God has a plan, which means our plans often change.
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
I can think of a variety of adjectives to describe the faith journey of daily following Jesus (exciting, amazing, adventurous, etc.), but one word that could never be used to describe it is "boring".
I'm the kind of person who likes to know the plan, and if possible, stick to the plan. It doesn't always work that way when we follow Jesus. After 13 years of youth ministry, and 4 years as a lead pastor, last fall we stepped out in faith as I answered God's call to full time evangelism. The church I pastored commissioned me as a missionary, and so began a new chapter in our lives. In my mind, God had used my involvement in Dare 2 Share Ministries for the last 5 years to prepare me for this call as I became the Next Generation Leader for Every Believer a Witness Ministries. I felt like I had fully “arrived” into my calling as I began to work with Dennis Nunn and the great team at Every Believer a Witness. As I learned the material, the DNA, and the day to day with EBAW, God was constantly opening new doors for ministry. I learned so much working with Dennis, and certainly from just seeking and trusting God to help us adjust to this new role. Our family had a plan. We would live in my hometown, Mount Vernon, KY, as I traveled and trained believers and pastors through EBAW. My kids would continue to attend the school district that they love, from which my wife and I both graduated. We thought it was a great plan.
Exactly one year after I had announced to my church that I was called to evangelism, I found myself sharing another twist and turn to this adventure. In all that God has taught me in the last year, the thing I learned most about myself is that I have a strong passion for student ministry. I could clearly see that those were the doors that God just kept opening in front of us. I love training believers of ALL ages to share their faith. I love working with pastors to help them create and maintain a culture of evangelism in their churches. But the thing I realized that I am most passionate about is mobilizing students to reach their generation with the Gospel as well as coaching, training, and equipping youth leaders to do it. Although I was beginning to see the reality of my true calling and passion, I was still determined to stick to my plan.
We even found what we thought was our "dream home" in our hometown. We set out to sell our home and made the move, only to have it all fall through at closing. Four times we attempted to buy the home, and every attempt was blocked. There are obviously far greater tragedies in the world, but we couldn't help but wonder "Why?" Why couldn't we buy this home that we love and get settled? Why did there seem to be this unrest in our lives all the sudden?
One evening while driving home, I cried out to God. It was a Psalm of David kind of prayer. Not a "praise" prayer but more of a "complaint" prayer. "What's going on, God? What are you trying to tell us? Where are you in all of this?” Then God whispered to me in a still, small, assuring voice, "Jon, you can't see what I see, but just know that everything can change, and it can all come together with just one phone call. You just have to trust me...I've got you!"
These words of a loving Father brought me great peace and comfort as I pulled into the driveway at home. I went inside and did something I hadn't been able to do for a quite a while; I laid down and took a nap. I woke up to a phone call from Greg Stier, founder and CEO of Dare 2 Share. He asked me if I would possibly consider applying for their Director of Mobilization position. They had been searching for the right person to fill this position for quite some time, but it was nowhere on my radar. When he confirmed with me that it would require us moving to Colorado, I wanted to quickly write it off. I didn't want to move, and my family didn't want to move either. We had a plan and we were sticking to it. Then I remembered how God had clearly spoken to me just hours before, and I sensed that this could surely be God working in our lives. We began to pray and seek God's will, and over and over this Scripture kept coming to my mind:
"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)
We surrendered our plan to the Lord, trusting Him to direct every step...and that’s what He did. Step by step, in just a short time, God revealed His will for me to accept the Director of Mobilization position at Dare 2 Share…and that’s what I did. As a family, we accepted that this was part of God’s plan all along, even as we followed his leading to EBAW.
I certainly was not looking forward to making the call to break the news to Dennis. I knew he had a plan, too. The goal was for me to soon become the leader of the ministry that God had given him. There was obviously some disappointment at first, but Dennis' ultimate desire is to know and obey God's will. He very quickly began to see the hand of God at work in all of this, and has been wonderfully supportive and encouraging in this decision every step of the way.
I am grateful, and forever will be, for Dennis, Every Believer a Witness, and the entire experience in this ministry. I have grown and learned so much, and I truly believe God used it to prepare me for this new position. That was not our plan, but I see now that it was His. I still love Every Believer a Witness, will still recommend it, and will still promote this ministry to pastors and churches moving forward.
I am thankful for every pastor, leader, and donor who I worked with, who invested in me, and who supported us in this ministry. We are truly grateful for you in ways that we could never fully express. We certainly desire your prayers as we press into what God has next. Moving to Colorado is a major adjustment for us—far from family, friends, and a community that we love. It was not our plan, but we know it is God's plan for us now. We know that following Him in total obedience is always best, even when there are scary changes and unknowns ahead. It’s not wrong to have a plan, I still think it’s a good thing. The key is to willingly hand over that plan to God—He is the way and He has the final say. When we yield our plan to God, He will lead us in the way we should go, step by step. Thank you so much for your love, prayers, and support…we love and appreciate you all very much!