Going and growing deeper
by Nora Allison
Sojourn just celebrated its 20th birthday as a church. I wasn’t a part of the very earliest days, but stories abound! One account that stands out to me is the day that, in commitment to cultivating beauty as reflection of our beautiful God, Sojourners brought their televisions, big and small, and smashed them in a big heap! Pause and picture us doing this on East’s lawn in Windy Hills. As I think about it, I’m still amazed at my own reaction: I really like watching my Cubs’ games; I have HGTV on speed dial and (when it’s not election season) keep updated with cable news. So why do I feel like I missed out on something meaningful, even enviable that Destruction Day?
I know it’s not the TV farewells and crashing part that leaves me with past tense FOMO. And it’s definitely not an internal longing to sacrifice my video enjoyment through demolition. So what do I feel like I missed out on that day? In a parking lot, almost 2 decades ago now, a group of believers demonstrated in a very public and unmistakable way, their commitment to identify with and follow through on a call to a kingdom priority over an earthly one. They willingly destroyed something temporal, and in some cases valuable, in order to clear the way for something transcendent and God-centered. They chose the mission over the material.
I want that - for me, for my family and for our church on Rudy Lane in East Louisville.
Many years ago while on furlough from our ministry in Italy, I had a casual conversation in a church lobby in Wheeling, Illinois with a new acquaintance. I shared the very real struggle of going wherever God calls, doing whatever he says and giving away whatever is asked. His response to me was, “Oh, you’re one of those radical Christians!” Not one to always hold my tongue, I replied, “Is there any other kind?” Since that day, I’ve met many other kinds. I sometimes AM another kind.
Being sold out for Jesus is not for the faint of heart. Although it doesn’t always mean crossing oceans or emptying your bank account or smashing televisions, it does mean a total and shameless devotion to love, serve and obey the One who gave everything to be with us. It means time out of our schedules to know Jesus, dig into his Word, let his truth change us, learn the voice of the Spirit, trust him in the dark and obey him all the time. It means both private and individual, along with public and corporate displays of devotion.
As new believers it’s quite acceptable to fumble our way around the Bible. But if we’re still doing so ten years later, we have to grow up. When a crazy day’s schedule keeps us out of the Word, it’s understandable. But if we regularly prioritize Netflix over the voice of God, something needs to change. When our fear of man causes us to miss opportunities to be salt and light, unfortunately most of us can relate. But if we persistently “love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43), we’ve lost sight of our identity and purpose. As followers of Jesus, that’s what we need to do: follow him. He spent time with his Father, he learned obedience, and he had the Word written on his heart and ready on his tongue to display God’s glory in every encounter.
A foundational value of Sojourn East is discipleship – identifying as learners of Jesus who are growing more like him as we spend time with him. Spending time with him looks much today like it did in the first century: listening to him, watching what he does (and then asking him to explain it), getting to know the Father through him, obeying him, emulating him, and going on mission with him for glimpses of his Kingdom in the here and now.
A former member of Sojourn and now pastor in Colorado, J.T. English, challenges us in his new book, Deep Discipleship, with these words: “The reason we go deeper is because God is who he says he is. He is an inexhaustible well of perfections…” To grow as deep disciples, J.T. explains, we need “more Bible, not less, more theology, not less, more spiritual disciplines, not less, more gospel, not less; more Christ, not less….We have settled for a shallow version of discipleship, while Christ invites all of us deeper.”
What does this all look like practically, in our COVID-stained, East-end church? It means both individually and collectively asking God to start with us. We should all want what we all so desperately need – more of God. The earth will one day be “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14) Let it begin with me! May we know him and love him with all our minds and all our hearts and all our souls and all our strength and all our time and all our televisions.
May we prioritize sitting with God, learning from his character, listening to his Word, being convicted by his Spirit and being changed into his likeness through it all! May we ask those who have walked this road ahead of us for insights, advice, and stories of his goodness and faithfulness and love. And may it be said of us as it was of Jesus’ earliest disciples, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Act. 4:13)
Nora Allison is Sojourn East's Director of Equipping and leads our Women's Ministry.