Life has settled. The boys have settled. Em has settled. I’m settled. (That’s a really weird word when you write it four times in a row.) We still miss people, but everyday we love calling Atlanta home more and more. The streets look less foreign and the power of a good coffee shop can do amazing things. It will be a long time until Atlanta is home just because it is and not because I have to call it so…but the train is officially on the move.
In many ways I feel like the move to Atlanta was this massive drop and when we landed everything flew into the air. Debris was everywhere. Dust and scrap were swirling about. Moments of blinding pain and the realization that nothing would ever be the same. I would be different. My family would be different. My relationships would be different. My home would be different. It was as if I was just lying on the ground, feeling the pain and watching everything fly through the air.
And now…it’s settled. Everything has floated back to planet earth and the chaos has subsided. I’ve stood up, wiped the dust from my eyes and began to assess. Through this whole process my heart has discerned many things and Emily and I have received many words of hope. But it in all, I’ve only heard one thing. There has only been one thing that Jesus found important enough to actually speak. Everything else has been discerning the movement of God’s Spirit, but one thing was actually said. “I’m not sending you to plant a church, I’m sending you to plant the gospel. Let a church be born from that.” So I’m standing, wiping myself off with nothing but a piece of paper with one instruction, “Plant the gospel.”
Maybe a year ago that phrase wouldn’t have been daunting. It’s easy to discover meaning within a pre-secured scenario. Planting the gospel within my context would have meant implementing more campus outreach, a new teaching series, discipling and sending our core leadership into environments where this calling could be true. I would have responded to this invitation not within Phil Manginelli the man, but within Phil Manginelli the Student Ministries Pastor. The filter through which I would have said yes would have been MC4 and the community of those gathered around me.
1 year ago I would have responded with confidence.
Today I respond with insecurity.
Insecurity sits at the forefront of my mind and this disparity is a an example of a very meaningful quote in my life by a pastor named Bill Johnson. One time I heard him teach, “Insecurity is simply wrong securities exposed.” The truth is that as I stand from my long fall, clear the dust from my eyes and begin to look around the first thing I really see is that the only way to plant the gospel is to admit that I’m exposed. I’ve clothed myself in many noble things, but they have all been stripped from me. I have been a man that has put his security in wrong things. Noble things…but wrong things. I’ve put security in having a position, in my ability to communicate, in my knowledge of Scripture, in having a successful ministry that I’ve allowed to speak to my value. And in the deep dark fall to Atlanta I awoke none of those things. I’ve been stripped.
And it’s exactly what I wanted.
It’s hard to explain really. All I can I say is that I’ve desired something I haven’t known. It’s been a feeling that I couldn’t name or describe. It was an ache I couldn’t fulfill, but I knew it was there. It was something I knew I would pay any price for, but I didn’t even know what I was buying. And maybe today is the first day I understand what Jesus is really doing in me. The first day I understand what my soul has been fighting for that my mouth could never articulate. I’m being stripped. I’m being rebuilt.
I’m Eustace sitting next to a mountain pond.
I’m David giving Saul’s armor back.
I’m the woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet.
I’ve been stripped, and instead of clinging to the rags I put my security in, I’m clinging to the Jesus who who is the possessor of life. I’m believing in the wildly childish belief that Jesus knows everything I need, and if he knows how to dress the flowers and feed the birds then he knows how to care for me. I’m saying yes to the invitation of Jesus to come and die…and maybe, just maybe…truly live.
And there is nothing I can do but say yes. All of my life I’ve willed my heart and mind and soul towards Jesus. I’ve hated sin and fought against my flesh like a heavyweight king. I’ve gripped and struggled and warred and battled and contended. I’ve done all I know how to do…except stop and just let Jesus do what only he can do.
He’s knocking on the door of my heart not for my accomplishments, but for me. He’s not trying to make me into a brilliant church planter, he’s loving me as a Son. He’s asking me, “Do you trust me? What if I am the only security you have?” He’s asking me to surrender and let Him remove all of my false securities and teach me to secure myself in one place…Him. He’s showing me that I can’t plant the Gospel, until the Gospel is the only thing I trust. Until the death, ressurrection, grace and presence of Jesus is all I possess, and all I need to possess.
You see the reason that Jesus told me to plant the Gospel and not to plant a church is because church has been the home of my false securities. It’s been the trophy case of my soul. And Jesus like a good Dad has been after one thing all of these years. Me. Atlanta isn’t where Jesus asked me to plant a church. Atlanta is the place Jesus wants to save me. And maybe…just maybe, a church will be born. A church where nothing matters except the Gospel. A church where the grace and presence of Jesus changes lives because at the foundation of everything we are is Jesus. Where He’s our only hope, our only shelter, our only hiding place, the source of all of our confidence.
So…it’s settled. I’m settled. And Jesus finally has the yes he’s been waiting for. Have your way in me my King.
It so blessed me to read this, Phil. You’ve come to a very, very important place. It’s not an easy place to be, and many people choose not to go there, because it requires walking in the dark and dying to self and all of those other things that make us uncomfortable. But it is in the stripping that we really find out we can trust Him. As long as we can do it ourselves, we really don’t need Him. But if we let him have His way, we find ourselves in a position wherein we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16). I encourage you to read Hebrews–I think you’ll find it really applicable to where God is taking you. I’m reminded of passages such as Hebrews 10:35-39 and 12:7-13. I’m honored to be able to, in a sense, be part of the “great cloud of witnesses” watching you run this race (Heb. 12:1). I am cheering you and Emily on!
I love the wholehearted, honest cry of your heart! God just pours out such amazing grace on those whose heart cry is to be intimately acquainted with Him. As I read your post I felt compelled to share this verse from John 12:24 with you: “I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” It takes a little bit of time for a seed to sprout, and a little bit more for it to be seen coming out of the ground. Be encouraged, as you “plant” into the lives of those you will be given, whom the Lord will place in your path, fruitfulness will come. The ground work being done in you now, will most definitely help you produce good fruit!! Our Love to you dear Phil, and family. You are in our prayers!
Think of yourself as a missionary (which you are) just landing in a foreign country (Goergia is not all like Washington, California, or Idaho) and realize your feelings are very normal. Virst thing: start learning the lanugage and culture. And have a lot of fun in the adventure.
Phil, it really is amazing how in a moment, things can completely realign in life. As leaders of Christ’s church, we have to always remind ourselves that we are FIRST the church and NEXT the leaders. We can’t be the one without first being the other. IN that capacity of BEING the Church, we must daily plant the Gospel. JESUS will build his church from those seeds.
Be blessed my friend. I am immensely proud of you!