This is Your Green Light
(Originally written on January 28, 2008)
"Let's stop complaining about the church that we see, and set our hearts on becoming the church we dream of." - Shane Claiborne
We all have different talents and passions that are waiting to be unleashed — waiting to advance the vision, build the dream, or create the next thing that will change the world. How many of us sit parked at yellow? What are we waiting for? A green light.
Every story of influence and impact has a "once upon a time." There has never been a world changing idea that was already happening, there has never been an epic story without a beginning, and there will never be a person of influence without a starting point to the journey. This is the story of creation. This is your story.
Let me talk about my story. For many years, God has been birthing within me this thing. For quite a while I can honestly say that I wasn't exactly sure what it was, but there was this tension building deep within me and nothing could quench that internal fire. One day it all came clear through a simple conversation with Laura. God has been preparing me in advance (Ephesians 2:10) to start Missio Dei Church. I couldn't sit on my hands any longer. There was nothing that was going to stand in our way. I had to move with or without the blessing of our families, friends and the leadership of Peace Community Church. We had to take that first step out in faith. We have had to retrace some steps, ask and re-ask some tough questions, but none of it would have happened if we would not have been faithful in our stepping out into this dream that God has given us.
So, let's talk about this story of yours. Many of you have this thing that has been growing in your heart for sometime. Not acting on it will leave you with this terrible sense of incompleteness and dissatisfaction that could grow into contempt, disillusionment and bitterness towards God and the Church. To do something about this dream, you have to start somewhere. But starting isn't easy; often it's the most difficult part. Why? You don't know where or how to begin. Artists will tell you that the first word, color, or image chosen to be placed on a blank canvas is the hardest part of an entire piece. At the same time, great writers will tell you that the only way to begin is to start writing whatever you think.
Then there is fear. Fear of failure--that you might take a wrong step. Yet, you must begin by taking a step—it's not hard to retrace a step or take a different step if the first one didn't work. It's only one step, forward motion. Behind every great piece of art we see hundreds of others. The masterpiece was not the first creation by the artist. It takes work and sweat to make masterpieces but it starts with one step. You may be paralyzed by the fear of success. What if it works? Then what? Then take the next step. Then the next and the next. I know you don't know all the steps yet, you can't know all the steps yet. You've been given a vision or a dream for a purpose. Take the steps and trust that God will guide the process. After all it was God who planted that dream in your heart. Don't let fear of the unknown taint the future of your story.
So, what is the deal? Are you waiting for a pastor (me) or ministry leader or just plain old anyone to give you the green light? That's a little safer, isn't it? Then you're not out there on the starting line by yourself. There's someone else to lean on, someone else to paint the next stroke for you and someone else to blame if things go wrong. But is that really any way to live? Always waiting on someone else? My friend encouraged me with this advice: "Just do something!" The needs are so great in our fallen world that even if what you do doesn't work out, you are setting a new personal standard. You create a personal ethos of beginning and learning in the process. A well planned out project that never happens is nothing more than a fantasy written in your journal. So what if you screw up? An idea that is acted upon and fails has its own place in your developing story. Give yourself the green light and begin a journey of influence.
Bobby Bailey, Jason Russell, and Laren Poole understand the green light. They stumbled upon injustice happening in Uganda and took that responsibility on as their own to share the story with America. They created the Invisible Children documentary that millions of people around the nation have seen. They sent four tour buses to every major city in America. They showed the film on Capitol Hill with the support of Congressmen. They were on Oprah. And now there are children in Uganda with lives being restored. All this from three college students learning how to make movies. How did this happen? Three guys just did something. People are drawn to people that do. The motion of stepping out and stepping forward attracts others.
Understanding the era and context that we currently live in is essential to beginning your new journey. We are moving to a new age where authenticity is the basis for every experience. Remember back to the last intense movie that you viewed where the lead actor was acting in a studio and you could tell the backdrop was super-imposed or graphically enhanced behind them. On the surface it appeared he was accomplishing a death defying feat, when in reality he was held up with wires 8 inches off the floor. That's a green screen sequence. We all make fun of those scenes because they are not real. The Disneyland approach only lasts until a certain age, then it wears off. A good story impresses immediately or may even bring emotion, but a lack of authenticity will be exposed by those who take a closer look.
Every new idea that is developed must be done without selfish ambition. If you are trying to create something for selfish gain, you will not be truly successful. Dr. John Stott uses the phrase "the smell of hypocrisy" when referring to those who help others for personal gain or inappropriate agendas. We all know from personal experience how much a selfish persona distracts us from what is being presented. On the other side, we've all experienced people that have such a vision and calling for their work, that we can't help but be attracted and get involved.
Don't search for influence. Search yourself. Find what moves you. Look around you. Discover a place of need. Last week while in San Antonio, I heard Alan Hirsch say, "Empires of the future are built upon the empires of your imagination." Authentically pursue a vision that helps humanity. Use the gifts you have been given. Influence will follow at the moment when you can handle it.
To have influence in our culture and see God move in and powerfully transform our families, our work places, and in our community and world, you must begin now. Every time you put yourself out on the line and try something new, you gain influence. I've never seen a Christian at home by himself talking about an idea gain cultural influence or see God powerfully transform lives. The product of doing something will result in a positive continuum of lives being changed by the Gospel.
I thank God that He has brought us on this wild and crazy journey with you. It has been a daily challenge in listening to God and our community of faith as we lay down some of those first brush strokes and not knowing what God is fully calling us to be and do. And just so you know, we (you and me) will always be in this process of listening and changing and wondering and attempting and experimenting and revamping and tossing it out and starting it all over again. But it required us trusting God, the Author of our story, and taking that first step and doing something!
So here it is, "Do something. This is your green light."