It Still Blows My Mind

Posted August 8, 2009 by jonathan sutton
Categories: Uncategorized

It’s never gotten old.  In fact, it makes this adventure called Following Christ much more mysterious and wonderful.  I’m talking about those rare pop-up ministry opportunities.  Those moments when you are going about your biz…grocery shopping, driving to work, in line at the bank…and God drops something right in your face.  A person.  A phone call.  A thought you can’t shake.  You know it’s the Holy Spirit.  You know you must stop what you’re doing.  You know you must act. 

I know, I know.  I hear you.  Yes, of course we should always be LOOKING for these ministry opps…after all, God is ALWAYS at work around us.  But what I’m pointing out are these random OBVIOUS moments like I experienced today. 

In the mall with wife and 4 kids.  Deciding if we want chemically altered chicken from one of the 14 different Asian chow places in the food court or if we go with the christian chicken, or ride the subway, or ring the bell.  In the middle of the kid’s shouting their opinions I hear a “hey, how are y’all?”  It was a family we had met a few times before through a mutual friend.  What started as a hello ended up being a “pray for our family because…”

2.5 hours later, getting in the car to head back to Cville, I couldn’t get over several things.  God had us in that exact spot in that exact moment to run in to those exact people.  Yeah, some small coincidence, eh?  I love how He operates.  I love how He drops things in your lap and says, “Sit, listen, pray, comfort, minister, care for my people.”  And the 2nd thing I couldn’t get over:  how He uses us.  “Us” as in selfish people like me.  Seriously, it’s not always easy to shutup about yourself long enough SO THAT you can care for someone going through something bad…as in way bad…as in, you realize just how blessed you are. 

So we did just that.  Altered our plans, realizing why God had placed us in a mall (that we normally avoid) on an August Saturday afternoon.  To listen.  To get to know a family.  And for whatever it was worth, offer some comfort.  To learn ourselves.  To care for others like scripture begs of us.

Hope I never get over how God operates.
Hope I’m always ever aware of the opportunities that surround me and my family every day.
Blows my mind.


She wanted “normal” church

Posted August 2, 2009 by jonathan sutton
Categories: Uncategorized

Tuesday night.  Sitting on the couch after eating some lasagna.  Me and kiddos watching cartoons and getting ready to leave for OLU (Oak Leaf University) classes.  My 4yr old daughter, Kinley, wants to know the plan for the night: “Daddy, are we going to have normal church tonight?”  I didn’t grasp what she meant at first.  But through a series of followup questions, I realized she was asking if there would be a lesson, video, and worship…or if it would just be a movie and a snack.  I explained that it would not be “normal” church that night, instead they would just chill and watch a movie.  “Oh”, she says, with a look of disappointment.

She got up and went to her room.  After about 60 seconds she returns and says, “Daddy, I just prayed.”  Ahhh, how sweet.  Very cool.  Dad is proud….but she wouldn’t tell me what she prayed for!  She was being shy about it, but I eventually coaxed it out of her.  “I prayed that church would be normal tonight.”

A few things here:  First, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that a child of mine craved the lesson, worship, and small group time over playing and watching a movie.  (Never a guarantee they would choose that again, eh?)  In her words, “You know Daddy…normal…where we sit in a circle and talk, and jump on stage and sing.”  Second, it further confirms that the elementary ministry is heading in the right direction.  The volunteers of that area are goofy and love Jesus.  A dangerous combination!  :^)

It was a cool moment that I hope to see played out in her life for years to come.  My prayer for her and all my children and for every kid is that “normal” for them becomes choosing Worship over Entertainment, Giving over Getting, Service over Apathy, and always always always the desire to follow Jesus over any of the bazillion Distractions of this world.

Reminder:  Let’s model this for them.

Why I’m Leaving Oak Leaf Church…And Why You Should Too

Posted July 30, 2009 by jonathan sutton
Categories: Uncategorized

Today is my last official day on staff at Oak Leaf.  The past 15 months have been an incredible growing experience.  I can easily say that I’ve learned more about God’s heart, more about ministry, more about myself, and more about reaching kids and families over this time than ever before.  Daily being around the great people of Oak Leaf simply just rocks your world – spurring you towards bold things…towards His agenda and not yours.  I love these people.  I love this place.  I love this community.

So why leave?  Because God told me to.  (And then confirmed it in 387 different ways so a simple dude like myself would not miss the clues.)  Super brief version:  Went on a mission trip.  Stirring in heart/soul/mind.  Great conversations with Michael about finding “right seat on bus”.  Final determination that I’M CALLED right now to serve in this place as a volunteer and not in a staff position.  That I’m called right now to re-enter the business world.  And that I’m called to discover how I can best use my gifts in ministry to impact a defunct and hurting world.  God is leading me and the fam from where we are to where He wants us to be!  (Sounds familiar, huh?)  It’s scary and super exciting all in one!

Oh, the play on words?  Yeah, thanks, I thought it was catchy too. 🙂  I am not leaving the church, just my staff position.  Oh, and the “you should leave too” part?  Yeah, check this out:

Leave your inactivity and boldly JUMP IN – serve on a volunteer team and watch God grow your faith like crazy!

Leave your tradition and accept the new things God is doing through this church in this community.

Leave your fears about inviting your lost friends to church and just do it already…as in right now!

Leave your checkbook where it belongs – with God.  It’s all His anyways.  Tithe.  Sell stuff.  Give to those who have nothing.  Then give more.  (I’m learning this in all new ways myself.)

God has big stuff in store for Oak Leaf and the community it serves.  God has positioned the right people in the right places of leadership to accomplish the hard work on hand.  I’m thankful to play my role and anticipate big bold things as we do what’s necessary…because of what’s at stake.

Final Thoughts from 30,000ft

Posted July 29, 2009 by jonathan sutton
Categories: Uncategorized

Last 2 thoughts I had flying back from Trinidad:

The fuel of youth. When teenagers get behind a movement or idea, crazy things can (should) happen.  Church history shows us that MANY great movements of God were ignited and sustained by young people.  It never gets old seeing students give willfully of their time, energy, money and gifts in ministry.  Knowing all their available distractions, it never gets old to see them choose Christ.  As leaders, lets never forget our Biblical mandate to pass on a zeal for Jesus to the next generation.

Use every available media. So I’m standing in a driveway of home that barely has indoor plumbing, in the middle of Trinidad (seems like a jungle to me)…and the dude asks, “Hey man, are you on facebook?”  We should use every available tool at our disposal to connect with believers and nonbelievers.  Missions has changed over the past decade with the advancement of new media.  Churches that shy away from good media…in fear that it “waters down” the Word…are missing great opportunities to further reach people.  Find what fits your ministry and USE IT.

30,000ft Thoughts…part III

Posted July 23, 2009 by jonathan sutton
Categories: Uncategorized

2 more things mission trips tend to teach/remind us:

Never forget the orphaned & widowed. May we never become a “holiday only” ministry.  In other words, the needs of the hungry & homeless never go away.  The cries of starving children are heard by our Father every morning, afternoon and night…shouldn’t we hear them too?  Let’s give sacrificially oversees.  Let’s give sacrificially here at home.  Let’s give now.  Not just money, but our time, energy…our voice….our homes.  James 1:27 should bug us to death.  If we claim to have the love of God in us, then we should prove it by caring for “the least of these”.

Personal agenda aside. Want to hijack a mission trip quick?  Want to chip away at the foundation of a ministry?  Then decide to care more about yourself and your own comfort then you do about others and the Kingdom Agenda.  Please be about Jesus.  Please be about the Gospel.  Please be only about these things.  If there’s a secret part of you that starves for the attention brought on by successful speaking engagements or hints somewhere within in you to push or promote yourself for selfish gain, then find a new career.  Lost people don’t need another great communicator.  People hellbound don’t need to buddy up with Christians who have hidden agendas.  They get enough deception at work or at home.  They need genuiness.  They need authenticity.  They need to see Christ in us, so no room for personal agendas – after all, we forfeited those at the very moment of our salvation.

30,000ft Thoughts…contd

Posted July 22, 2009 by jonathan sutton
Categories: Uncategorized

The American Dream is a an American Waste. I love our country, my country.  I’m a patriotic dude…but that doesn’t mean I won’t speak the truth to fellow followers of Christ.  If you’ve bought in to the American Dream, please stop.  It’s a waste of valuable time and resources.  When you are oversees and see this principle with your own eyes, you want to throw up.  We indeed do have it so good.  You know all the stats.  So why waste your time storing things up for yourself?  Why the bigger house and better car?  Why so defensive about your “rights” to such rich and valuable things?  You have no rights.  Please give everything away.  Please pursue success in your job SO THAT you can be a blessing to more.

I pray we become chasers of a new dream.  A dream of generosity.  May we be known as a people of givers, not collectors.  Not those who store.  Don’t waste talents and gifts.

Get your hands dirty! Mission trips are hard work.  But you don’t mind the sweat and tiredness.  What is being accomplished is worth the cost.  This work ethic must remain constant.  There’s no substitute for hard work.

30,000ft Thoughts

Posted July 21, 2009 by jonathan sutton
Categories: Uncategorized

Was flipping through my journal that I took to Trinidad and came across some thoughts I jotted down as we flew back to the states.  Here’s some things that I think most people learn from mission trips.  8 total, here’s the first 2:

AcceptanceIf you’re not in to diversity, if you’re not in to people different than yourself, if you can’t seem to have a healthy respect for other cultures, then you are really gonna hate heaven!  Visiting a foreign land for the first time (or even a different region in the US) can be eye opening and a very healthy experience.  This principle of acceptance screams that God loves everyone and that Jesus died for all.  Accept others…after all, God accepted you just as you are.

UncomfortableNot routine, out of the ordinary, outcome unknown.  On mission trips, it’s often the weather and the food.  Inland it may be the risk in sounding weird to your friends or stepping up in your church or shifting your schedule or finances toward more God honoring things. Following Christ and reaching the disadvantaged and poor and sharing your faith and living an audacious life will not be comfortable.  Be unusual.  The more uncomfortable, the better.