I hear it all the time and I am usually skeptical (unfortunately): “God told me”, God called me”, and the much more conservative version that I like to use, “God prompted me” to make this move. Well, back in September of 2010, God prompted me to make this move. The prompting went something like this:
I had looked into micro finance some 4 or 5 years ago, got excited, called Dale Dawson who started Urwego Opportunity Bank in Rwanda, then dropped the ball and never did anything. I got busy “killin it” and never pursued it any further. This time, however, was much different. You see, I don’t usually hear God. I know that he speaks, but I don’t usually hear, and I am leery of those who do. I am too busy being high “D” and high “C” (according to my DISC profile that is a Dominant and Calculating personality. . . I lovingly refer to it as the D_CK profile). Don’t get me wrong, I believe God still speaks to us, but I just do not hear Him, nor do any of my friends or anyone else I know, might know, or might hear about or read about and actually listen to. That night I researched local micro finance organizations, found one, watched some videos on it and called the executive director the next day. I told her we had to meet THAT DAY, but I did not really have an agenda. She was kind enough and probably listening to God enough to adjust her plans and meet. I told her of this crazy prompting and she began to help plug me into the world of micro finance, my new found ministry pursuit.
The very next day was scheduled our first law firm partnership meeting after my return from a very special summer in Colorado. At the meeting, I was greeted with some unexpected turmoil. As the business development manager, I had allegedly angered one of our clients. My partners then began to lay out a plan of how they needed to separate me from this client, who happened to be our largest client. It soon became clear that during their summer together without me, my two partners had become quite hot here in Texas while I was in Colorado and a coup was underway. Though I was initially angered by the suggestion, I eventually saw this as an opportunity to depart with a payout that would allow me time to spend in Colorado while determining my next business move.
After a month or so of discussing the buyout and dreaming about what was next, I was encouraged by a friend to read through my years of journaling and try to determine if God was using this incident to “call” me into full time service for the Kingdom. You see, this ministry prompting had occurred at luncheon for the National Christian Foundation. We were exploring the use of our God given resources for Kingdom service. I always thought I was called to be a business guy, a multiplier for God’s Kingdom. I knew I was part of the body, but I never thought my role would be in ministry, and still didn’t. I told him that I was clearly not “called” into some sort of career. My job in my career was simply to make money and then do ministry. Nevertheless, I agreed to humor his request.
The review of my journals along with my September prompting revealed some unexpected twists. There were at least 5 instances where I had pleaded with God in bold letters with overused exclamations points to CALL ME. Maybe he was calling me into micro finance. Maybe this prompting was a career move and not a compartmentalized ministry move.
Being the consummate strategist and desiring entrepreneur, I quickly began to devise the plan that I was certain God wanted with this new calling. I would learn as much about micro finance as possible and then start a for profit business that provides services to the micro finance industry. I was certain that this was the direction, so I set out on my own to find MY place in the world of micro finance. I was an attorney with 10+ years experience in the credit stressed lending industry. I was perfect for micro finance. Plus, I was willing to take a significant pay cut to pay the price to serve. How could anyone refuse to hire me. I would have offers pouring in in no time, right?
After a year of trying (15 applications, numerous conferences and trips, 2 interviews and 2 rejections), I learned that the workers in micro finance were way smarter, better educated, better traveled and much more sacrificial than me. Micro finance had little need for me. I was quite humbled. In need of funds, I retreated back over the neglected bridge that was fortunately still intact, the default mortgage industry. I worked as a consultant for large bank for a year and pretty much gave up the dream that God was calling me into full time ministry. I told my friend that he must have been mistaken, God was not calling me, at least not right now. I still knew, however, that He had prompted me in September to do more to help the poor, but I was back to my original thought that this prompting was a ministry I needed to participate in as opposed to into a career shift.
As I began to drift back into the consulting world and let go of the supposed call to full time ministry, I finally started releasing the outcome of this prompting to God. I kept my ear to the ground and continued to support Hope International, one of the organizations with whom I had interviewed. When the opportunity came later that year to work in the area of stewardship ministry in the oil and gas industry, I knew it was not of my making.
My wife had asked me previously if I would like to do what the local president of the National Christian Foundation was doing. I told her that I would not. It was just too nebulous and I would likely become frustrated. I spent 3 months praying through it and seeking counsel before deciding that this was in fact God leading me into the next chapter.
How did I know?
Well, it made total and complete logical sense (insert sarcasm here): I had been in the oil and gas industry for years, I was a tremendously generous giver and I had been freed from all desires for worldly wealth and material possessions and I was the most astute and organized business man I knew with great influence. WRONG! I had none of these things.
What did I know?
- I was prompted to serve the poor
- I wanted to serve, but did not know where or how
- I had been volunteering for National Christian Foundation for 4-5 years
- I wanted to do something that combined business and ministry
- I knew and liked the president of the local organization and trusted his walk with God
- I am a better starter than a ongoing operational guy and there was an opportunity to start something new with NCF
- I saw opportunity to be involved in Kingdom multiplication and I wanted to be a multiplier
- I wanted to hang out with better people than I was used to hanging out with in the mortgage industry
- I was located in Texas in the heart of the oil patch
- As I was thinking about other businesses I would consider when moving out of mortgage banking, oil and gas continued to surface in my thoughts
I saw it as an opportunity that God was presenting and I took it despite the fact that the salary was about 1/3 of what I was previously making, that I had no clear direction on what we would actually be doing and I had no relevant experience. I simply showed up ready to serve.
Now here we are a year later and the feeling of inadequacy is at its peak. We have hit few of our goals and have had to adjust our business model. I find myself stuck between the “do” and the “be”. “Do” is my default but everything I am reading and hearing is telling me to be. I am praying that my inadequacy in the “do” will force me to “be” better. In turn my “being” will make me a more “capable doer”. But for now, I am just continuing to show up ready to serve. My new favorite description of our team is that we are the Triumphant Fellowship of the Inadequate!
We just finished reading a new book, The Choice. It encourages ministries to take the spiritual path to ministry as opposed to the common path. The common path looks much more like pure business and it is where I find comfort. The spiritual path does not abandon business practices in your ministry, but it is one degree different and that one degree means everything. We heard during our retreat this week that water can boil vegetables at 211 degrees, but can run a locomotive at 212 degrees. That one degree makes all the difference and the degree of the Holy Spirit in our work makes all the difference as well.
I continue to rest in the fact that God is leading and I am simply one part of a much larger body of Christ. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 1 Corinthians 12: 14-15. I have always aspired to hold a more “important” role in the body but I am finally learning to recognize that all members of the body are important, even those that are not used as much. Take the Gallbladder for instance. It is responsible for helping people digest when they bite off a little more than they can chew. It fills up with nasty acid and pours it into the digestive tract as needed to accomplish a necessary function that helps people live a more peaceful existence. As evidenced by my previously mentioned DISC profile, I am sometimes a little acidic. Nevertheless, I pray that God will use me as a member of His body to help people digest all of this wealth we are called to steward and find a little joy and peace in the midst of our seemingly force-fed, fat-filled diet commonly known as the American Dream.