Mission: Submission

The last few months of my life has been pretty crazy. For one, I got married which has been pretty cool, but that’s not the only big change. My Fellowship group I had been apart of for the pass three years split, and my wife Jeri and I had to decide whether we wanted to continue on in college ministry or if we wanted to shift our ministry focus to an older demographic.

Either choice meant one of us leaving our smaller men/women bible study groups (called cell group, but less terrorism and more love) that we had been a part of for many years. It was a tough decision, at the end of the day we decided that while the lord could use us in either new ministry, we felt our days doing college ministry weren’t over yet. So I was the one who ended up leaving my cell and joining a new one with some other friends of mine, albeit a group of younger guys.

I’m still adapting to the new group and I’m excited to share what God is teaching me in it after a little while longer, but for now I wanted to reflect on what I think was the most important thing the lord has taught me after three years in Atlas Homechurch and in my cell group.

When I first became a Christian I was not the most dedicated to my faith, I was in high school at the time and believed in God and was happy to have eternal security in him, but I was more interested in having fun and living life my own way. In college I decided to give following the lord a real shot, and I never looked back. For a long time it was my belief that I had an issue of commitment, and once I became committed enough that my relationship with the lord took off.

Thinking back I regret that this belief of a lack of commitment lead to me putting a lot of expectation on people. I would question people when they would miss a home church or a prayer group, I was fairly quick to judge my closest friends and people the lord had put in my life for me to love and encourage. This quickly led to me being labeled as attendance police. I was worried that like me, others who did not come consistently to things were not truly following the lord. Slowly the lord helped me repent of this mindset, and I stopped harping so much on peoples actions. It was being brought to my attention that peoples actions were not the most important issue but where peoples heart was at.

Fast forward to Atlas Homechurch I was a invited to sit in on leaders meetings, I was discipling some friends of mine and teaching regularly. I wanted to help lead people to a fulfilling life with the lord. I quickly learned that leading in any capacity was a real challenge. I wanted my friends to follow God, live significant lives, I mean all they had to do was all the right things I do all the time and never slip up ever, how hard is that? My issue was I still believed if people were committed enough, and follow all the rules then that’s how you have a successful relationship with God. It was not as intense or as obvious as it was before but clearly this was a persisting issue. People accepted Christ, grew, matured in Atlas, the lord still used me in many ways to love people and do amazing things I did not deserve to be a part of, but at times this heart attitude of challenging others commitment would still arise.

I want to preface this by saying that there very well could be a heart issue if someone never is willing to come join in fellowship. Whether that be a bible study, prayer group, etc. But the actions should never be the main focus but the heart issue behind these actions. There were times I had legit concerns for people not wanting to engage in fellowship, and the lord helped me resolve these with people. The issue for me lied however, in times I would judge others in my heart and focus more on a “lack of commitment” on missing something when in reality they needed loved in that moment, not judged.

This all came to focal point at our Atlas dudes guys retreat, we had to have a smaller winter retreat because of Covid issues, and so we rented out part of a camp and met there for a weekend for a few teachings. It was late Saturday night and we were about to have our last teaching, when a friend of mine asked me to talk to him. I agreed, though I was worried we might miss the start of the teaching (the irony is not lost on me I assure you).

That night my friend opened up to me about all of these things he had been feeling toward me the last year, he was hurt and bitter, because I always seemed more focus on what he was doing than being his friend. He poured his soul out to me, completely threw me through a loop. He told me he understood that I just wanted to help and love him, but he felt crushed with the weight of expectation I placed him under. We talked for two hours, I was stunned, utterly pierced through the heart.

It was that moment I realized just how truly damaging this heart issue I had was, I wanted to love and encourage this brother and instead I had for years left him crushed under a weight of legalism and conform to a standard no one could live up to. At that moment, the only thing I could do is apologize to my friend, beg for his forgiveness which I most certainly did not deserve. To my continued shock, he forgave me on the spot, encouraged me and we left that room dedicated to wanting to strengthen our friendship. It was by far the best teaching I ever missed.

Over the next two years we have become much better friends, and he has grown way more in these past few moths than I could of possibly imagined. He’s matured not only in the lord but in his personal life as well, and I consider my friendship with him a great blessing in my life, so much so I could not imagine getting married without him being in my wedding. He’s helped me grow significantly as well, he helped he finally realize that its not commitment that leads to a deepened relationship with the lord, but I couldn’t really pinpoint the right word for what it was until last night at my last ever discipleship with my friends Ian and Kinzer. Its not commitment that God is looking for, but Submission.

I know, I know, submission is a bad word to a lot of people, it brings a mental picture of weakness, but really a life dedicated to the lord is defined by our submission to him. It means we turn our heart over to him, and follow his leading in our life. Submission is different than commitment because life is different for everyone, not everyone may come to three or four events a week. The thing that matters is where our hearts are at. Do we have a genuine desire to serve the lord.

Atlas taught me that we should give people the freedom to make their own decisions, not try to control them into showing up to as many things as possible. What matters is when we’re enjoying fellowship are we going to actually serve and love people around us. My friend when confronting me, he had a burden to submit to the lord and bring up truth in my life. A truth I am so glad he did bring up to me.

I am excited to see the amazing things the lord is going to do in this new Fellowship Group. One of the main reasons I decided to join the college group is because I feel called to help lead a younger generation of men. I want to help guide them toward growing with the lord, and this lesson of submission is a great place to start. I am still learning what this looks like on a daily basis, but as the lord continues to grow me the more I learn to submit to him. So instead of focusing on whos at what, the focus is on whos loving who, how can we submit to the lord and encourage everyone to love, because Jesus submitting to the father and went to the cross in the greatest example of love of all time. So we too should submit to the lord with a mindset of love.