A while back this blog featured what I called The Great Adventure Manifesto, my effort to put into words what I believe and why I write what I write. I am going to take some time in coming weeks to elaborate on that document, focusing on the six points I make toward the end. I am actually going to start out with number 4:
I will entertain and promote the idea that Christianity is not boring, that it is a revolution of faith rather than a surrender to comfort and conformity. Christianity is built from the inside out, not the other way around. It is the Great Adventure, calling for us to rise above our complacency and go places and do things we would never have considered, all because God has asked us to.
This is a carry-over from my own experience, both surrendering my life to Christ while I was an exchange student in Austria in 1972, and later involved in youth ministry in the 1990s. One of the slogans we had in our youth ministry meeting room, which also served as the fellowship hall in our church, was that “Sabbath is God’s invitation to party.” That attitude didn’t sit well with some of the traditional adults and parents in my church, but the youth loved it. Decades later, I have some of them, now parents themselves, tell me that the time they spent in that room changed their view of Christianity.
In the opening pages of The Champion, Harris Borden is a young pastor who become disillusioned with his calling, wondering if he should be doing something more important. At the end of a church board meeting, he takes a moment to talk to a retired missionary:
“Greg,” Harris called after him, and he turned expectantly. “Do you ever miss it?”
His bushy grey eyebrows narrowed for an instant as if he didn’t quite know where the question came from or where it was headed. Then his face relaxed.
“Mission work?” he asked, suddenly amused.
Harris shrugged. “Not just mission work. Being on the front lines, I guess.”
Greg turned dramatically and looked around the room, sweeping the empty building with his wrinkled hand as well as his steel grey eyes.
“What do you call this?” he responded sharply.
“This is the ministry, yes I know,” Harris said, not sure if he should be so honest with him. “But I have a feeling I’m here because the Powers That Be don’t want me to change too much. Round Rock is the kind of pastorate where things’ll never change. They won’t let you change.”
He stared into Harris’ eyes. “We go where God calls us. We do what we’re told.”
He turned to leave, then paused for a long moment before adding a final word.
“I’ve seen miracles in my life, and I’ve seen true evil.” He stood staring at the door as he talked, his bent body hunched over. “And you don’t have to be in the mission field to see either one.”
In The Champion, Harris learns the hard way that it doesn’t matter where God calls us. What matters is our willingness to go when He calls. He spends the next 22 years in prison, running from the law and from Satanic forces and separated from his family. At the end of the Champion Trilogy, in the book Elijah, he is once again confronted with that fateful night when the worst thing he had to deal with was an argument over a drinking fountain:
Instead of annoyance—which he had remembered feeling 22 years ago—he felt a different emotion. Compassion. These were men who were dear to his heart, more dear today because he had seen where history had taken each of them.
Harris watched while Dr. Hollis tore into the church treasurer.
“I just don’t understand what the problem is,” Dr. Hollis said. “The catalog says it costs $599. Just pay the $599.”
Sweat beading on his forehead, Jules Russell shook his head. “It’s not that simple. Not only do we have to get an estimate for the fountain itself, we have to run the water pipe to the site. And we have to get a permit from the city before we do anything.”
“So get the permit.”
“It’s summer. The city council won’t meet for another two months,” Russell explained. “We have to go through proper channels. These things take time.”
“Horse puckey,” Dr. Hollis said. “I know the mayor personally. I’ll get him on the phone right now.” He pulled out his cell phone and began pressing buttons.
“Frank, Frank…please let me do my job,” Russell pleaded. “It has to be done right.” He reached up and unbuttoned his top shirt button, then loosened his tie. Harris could see a cornered look of desperation appearing in Jules’ eyes, and knew that was his cue to intervene.
“It has to be done now!” Dr. Hollis roared.
Harris Borden stood and held up his hands, and the discussion died down. The young pastor, usually submissive to the group and unsure of how to assert himself, suddenly showed a commanding presence that caught everyone’s eye.
Harris stood silently for a long moment, scanning the three others. Finally, his face broke into a large smile.
“I wonder if you three realize how much I love you,” he said firmly.
As Harris watched, all three registered a look of surprise on their faces.
“I mean it,” Harris said. “God has given you each special gifts and has blessed me with being able to work with you to help you develop those gifts.”
He turned and addressed each of the men one by one.
“Gregory, I want you to know that I admire you and respect you. And even though you may think it, your adventure is not yet over. Not by a long shot. God has plans for you.
“Jules, you are a dedicated workhorse for this church, and I don’t say thank you often enough. Thank you and may God bless you in many ways to come.
“Frank, God has given you an opportunity here. You see money as power, but it is really an opportunity to serve others. There are thousands out there, right within our grasp, who can use your help. You’re a doctor; you help people every day. But the giving doesn’t stop there. And you need to learn to put others first. That includes the needs of your fellow church members and your fellow workers on the church board.
“I admire you all, I respect you all, and I ask you all to put things in perspective. People are dying out there every day. Many have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many die without hope. It is within the power of each of us to do something about it.”
He turned and faced Dr. Hollis. “Frank, doesn’t that put the issue of a drinking fountain into a different perspective?”
Dr. Hollis paused for a long moment, then cleared his throat. “Well, when you put it that way, I, uh, I think we can wait a week or two,” he said quietly.
An hour later, Harris watched the others go out the double door of the multipurpose room and into the darkened Nevada night. He felt elated that he finally had the opportunity to redo that night again. As he stared out into the darkness, he felt his surroundings go blurry and fade. A moment later, he found himself in the desert again, staring at the empty water bottle. A heavy despair collapsed over him.
What if that night had gone differently? he thought. What would his life be like if he hadn’t challenged God with the call? Would he still be in Nevada, at rest with a wife and a son?
He looked above him and saw that the morning had turned into afternoon. As hot as the morning had been, he knew the afternoon would be a killer.
He pulled himself up upon his aching legs and shuffled off to the north, despair hanging heavy over his head.
The only boredom we can ever find in following God’s calling is when we refuse to follow Him. Too often God is calling us to do something dramatic, something radical, but we turn Him away. Remember how it describes Abraham’s calling in Hebrews 11:8:
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
Even when we ask for excitement in our lives, we want to do it on our terms, not God’s. God has an incredible life planned for us. It is only by refusing Him that we are faced with the mundane, the boring.