I had a picture similar to the one on the left for about five years inside my journal (2000-2005). I sensed a call that God was calling me to embark on some kind of ministry called Unusual Soldiers, but I had no clear idea what it was, what it looked like, or how to even start a ministry. I call those restless decision moments Cliffs. Those moments when you want to step over an edge and do something for God, but the fear of the unknown tells you to keep your feet planted. I knew personally that I had to leap and that it would only be in the moment that I stepped off that edge that I would discover if this "unusual soldiers" thing would fly...or fall. So here are the five big cliffs our family had to face in the initial years of Unusual Soldiers.
1. The Faith Jump (January 2005)
After eight years of youth ministry I was beginning to get restless. I loved the church and the youth ministry that I worked with but I knew that I did not have the heart of a "shepherd". A shepherd guards the flock, keeps them fed, and helps them grow, but I longed to take the love of Christ to the "wolves." This desire grew and I called those types of people that risk everything for Christ: Unusual Soldiers. I tried to incorporate this as a youth program, but asking kids to take bold risks for God doesn't always sit well with parents. I began to accept that this strange calling may one day require me to jump off a "cliff." I often prayed about it, but the Lord seemed to continually tell me to wait.
It was in January of 2005 that I felt like God had given me the greenlight. I talked to Pastor Phil, our Senior pastor, about my restlessness and told him that I would be resigning from youth ministry that following summer. It was difficult for me to muster the words because I didn't have a clear direction as to where or what I was going to do. I just knew it was time to step over the edge. We had a great conversation and he encouraged me to follow God's leading even if it was into the unknown. After having that conversation I knew that church would begin the search for a new youth pastor and that there would be no turning back. I put myself in a position that literally forced my wife and I over the cliff to pursue this dream that we felt God had given us.
2. Following a Burden to Africa (June 2005)
I felt like I was out of my mind. I was about to resign from my stable youth ministry position at the end of July and I felt this crazy burden for a tribe called the Maasai on the other side of the world. It felt like I was jumping off of two cliffs at once. It was embarrassing for me to talk to others about this mission trip idea, because it didn't look like the typical mission trip that I had done in the past. I wasn't going with a team, a missions agency, or a clear cut plan and to top it off that the tribe I wanted to go to had been in conflict. I decided to take the trip over my vacation time and spend the remnants of our bank account to go. I thought that I looked like a fool going through a midlife crises at 28 years old but my church lovingly endorsed my trip, prayed for me, and commissioned me off. The things that God did on that trip will never be forgotten. It redefined me, set me up for the future, and began to give me a more global vision of who Unusual Soldiers are and what they do.
3. Raising Support for a Living (August 2005-present)
If there was one thing that that I disliked more than anything else in youth ministry it was fundraisers. Organizing car washes, selling Pizzas, trading trash for cash, etc. My parents often remind me that when I was younger that I firmly told them that I could never take the humble road of raising support for a living. However, after praying and seeking Godly counsel I decided to join Kingdom Building Ministries fulltime as a speaker and a trainer, and that meant that I would have to raise my salary and my budget. So for 8 months my wife and I moved back in with my parents and we began the gut wrenching journey of raising support. After reading some books we knew that our personalities could never handle pressuring people into supporting us so we simply asked others to listen for the Lords voice and respond to it. After months of constantly battling if we were raising support right, the Lord burst through a few months later, and we moved to Colorado to work for KBM full time. This gut wrenching decision actually led to many deeper friendship around the country and little did we know that it would also allow us to endeavor for God globally in the future.
4. Scrapping what Worked in the Past (June 2006)
Timberlakes Camp was a speaking event that I will never forget. It was the camp that I decided to scrap all of my old messages and try out all new messages that were geared around the theme "Unusual Soldiers." Its hard for a speaker, at least me, to give up messages that messages I know have "worked" in the past. But this camp redefined everything. I created 8 new messages for Timberlakes that were more threaded with the core of your I was. It was a time of challenging students to live fully for Christ, to listen for his voice, and to be willing to embark to dangerous places for Him. The messages came out of my mouth very unpolished , but the fire that filled this camp moved me. I realized for the first time that there is a generation that is longing to live radical and...dangerous for Christ. And pursued speaking on mainly Unusual Soldiers content from that week forward.
5. Asking a potentially Life Altering Question(2007)
Our KBM speaking team was meeting for their annual retreat at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We were all assigned to read a biography of another itinerant and give a small report of it to the rest of the team. The speakers were randomly sharing insights and I sat back and just observed, like I commonly do when I am around numerous extroverted personalities. While I was listening I noticed that my heart seemed to burn for a different kind of speaking ministry than the other speakers. I began to wander if my calling even fit with being a "Christian Speaker". The bio I read was of Sammy TippitKBM team asked about my bio, I voiced that I was struggling if the Lord still wanted me to be a KBM speaker, because of the deep burden that I had to take the gospel into dark, dangerous, and despised places. I stated that I felt like I needed to live for God in a way that might look "borderline reckless" to others inside and outside of the faith. I told them that I had wild dreams of going and doing wild things for God in dark places. I remember timidly asking them if this type of ministry even fit with KBM. I knew that that question could mean that I may need to look for a ministry elsewhere, or start my own, but I needed to know. The speakers and the leadership team said, enthusiastically said, "YES!" and embraced my unique calling to go to the dark places for Christ. Since that moment God has been faithful and allowed me to go to variety of dark places internationally for him and attempt things for him that I know that I could have never done without Him and our ministry partners.
6? Starting a Ministry...(2010)
That is a story full of cliffs that are still being faced. So maybe in the future you will hear another big five about post Unusual Soldiers, Inc.
Hopefully this BIG FIVE list will be an encouragement to you if you sense that there is a cliff in your horizon that God is calling you to jump off of. Know that it won't be easy, but there is nothing that compares to stepping off the edge with Him and living a life with no regrets. May He give you the courage and strength to jump off the first and most frightful edge... and the others that may follow.