After every conference I experienced as a college student, I felt like I was the strongest I'd been in months. My faith was encouraged, my emotions were soaring and I knew I had heard God speak something deeply to me. Who wouldn't be walking on clouds and water after an experience like this. This is commonly called a spiritual high and it is sort of like a drug. This drug is not only common to conferences. Spiritual highs happen in all sorts of Churches nation wide every Sunday. The problem is that we can become addicted to getting High. This short burst of spiritual elevation can become an idol. After attending several Christian conferences as a student I realized my faith had to become more than a High. And as I grew in my knowledge of scripture I realized a deep truth. When the followers of God had a significant experience with Him, they did not live the same. After hearing God through a burning bush, Moses went on to lay down his life(with many failures) for the Israelites. When Gideon hears God he leads the people of Israel out of oppression. When Paul experiences Jesus, He goes from persecuting Jesus-followers to suffering with and for them. I believe when we experience spiritual highs we should seek out the place of greatest service and sacrifice. Our attitudes should immediately be like that of Jesus "who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant."
So the question is "what do we now?" How do we take what we received at the Voice of Legacy conference back to our contexts and take on the nature of a servant. I want to speak to 3 groups of people as we consider what it looks like to do this. These groups are those in a traditional church, InterVarsity students, and those who consider themselves part of the Underground community.
Turning Up the VOL at Church: VOL and Traditional Church
If you hadn't noticed, the VOL team is made up of young black leaders who could not do what God was calling them to do in a traditional church. By traditional I am referring to Church organized in such a way that the central activities happen in a building and with one central leader. The black leaders I interact with see the pain of the world around them and scheme and dream about how to set their pews in the darkest places of our city. We have Church in Strip club dressing rooms where women of God share Jesus with women who may be seen as the furthest away from God. We bring Jesus to at risk youth, not waiting for them to come inside the Church but meeting them where they are, showing them that Jesus spent most of his time on the street and it is where some of his most powerful miracles occurred. We desire a discipleship that has it's lessons in everyday life and the suffering therein.
We are those who did not find the necessary support from the traditional expression of church. But here is the catch. We love the Church, even in its traditional expression. We know that it holds power. In my opinion much of that power has become latent. This is why we invited many traditional churches and church leaders to the conference. Because we had all encountered pastors and church leaders who expressed a yearning to see young black leaders empowered to serve and lead. Though those who showed up from traditional settings were few, we want to give you a few next steps.
- Pray and Process with Jesus. It was not the conference that changed your life. It was Jesus' interactions with you. This came through worship, the speaker, fellowship with other Jesus-followers, prayer and your open heart. We attribute all of this to God's voice and his want to speak to you. Be sure to take some time to be with him if you haven't already.
- Take Small Risks. Plan to take one small risk for Jesus. This could be sharing your faith with a stranger, making a meal for someone and spending an evening with them, or even pursuing reconciliation in that one relationship in your life that is the most broken. These small steps of faith are important as you consider the bigger picture that God has for your life.
- Share what God is doing in your life and Consider your calling. God said a lot during the conference. As you spend time with him, consider what he might be calling you to lay down your life for. Think about all the darkness in the world: hunger, human trafficking, sex slavery, homelessness, reading deficits, fatherlessness, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and imprisonment to name a few. Consider what darkness God may be calling you to fight against and share this with a trusted elder in your church and begin dreaming about what it might look like to give your life to this calling in your Church context.
Turning Up the VOL On Campus: For College Students
The campus is one of the most critical places of need and discipleship for God's global church. The leaders of tomorrow are formed there. If you are a college student, your life as a black leader is vital to God's work in the world. In a place where identity and purpose is being developed, black students need to see what a life totally devoted to Jesus looks like. They need to see how following Jesus has everything to do with their identity as a black student. They need to have the good news of Jesus delivered to them from black hands. Here are a few suggestions in doing this.
- Pray and Process with Jesus. It was not the conference that changed your life. It was Jesus' interactions with you. Keep interacting with Him. Discipline on campus tends to revolve around academics and getting ahead. Deep, Jesus-centered lives require discipline around the reading of God's word, prayer and obedience to God's voice. Set some regular time to be with Jesus. Especially dedicate some time to be with Jesus to continue your conversation with him that started at VOL.
- Share With Your Staff Worker. Share what God did in your heart with your InterVarsity staff worker. You staff worker will be one of your best allies and someone who can keep you accountable as you grow in knowing and embracing your ethnic identity and in your journey of learning what it means to join the legacy of the black voice God has called us to.
- Enter into Your MultiEthnic Settings with Grace. There may be some dissonance that you feel as you enter into your multiethnic gatherings. This is normal and not a bad thing. It is actually a reminder of what we sacrifice in order to achieve "heaven on earth" on our campuses. Be fully who you are in your multiethnic settings and know that there others around the state entering the awkwardness that comes with "hard identification". I believe our communities will be better as we fight assimilation in our own hearts and pursue authenticity.
- Step Up in Leadership. With humility and a learning posture, pursue leadership in your InterVarsity community. Being in InterVarsity leadership does three key things that are vital to your Christian walk: It provides a community of like-minded people who want to be part of God's mission on campus, it provides the necessary challenge and accountability we all need in growing our relationship with Jesus, and it provides the training, mentoring and growth opportunities you need to foster a missional life. Great leaders have the humility to submit to God, community and God's mission in order to become like Jesus.
Turning up the VOL at the Underground: The Need for Young Black Missionaries
I am a firm believer that the soul of America was saved by the suffering Black Church. As I consider the Black church among the Underground community I am desperate to see a community of Black missionaries empowered and fully living in the call that God has on their lives. From VOL, I believe there are at least 3 or 4 new ministries that are supposed to be birthed, led by black leaders(not necessarily reaching only black people). The Underground is fertile soil for Black Leaders. There are always difficulties in being a black leader but consider this: the legacy of raising our voices and leading has always carried suffering with it and suffering only caused us to shout louder. What would it look like for you to step up. Here are a few suggestions.
- Refer to number 1 and 3 of the above section for college students. Remix it to fit our UG context.
- Seriously Consider and Pursue Your Calling. There is a leadership path in the Underground. It involves the Calling Lab, the Leadership Training Course, Elders in Training and many other trainings. Following your calling involves the possibility that it may take a few years of struggle and training before you start anything. The pursuit of your calling is just as important as living it out and I am not naive to what this means. It means that you will have to consider a more difficult life as you turn away from the "American dream" type of life that says consider yourself first and you turn to the Jesus-like life that says consider God's call first. In doing this you will be joining a growing group of black leaders who "consider our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." IMMEDIATELY talk to the Underground elder closest to you about the next steps in pursuing your calling.
During the VOL Conference, the UG elders gathered with a number of pastors and ministry leaders. Pastor Darryl Williams gave us a word of encouragement that I believe was for any black leader who is considering fighting against the darkness that God calls them to fight. It is this:
"We need to pursue pouring ourselves into [others], invest time. You will go to bed later, you will get up earlier. The cost of that [may] mean discipleship at 630[am]. It may shorten your life. But those are the things that it means."
The response to VOL is to lay down our lives MORE. Though we all may have various difficulties that come with laying down our lives, "let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Originally posted at www.brad-everett.blogspot.com.