I’ve never felt as challenged by being part of Resonate Church as I have in the last 6 months.  The past two years have been incredible—the people, experiences, and personal growth have resulted in some of the most meaningful and exciting memories I’ve ever made.  But as time passes, I’m realizing that those gifts are not satisfying when I forget exactly why God gives them.  They all need true purpose behind them.

For years I have had an unashamed infatuation with Resonate.  My youth group went to a camp in Oregon every summer and in the midst of smelly cabins, an unsettling amount of soda, and the prevalent awkwardness carried by a couple hundred teenagers, God began to change the trajectory of my life.  Each year, this camp was staffed by students and staff from Resonate.  I had no idea I was meeting future church planters and site pastors or that I was being led by people who I would one day serve side-by-side with on a weekly basis.

I was connected to a few of the people moving from the Palouse to Ellensburg to plant a church at Central Washington University, and I could hear God clearly calling me to be a part of it.  I was greeted by friends as soon as I moved in, and I quickly became invested, falling in love with the idea of community.  I would serve and go where I was asked to.  I think I quickly became a yes-man, making community and leadership an idol and attempting to do everything that might be expected of me.  Going to Elevate, leading village, playing in the band—if I did those things, people would think I was good and that I had the capacity to lead.  So it was easy to say yes, to do more, and to not spend much time asking why.

As a church, we talk a lot about how to take faithful attendees and raise them into village leaders.  We desire to set freshman on course to become church-planters.  These hopes are so good and so necessary, but only when we remember the vision behind them.  When I lose track of my purpose for doing ministry, my work doesn’t give me joy.  Tasks become impersonal and burdensome.  When I was a freshman, staff members and leaders began to give me expectations and vision for my future role.  I was stoked about that.  I pridefully wanted to become this person people said I could be.  So I did what what I thought was expected, and my attitude over time revealed a desire for my own glory, not God’s.

This summer was the first time my long-term infatuation with Resonate Church and my trust in my leaders really faded.  This was burn-out.  It was the tiredness that comes with doing what was asked of me and doing it how I was taught, but not often enough considering why.  It’s easy to become part of a working system and do your part without questioning the purpose. 

It has been a challenge for me to be an active participant in this church in the last 6 months.  In my doubt and distrust I have had become constantly questioning.  I’ve had to start asking God harder questions about what he really wants to do with my life after graduation.  The cost of being a follower of Jesus has become more clear and I’ve had to give up more comfort and convenience.  There has been a lack of joy in my leadership and my service, and it forces me to ask “why”: “Why am I in Ellensburg?...Why do I serve?...Why does God ask me to give things up?”

This past Christmas, I was with a team overseas hoping to share the Gospel with people who had never heard of the life that Jesus offers.  It was easy to say, “I’m going abroad to share the Gospel,” and to say I understood how important that was.  But it proved to be just as easy for me to turn and neglect the true purpose—and to start believing that the opportunity was about my leadership and me appearing obedient.  The divide between God’s mission and my pride shows that in my heart I had been asking God, “Why isn’t this about me?...God, why aren’t you concerned with what I want?”

God responded to me by talking about culture, and what it means for me to be a part of his. 

During the trip, our team was making new friends, sharing the Gospel with them and connecting them with local believers.  This task is exhausting when you have a language barrier to get through and a propensity to engage in surface level conversation.  We first had to get through the never-ending exchanges about school, food, sports, and Taylor Swift.  It was hard to not constantly have rehashed sessions of cultural compare-and-contrast.

Hoping to take full advantage of our limited time,  we began asking ourselves, “Are we concerned with culture or the Gospel?”  It made sense for me to say that the issue at hand was not a cultural one.

I think Jesus sees it differently.  I honestly think he would say there is always an issue of cultures colliding.  Jesus talks a lot about a kingdom.  He tells parables that explain truths about God and his character, and several of these stories are specifically designed to explain the “kingdom of heaven.”  In Matthew 13, Jesus says:

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

Jesus is making a declaration about a new kingdom.  He is introducing a nation, a culture that is different from that which is around him.  He says, “I see what your culture values.  I see what is important to you.  But I am inviting you into a kingdom that is worth infinitely more than that.”

There is a cultural divide everywhere we go.  Jesus says that there is a cultural divide on your campus, at your work, in your family.  He says that if you follow him and trade in everything you have to be with him, you are trading away your earthly citizenship for a heavenly one.  God has always been creating a nation for himself, a people who love him and remain with him, calling him their King.

But beyond introducing a kingdom, Jesus also gives us a significant purpose within it.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:

19 “ Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us."

On the cross, Jesus gives the world hope by paying the price for sin and offering life.  But Paul explains that there is also responsibility attached to that gift.  We are invited into both personal reconciliation through Christ and the ministry of reconciliation.  We are given a job title: ambassadors.  An ambassador is a representative, speaking on behalf of one government to another.  An ambassador ultimately has the responsibility to represent a different kingdom.

As a follower of Christ, my role is to be an ambassador.  While overseas, I was failing my new friends if I was only able to compare our different lifestyles in terms of man-made national entities.  I am called to compare and contrast culture, but the U.S. cannot be the nation my identity is tied strongest to.  There is a heavenly identity that divides those who know Jesus and those who don’t.

The cultural differences we face daily cannot be based on the borders created by man, but instead on the clear distinction between the Kingdom of God and the culture of the world.

And that distinction establishes God’s purpose for me.  What I do is not about me because, as an ambassador, my purpose is to represent someone greater than me.

Why do I serve in the church, remain in community, and concern myself with mission?  Because it is my joy to work for the sake of the King.  My purpose must be completely tied to the significant role Jesus gives me.  My purpose is defined by him, regardless of my feelings.  When I feel like I’m doing mindlessly following my leaders, like I’m being used in my willingness, or like I can earn my own significance and righteousness, I must choose to find joy in knowing the glorious, eternal purpose of the work Jesus gives the church.

I love my church.  I love the people who I do ministry with, who will fight for me and push me toward God’s word and toward mission even when I don’t want it.  When I am full of doubt, I am drawn in by my family’s devotion to their role in the kingdom.  The church is God’s vehicle to pursue a lost world.  He uses broken people to pursue broken people, and in spite of my pride, my cynicism, and my self-exalting nature, he wants to use me in his ministry of reconciliation.

Jesus offers you a life with significant purpose.  It is joy-filled, but it will cost you your own personal glory.  It will cost your plans and your comfort.  He wants us to look more and more like him, which sounds pretty sweet until we recognize that the Savior was homeless, mocked, and murdered.  He invites us to lay down our lives daily so that we might be satisfied in the promise of a better life.  Our hope should be that we become a people willing to ask God “why” and that his answer would compel us toward obedient submission in a life of joy and sacrifice.

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