggling. I see a need that is unmet. What can I do to meet that need, ease their struggle, and give them hope and peace?"

For me, it was the very neighborhood I grew up in. Without knowing it was a burden from God, I would often think about and pray for this neighborhood; whenever I would hear on the evening news, or read in the newspaper, that another drug raid has taken place, another young person has been shot and killed, another citizen complaining about the crime and urban blight, another politician promising to do something when he or she is running for office and then doing nothing once they get elected. This is the neighborhood where most of Troy's citizens just roll up their car windows, lock their doors, and drive through it as fast as they can. Anyone who wants to get from Troy to North Troy (Lansingburgh) must drive through North Central. There are two streets that parrallel the Hudson River and run South to North and vice versa. As people drive north and cross 101st St., River St. becomes 2nd Ave and 6th Ave becomes 5th Ave. This is my Jerusalem, the place where I first took the breath of life, the streets I ran and played in as a boy.

For twelve years, while living and working just 20 or so miles west of Troy, in the city of Schenectady, I thought about my old stomping ground. As I responded to God's call to ministry, went to seminary and graduated, served on the ministry staff of City Mission of Schenectady and started my family, God was preparing me to go back; back to the streets He rescued me from.

As I look at my own journey and experience, what I see so far are three phases
  1. Prevision
  2. Vision
  3. Provision

Prevision is the period in my life that led to the vision phase. This prevision phase includes everything in my life up until the point of seeing that God had called me to ministry and to a particular people in a particular place. Everything counts in the prevision phase, because it was in this prevision stage that God was molding me, shaping me and preparing me for the next phase of my journey with Him.

I used to think that all of the stuff I did before I came to know Christ personally (my BC days) didn't really matter; the mistakes I made, the people I met, the places I went, all of the things I thought, said and did in my heathen/rebellious/idolatrous days. But they did matter. As God said to Jeremiah

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;

Before you were born I sanctified you;

I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer.1:5, NKJV)

Nothing that we have experienced or gone through is a mistake. Even times of suffering and affliction God has used to bring about His plan. The failures and frustrations of our past, along with times of joy and prosperity, are all a part of God's fine tuning and preparation. We see this reality time and again in the Scriptures;Joseph being sold into slavery and imprisoned, Moses being adopted by Pharoah's daughter and raised in Egypt, Daniel and his friends captured in the Babylonian captivity and put to service before Nebuchadnezzar--all of it designed by God for His good purpose.

This is all part of the pre-vision stage.

More to come...