However, after reconvening with the team last night during our weekly discipleship gathering, it became clear we needed illumination on how to live out and sustain acquired momentum. After all, sometimes it can be far too easy settling into counterfeit contentment in the aftermath of a 'spiritual high', freezing what God wants to do in the satisfaction of what He has already done.
For me, I just can’t bear or dare to go there1. So instead, as an act of consecrated processing, I present you a reflection post outlining my top three ‘Love Akron Tour’ takeaways…
1. We knew why we were there before we got there
Two days before tour kickoff, I felt the Lord tell me, “Don’t go up to put on a show, but open the door for me to show up. For when I show up, something always happens…and that something can’t be separated from my glory being revealed.”
Well, as you can imagine, this went a long way not only in setting the tone for the trip, but also paving a foundation for the discussions we’d have along the way. Granted, I don’t have time to unload every revelational tidbit; however, I will say the more we soaked in the Gospel of John (before/during the trip), the more we were able to catch the heart of Jesus’ intentionality (see mini exegesis below)2...not to mention the reason why we were going to Akron in the first place.
Bottom line: We understood the John roadmap before the Ohio roadmap became necessary3…and as we’d soon find, this would pay off in a huge way.
2. Our fearlessness became effortlessness
Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint defining moments, since the entire trip was defining in itself; however, I will say, as tour director, it was incredible to watch my team lead with such 1 John 4:184 boldness, whether it involved sharing their faith in foreign territory, an impromptu post-performance testimony at church, or simply reaching out to River of Life/First Assembly of Akron youth.
At any rate, the more we got outside ourselves (through the unforced rhythms of grace5), the more ‘reaching out’ (VBS, Fairlawn Park, Highland Square, First Assembly, etc.) became like breathing as opposed to ‘service’.
As a result, God would routinely stretch our 20 seconds of insane courage into 20+ minutes of life-changing fearlessness, as if He was coaching alongside us saying, “Just watch what I can do in and through you guys now that you’ve stepped out.”
Bottom line: Of all the snapshots of heaven experienced on the trip, the one of God broadening our capacity to love others more…while simultaneously revealing more of Himself to us and the people we were witnessing to impacted me most profoundly.
3. We Merged Relatability with Intentionality
I abide by the philosophy that if you called yourself a Christ-follower, then your life should point people towards the well (see John 4) where living, unquenchable water can be found. Yet, as many of you reading this have found, often times the hardest part isn’t so much the showing up, but rather the listening and relating.
Such was the reminder I received when talking to four random street ballers at Fairlawn Park after they’d received an Evangecube salvation message from a local YWAM student. Having watched their reaction to the presentation, I could tell the soil was ripe within. Thus, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to use my passion for basketball and my heart for follow-up dialogue to meet them where they were at.
Now, did I have a secondary 'Hey, my youth group is performing a free musical down the street tonight…’ message in my pocket? Of course! However, I knew I couldn’t possibly promote a Gospel with any scent of agenda attached. So I simply began chatting about what they just heard. And long story short, after asking them what people in their demographic were looking for when it came to Christians in general…three of the four said they wanted to see more relatability. Yeah, meeting people where they’re at is nice and all (or so they said), but how it’s executed (mainly in the ‘are you willing to listen and relate to me first before mentioning God’?) …that’s what they’re really looking for.
Bottom line: Intentionality can only reach as far as the authentic love we surround it with. ‘Cause truth is: When it comes to the lost, most want to see fearless God-fearers live what they preach and love well...before they want to see God. Yeah, it may not always be easy or convenient; yeah, we may not see the fruit of what we hope happens...
...but at the end of the day, reaching people is all about planting seeds, not force-feeding the Gospel. And when I look back on our #LoveAkronTour, there’s no doubt in my mind we did just that.
1. Triple alliteration FTW
2. Check out this rundown...
John 2 – Jesus’ ministry begins, wedding at Cana
John 3 – Encounter with Nicodemus
John 4 – Woman at the well
John 5 – Healing at the pool on the Sabbath
John 6 – Feeding of 5,000, walks on water
John 9 – Heals blind man
John 11 – Raises Lazarus
John 12 – The triumphal entry
John 20 – Resurrection and multiple reveals
...I mean, clearly, Jesus didn’t stumble upon each of these situations as much as he went after them on purpose. You’d figure John is synonymous with “Jesus showing up” considering the narrative.
3. More specifically, we understood the importance of: letting our lives testify to what we celebrate, letting our lives speak hope into hopeless…belief into unbelief, letting our lives radiate the kind faith that walks on water, letting our lives heal, letting our lives be life in dead situations, letting our lives make love known at all costs, letting our lives carry the presence of Jesus in a way that puts joy in a person’s heart and makes our worship come alive, etc.
4. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…”
5. Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
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