On this month’s theme of “Resurrection Moments,” I kept coming back to the idea of new life out of death. That is the nature of resurrection—not resurrection as a historical fact as much as resurrection as a spiritual formation dynamic. Watchman Nee said it like this:
“Everything that is really of value to us, even the work God gives us, and even our knowledge of God’s will, must go through death to resurrection. In resurrection we know it to be something so miraculously of God that we can never again take it possessively into our hands. Resurrection puts it out of our reach.” (Watchman Nee. Changed Into His Likeness. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1967, 1978, p. 91)
At InterVarsity’s URBANA 1990 conference, my wife, Gem, and I received a vision about our future ministry in a moment of guided silence during one of the main sessions. By vision, I mean what seemed to be a Spirit-inspired view of our future. Gem saw us sharing our lives with Christian leaders. I saw a graphical image of a map grid with one small corner highlighted and the rest grayed out. I intuitively knew it was an image of expansion. Our combined vision spoke to us about a sense of expanded scope of ministry revolving around sharing our lives with Christian leaders.
At the time, we were in our late twenties. We led a church ministry to 80-100 college students. I remember sitting with a mentor a few weeks later and sharing the vision. I was looking for help with how to “make the vision happen.” My mentor wisely suggested, “Maybe you need to let God season you a little more.” Looking back now from the vantage point of twenty years, those were sage words that I couldn’t hear then.
The trajectory of our ministry journey after that was 1) leaving our large church college ministry in 1993 for a smaller local church young adult ministry, transitioning in 1997 to a new church plant in Orange county concurrent with my joining the staff of The Leadership Institute TLI), then moving into a one-year sabbatical in 2000-2001 after which I joined TLI full-time. None of this could be in any way construed as an expansion of ministry among Christian leaders, even though the ministry focus of TLI was to Christian leaders.
Experientially, it really felt like the vision we were so excited about was dying a slow death. We had little expectation that it would ever be fulfilled to any significant degree. But as our outward ministry seemed to be more downwardly mobile than we wanted, God seemed to be doing deep work within us. Originally, we thought the vision was something God gave us to somehow make happen around us. We came to find that He intended to develop us into the shape of that vision. In recent years, with little apparent intentionality or promotional efforts, doors have been opening to share our lives with Christian leaders and the ministry of The Leadership Institute has begun to expand internationally over the last few years. It all has the feel and flavor of resurrection.
So, do you have a similar “life, death, resurrection” story to tell? Maybe you’re only aware of the life, death” part. We’d love to hear it. Consider these reflection questions as a way to enter in:
Alan Fadling serves as Executive Director of The Leadership Institute in Orange, CA, training Christian leaders to integrate spiritual formation and leadership development. He serves as a frequent speaker and consultant and is the author of An Unhurried Life (IVP, 2013). He is a certified spiritual director living in Mission Viejo, California, with his wife Gem, and their three sons.