I was told that lightning never strikes twice – in nature and in church.
But I don’t believe it. There have been instances of people struck by lightning twice while standing on the same hilltop, though years apart. It also happens in church multiplication. God blesses whoever he calls, whenever he calls.
And when I was a young pastor, I was told by older men, “Do not ever leave the church you started. It’s growing. It’s bursting at the seams. That can’t happen twice.” These guys had plenty of sad stories to go with their observations.
It seemed that a generation knew of many pastors who planted a church that showed tremendous growth then moved to another location where virtually nothing happened. The warnings were there. They were constantly there, but I’ve wondered if the contrast between church plants had something to do with calling versus ambition or what we currently call “vision.”
When I told one friend that I was getting ready to move to Hawaii, he said, “You’ll never do it, Frodo. The big boys never leave the big churches. It’s not going to happen.”
But it did happen. And I didn’t want it to. I love Southern California. I grew up in Oregon in the rain, so California was heaven to me. And I’d been to Hawaii many times before we moved. It’s a beautiful place to visit, and we eventually lived there for 35 years. The place is not only pretty, it’s filled with wonderful loving people, but I’m not too fond of humidity…
To make matters worse, while living in Southern California, I surfed a lot. I’m not a very good surfer. But I surfed a lot. I somehow knew that the move to Hawaii would curtail surfing because of what we would do. The goal was stupendous – add 25 percent or one percent of the population to the overall church in a decade. That was the call the Lord laid before us, and this is what I want to get to here.
Are you working off of strategies and plans? Or are you working off of a call? Did you pick the place to plant, or did Jesus?
I felt a definite call to Hawaii. It’s a weird story. I “saw” a vision (I wrote about it in Let Go of the Ring). I don’t much like the idea of experiencing a vision from God. They’re disruptive. Nor do I crave the voice of the Lord. I do about the day-to-day decisions, but I can do without God’s voice regarding significant life changes. My prayer is, “God, please leave me be. I’m really happy with my life as it is.” I’ll move if you call, but it needs to be loud and clear.”
Today’s church sometimes overlooks the concept of a call. I relate to Isaiah in his call and to Amos, the fig picker and his calling. When I hear guys talking about strategy and vision, I wonder what drives them.
When many speak of vision their not talking about one of those weird biblical encounters, they speak of a concocted “vision,” which is fine if God inspired it. Not so good if it comes from personal aspiration. I can’t count the number of vacationing pastors I encountered in Hawaii who approached me asking for help because “I feel God calling me to Kahala (the Beverly Hills of Oahu).”
We need to be careful that we’re actually hearing the voice of God and that we’re only moving at his call because then we are guaranteed success.