• Derik Armstrong

Who Are You Depending On?

I have had the past month off of work. By having time off, I don't mean a vacation, I mean completely disconnected from my everyday world by not having my phone, my routine, my role as a pastor and my church family. I took my first ever sabbatical which is just a churchy way of saying, "time off". Our church has a rhythm of sending every pastor on a month long sabbatical after their first seven years serving at our church. Well, July was my month and I wanted to write about my experience for the curious and also to hopefully help someone who may have misdirected dependance.

I think most who know me were looking forward to me taking my sabbatical because they were hoping to find some sick pleasure from imagining me sneaking in the church or peeking online and struggling without my phone. Honestly, I didn't struggle with any of that. I thought I would and I was determined to prove them all wrong but I didn't even have to work at fighting the urge to secretly "check in" on things. I was able to disconnect automatically from day one. I found that a little odd and a little disappointing. I wanted to struggle, I wanted to want to know what was going on...but honestly, i didn't. God gave me a gift of grace to unplug from the mental stresses that I regularly live in of church work. My mind is turned on and plugged in 100% of the time with trying to fix something, make it better or plan something new. In one day it just turned off. Just like a light switch.

Day one I took to the road and rode my motorcycle, spent time with family and with God. The first leg of my trip was around 3,200 miles on my motorcycle. I ate at some of my favorite Food Network places along my 14 state trek, I camped, got wet and don't remember how I got home on the last day. The next leg of my trip was to Ohio to a Christian Motorcyclist Rally. All in all I did around 5,000 miles. It was at the rally that I had an incredible encounter with God.

At the rally, my expectations were pretty low. I thought a biker rally will be a fun time and we will sing some songs to Jesus, hear some decent preaching and ride motorcycles. I didn't expect to attend this rally and be changed. I was wrong. It wasn't a particular sermon or a worship song. It wasn't a word given to me by someone who had the gift of a word of knowledge. The thing that impacted me was the incredible dependance and trust in the Holy Spirit. I was moved to tears every day, multiple times a day over things that would normally not have moved me to that extent. I was broken over the love, unity and dependance on the Holy Spirit that was present at the rally by every speaker, leader and those in attendance.

What do I mean by a dependance on the Holy Spirit? I mean that the services weren't overly controlled by a desire for perfection. It is great to seek excellence but when excellence gets intermingled with control, we forget that this church is God's church and He is not asking for our help. The other thing that we forget is that we aren't called to build a playground for God to move in within our parameters. We pick songs, put a sermon together and look at the plan for the day and go, "ok God, this is what you are allowed to bless and move in...so do it!" The main reason we over-program our churches and our lives is because at our core we are afraid and we want to be in control. When we begin to experience a measure of success, even success that God brought, we somehow get deceived into thinking that God is passing the baton to us to take it to the next level and not screw it up. What do we do? We often over-structure and place safety measures in place to make us feel safe of a guaranteed outcome. We lose the trust in the Holy Spirit. We lose our dependance on the One who brought us to this point. God showed me that I had done this is so many areas and I was broken over it. I saw how He used something that I would not have done in that particular way... and it changed me. It wasn't about a performance, it was about trusting the Holy Spirit instead of us trying to produce predictable outcomes.

I think we trust the Holy Spirit by asking Him to lead us. I think we trust the Holy Spirit by asking Him to do the heart work in us and others. I think we trust the Holy Spirit by acknowledging our inabilities and deficiencies. This isn't about us. It is about Him. It is God's church, His breath in our lungs, His power sustaining us. His will is best accomplished through us when we recognize we are just a vessel. God do in us and through us what brings you glory and accomplishes the most good for the most people. I am yours.

So...who are you depending on?

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