Stepping Through Fear

“If you are willing to trust God and step through fear, He will show up in power; your faith will grow, and you will be able to take on greater challenges in the future.” (David Pierce of Steiger)


Is fear a debilitating force in your spiritual life? Do you freeze up and remain silent in situations where you feel led to be open about your faith? I know I do! As I reflect on my past there are far more instances where I lacked the courage to present the Good News of Jesus, than examples of how I stepped through fear to boldly shared my faith.

While that reality is clearly evident in my past, I am resolute in my desire to continue growing in that area of my spiritual life. I may never embody the level of reckless abandon and boldness that I see in Todd White, or in my friend Chad Johnson, but I know that part of my calling is to step through fear for the sake of the Gospel. It’s the best news available to mankind, and sadly it’s often most Christian’s best kept secret, myself included.

So how am I venturing to overcome fear in my spiritual life?

Starting spiritual conversations:  Over the past year I’ve attended several training events on catalyzing Gospel Movements. One of my key takeaways from these events was related to the necessity and art form of initiating spiritual conversations. Doing so can be as simple as a leading question like, “So where are you at in your faith journey?” or as natural as offering up a personal truth (i.e. a miracle story, testimony, or a scripture reference that’s impacted you). The bottomline as I see it is that without taking the step of faith to introduce matters of spirituality into your interactions you’re unlikely to find many opportunities to share your beliefs.

Teaming up with others: Over the past five months I’ve been leading a team of missional-minded musicians who live as I do, straddling the cultural divide between the Church and the musician community. Together we’ve formed a strong bond around our shared desire to be bold in sharing our faith, and seeking to see a spiritual awakening in the Phoenix music scene. The accountability and camaraderie that’s developed serves as a natural motivator to step through the fear that would otherwise prevent me, and the rest of my team, from living in accordance with our calling.

One of the resources we worked through together, a book called Revolutionary, has had a profound impact in all of our lives. The book outlines a number of principles which were derived from the firsthand experiences of a musician who has traveled the globe the past 30 years to use his platform of cultural influence to share the Gospel in some of the most hostile environments imaginable. The stories alone are inspiring, but the principles they’re tied to offered great practical guidance.

Getting serious about prayer: Since the start of this year my wife and I have consistently taken turns prayer walking our neighborhood on a daily basis. Additionally, we committed to each other that once a month we’ll each have a personal retreat day where we can enjoy an extended period of time in solitude to care for our souls by connecting with Jesus. The inclusion of these activities into our family’s schedule has sharpened my sensitivity to the spiritual environment around me, and increased my ability to hear from God. As a result my faith has grown, as well as my confidence in taking risks for Jesus.

 

Will you join me in venturing to step through your fear?

If so, I encourage you to consider what lifestyles changes you need to make in order to do so. Together we can turn our “best kept secret” into the greatest blessing we have to offer.

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Opposite Ends of the Artist Spectrum

Last month I had two starkly contrasting artist experiences that left me with a mix of emotions and a call to prayer…

It was Sunday night and Johanna was about to sit the kids down to eat as I said my goodbyes and began my drive out to a dinner party in Peoria, AZ (a northwest suburb of Phoenix). The party was being hosted in honor of my friend Micah and his band Wild Earth. The purpose of this gathering was to engage Micah’s process of dreaming about the Kingdom impact his band could have in 2017.

Over dinner Micah shared his story with the intimate group of us who were invited to attend the event. Micah explained the calling he felt from the Lord to pursue a different platform for sharing his life and music; far different than the national touring he had done with a band for several years. Micah went on to chronicle how Wild Earth emerged through his desire to pull back out of an active touring lifestyle and to enter into more of a grassroots and localized experience. Micah desires to allow the Lord to open doors for him. Micah also desires to work through his own fears and inhibitions and take steps of faith to direct people’s attention away from him and towards God with his music.

Once Micah finished sharing his story he invited us to speak into his journey. Creative ideas and words of encouragement were shared. Ultimately we surrounded him and prayed blessing over his endeavors to pioneer a different way of stewarding his talents as an artist; different than what the music industry would prescribe. I left the event excited about what the Lord had in store for Micah and brimming over with expectation for a growing number of musicians to embrace the same type of self-sacrifice and surrender that was evident in Micah’s story.

Two nights later the inspiring experience at Micah’s dinner party was starkly contrasted by the experience I had attending a concert in downtown Phoenix. I went to the Crescent Ballroom, a venue I had gone to once before. The previous time was to see Micah perform as a local opening act for a tour that was coming through town. This experience, however, was greatly different. 

I arrived early and found a seat to wait in until the show started. Once the concert began I made my way to the front. Throughout the show the lead singer made several references to his depressing lyrics and talked openly about how his lack of self-confidence clashes with his narcissism. His spirit was heavy and I could sense he was weighed down by years of hardship and disappointment. I drove home with mixed emotions. I was broken hearted for this artist and the life he was living off stage, while also feeling even more grateful for my friendship with Micah and for the experience I’d had at his dinner event two nights prior.

These contrasting experiences left me with a clear call to prayer. If you share my passion to see an awakening of faith, identity, and purpose among musicians then I invite you to pray as I am:

  • Pray for my friend Micah. Pray that the Lord would continue to lead Him into greater arenas of cultural influence, and ask God for a fresh outpouring of creativity as he works to complete his sophomore album with Wild Earth.
  • Pray for the RYFO Phoenix team I’m leading. Pray that together we can bridge the divide between the Church and the musician community, in order to birth a movement of hope within our city’s music scene.

Faith Building Vision

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a leadership development trip with 26 other CRM missionaries. The week long trip took place on Lake Powell (see picture below) and was hosted on two house boats. My personal priority heading into the trip was for rest and spiritual renewal, but what I walked away with was so much more than that.

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A God-sized Vision Emerges

Leading up to the trip everyone was asked to reflect on the past 10 years, and to dream about the next 25. As you can imagine it was easier to reflect on the past decade than it was to cast a vision for the next quarter of a century. The challenge didn’t stop there. We were asked to dream about the next 25 years using the lens of Ephesians 3:20 (“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”). So that’s exactly what I did, and the result was both overwhelming and exciting.

I started my reflection by looking at the mission and vision of RYFO and asking the questions: What if God supernaturally intervened and our mission was able to be accomplished in 25 years? How would culture be influenced? What would things look like for the next generation of musicians? How many people would become committed followers of Jesus?

As I wrestled in prayer with these questions I began to see a picture of the future, a picture that was much bigger than what I could ever “ask or imagine.” It was this picture (described below) that I carried with me to the Lake Powell trip in order to share it with my fellow CRM leaders. The magnitude of this vision was personally inspiring and motivating, but also so grand that I was actually afraid to share it.

Faith Building & Personal Discovery

Prior to my opportunity to share I discussed the vision privately with one of the leaders and admitted my fear to him. In response to my lack of confidence he challenged me to boldly share the vision God had given me, and specifically highlighted the fact that sharing it would cause faith to rise up in other leaders. So I did, and the response was resounding! Several leaders went so far as to publicly note their desire to help me accomplish the vision God had given me, and a couple mentioned to me that they thought what I shared was actually undershooting the ministry impact God was prepared to unleash.

Through this experience I’ve begun to fully own my role as an inspirational leader; a gifting which I’ve often dismissed in the passed. The response of my fellow missionary leaders revealed to me the fact that what God shows me prophetically is meant to be shared broadly as an inspiration to others, and a rallying cry for what He seeks to accomplish. Big vision isn’t prideful unless we fall prey to the temptation to believe we can accomplish it on our own. God reveals what would otherwise seem overly ambitious for the sake of His children working together to establish His Kingdom. Through our partnership with Him and each other His power is able to be freely released to accomplish the immeasurable.


In 25 years I believe…

(1) The cultural divide between the Church and the musician community will be eliminated, and that through RYFO’s strategic partnership with missionally-minded musicians we will see 20,000,000 new committed followers of Jesus (disciples making disciples).

(2) The next generation of musicians will be released into ministry with a new normal that looks like this:

-Musicians operate out of an unshakeable faith that’s supported by a healthy identity and a clarity of their calling/purpose

-The church no longer use artists for their talents, but rather partners with them to spread the Gospel, and supports them in growing in their artistic creativity and spiritual maturity

-Territorial spiritual strongholds within the musician community are torn down and the idolatry of artists becomes an anomaly

-As musicians head out on tour their church commissions/blesses them in their departure, prays for them while their gone, and when they return home there’s a fully developed process for reintegrating them back into community


In light of the way God has recently been at work in my life I’m compelled to challenge you to dream with the same level of faith I was asked to:

What do you envision could be if God were to bless and honor your calling in an Ephesians 3:20 way?

Converging into a Kingdom Alliance

God is at work in a uniquely beautiful way in our time. The Father is revealing the truth of His identity to His children, while simultaneously unifying His body by moving us away from competition and theological divisiveness. The Holy Spirit is moving the Church into a place of convergence that supersedes the entrenchment of denominations, and this movement is producing Kingdom Alliances. The following personal testimonies offer a glimpse of this reality at work in my own life. As you read on, I beseech you to consider how God is working in your life to bring unification for the Kingdom as well.


Testimony #1

3 years ago God led me out the comfort and consistency of my corporate job of 6+ years and into a vocational ministry role as a missionary to the musician community and the Executive Director of RYFO. Shortly after taking that step of faith I reached out to Sam Metcalf, President of CRM (Church Resource Ministries), to seek his wisdom on how to lead a ministry that’s geographically wide reaching. That conversation unexpectedly turned into a dialogue about RYFO coming under the covering of CRM in partnership to advance the shared mission God had given us.

Through this process I saw the sovereign plan of God played out as He aligned RYFO with a partner that would provide resources to empower our unique assignment to eliminate the cultural divide between the Church and the musician community. The partnership with CRM wasn’t an acquisition or a merger, it was a mutually beneficial Kingdom Alliance.

RYFO + CRM = Kingdom Alliance

Testimony #2

A year or so after RYFO joined CRM, I began talking with my friend Chad Johnson about a similar work God was doing between the artist ministry he was leading (Come&Live), and another organization which shared their DNA and values (Steiger Intl). In Steiger, Chad had discovered a partnership opportunity that could resource and refine the vision God had given him without manipulating or altering it. Through the process of this organizational partnership God began to reveal opportunities for RYFO to also link arms with this new Kingdom Alliance, and that’s exactly what we’ve done! As RYFO is serving the broader musician community we are positioned to identify artists who desire to have an eternal Kingdom impact through their art. In doing so we are able to provide a natural referral to our allies in C&L. Similarly the C&L community is positioned to refer individuals to RYFO who want to help bridge the divide between the Church and the musician community.

RYFO + CRM + C&L + Steiger Intl = An Expanded Kingdom Alliance

Testimony #3

In mid April my family moved from Anaheim, CA to Phoenix, AZ. This relocation occurred as the result of a long season of prayerfully discerning God’s leading for our family and for RYFO. As we’ve settled into life here in Phoenix, God has confirmed our relocation decision in a variety of ways. By way of example, I’ve begun developing relationship with a church (Axiom) that is comprised of a group of missional communities around the valley. This church is being led by a group of young leaders/artists who share my burden to reach and influence the musician community. The alignment and opportunities for ministry partnership that have already been identified are astounding! 

In addition, I’ve been developing relationship with the leaders of the RENEW community. This grassroots movement emerged organically out of a burning desire for revival that lived within a small group of friends who had experienced the miraculous work of God in their lives. As with Axiom, the opportunities for personal and organizational ministry collaboration with Renew are undeniable. The spiritual landscape of what God is developing here in Phoenix has me brimming over with excitement and expectancy.

RYFO + CRM + C&L + Steiger Intl + Axiom + Renew = A Kingdom Alliance with Greater Kingdom Impact


The Bottomline

I believe the Kingdom Alliances I’ve begun to experience are directly connected to a prophetic vision God gave to Heidi Baker of Iris Global several years ago. God showed Heidi a massive net that was pulling in a huge number of fish. Initially Heidi interpreted this picture as being representative of the collective work of her ministry, but as she discussed it with God He revealed to her that the net was His unified body and that her ministry was only a small part of it. I believe that this unifying work has begun to happen all around the world and it’s humbling to see the evidence displayed in my own life. God is moving and a great awakening is coming!!

Now What?

I encourage you to reflect on your own story and to look for signs of convergence and unification. As you reflect, I encourage you to also be on the look out for your own Kingdom allies, or to prayerfully consider how you might join the alliances God has been forming around me and my work with RYFO and others. Who, what, and where is God working in your life and where can you partner for greater impact?

You + ______ = a Kingdom Alliance with Greater Kingdom Impact

Walk in Unity (Ephesians 4:11-16) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. 

Nothing More Radical

The only perfect man. God in human form. Jesus was radical.

His message, His lifestyle and certainly His purpose on earth, all serve as evidence of His radical nature. In human history He has no equal, and in the ages to come there will never be another person who walks this planet sinless, and full of love and compassion the way He did.

And then the plot thickens…

When Jesus ascended to Heaven He left His disciples with a standard to live by, a specific commission, and the promise of His Spirit. As His followers we’ve been called to live as He did – Radically! Why? Because we carry the greatest news out there, and eternity is standing in the balance for all of humanity.

But what if our background and faith experience have left us with an incomplete Gospel?

That question has served as a recent focal point within the weekly staff meetings I lead for RYFO.  As a staff we’ve shared about our individual faith journeys in order to learn from, and challenge each other to venture into the dimensions of the Gospel we’re less familiar with.

As we’ve been learning together there are 3 dimensions of the Gospel – Word, Deed and Power. We can see each of these dimensions clearly evidenced by the radical life of Jesus. As believers, the Gospel we carry is truncated and distorted if we’re not operating with the Spirit’s leading in all three. The ideal is to move towards the point of their intersection.

The inspiration behind this discussion comes from a position piece authored by Sam Metcalf, President of CRM (the parent organization for RYFO’s ministry to musicians). As Sam writes the Word dimension “means that whatever Jesus says is important. It is trustworthy and, along with the totality of scripture, infallible. The gospel in word embraces an appreciation of apologetics. The gospel is true, and it is rationally defensible.” The Deed dimension “means that as followers of Jesus, we are compelled to focus on the real issues of our time where the Kingdom of God invades and touches the realities of earth.”  The Power dimension refers to “the presence of the Holy Spirit demonstrated by supernatural manifestations.

On their own, without the balance of the others, each of these dimensions can lead into dangerous territories. On its own the Word emphasis can easily become legalistic and void of any compassion towards others, or expectation for the supernatural movement of God. The Deed emphasis alone can quickly be distilled to nothing more than well-intentioned humanitarianism, a social Gospel lacking in biblical fidelity. Finally, the Power dimension on its one can turn into a kind of warped and bizarre spirituality where in exchange for sound theology, experience rules the day.

In light of these 3 equally important dimensions of the Gospel, I find myself challenged to pursue the radical commission of Christ, to spread the good news as He did, in Word, Deed & Power.

The Movement of God

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Sam and Petty Metcalf sharing at the World Wide Conference. Sam is the co-founder and President of CRM: Empowering Leaders.


We’ve all attended a conference or a seminar at some point in our lives. Typically the topic is intriguing, challenging, and serves as a catalyst for some thought provoking discussion. Sound about right?

Our conference experience in Mexico last month was that and so much more…

The Movement of God

In Us, Among Us and Through Us

Can you picture it? 700 people from around the world gathered together to passionately pursue the Lord! Now three weeks removed from the CRM Worldwide Conference in Cancun, we can clearly see that the theme of the conference, The Movement of God: In Us, Among Us and Through Us, was more than just a compelling topic for discussion. It was something we witnessed firsthand and something that left us personally transformed.

Throughout the week there were moments where God refined and transformed things within us that needed to be dealt with. His movement In Us was precise and gentle. His touch was that of a Master Surgeon. During our times of corporate prayer and worship, the manifest presence of the Lord was undeniable. He was moving Among Us! Finally, we saw His movement Through Us during times of ministry where Johanna and I were able to pray for several individuals who were seeking to hear God’s voice while experiencing His loving touch. In addition, I was honored to play bass with the worship team, and to lead worship for several smaller breakout sessions. The Movement of God is multidimensional, powerful and transformative!

It would be easy to go on and on about God’s movement during the conference, but in an effort to be brief I’ll share one example with you…

As the conference was coming to a close, we were asked to reflect on what we learned and experienced, and to ask God what He wanted us to take away from our time. As I was praying, the Lord revealed a picture to me. I saw a map of the United States with several volcanoes spread throughout the country. In the picture I could see that the volcanoes were not yet active, yet brewing beneath the surface was the potential for a powerful eruption.

As I prayed into the picture and asked the Lord for added discernment, He showed me that these volcanoes were a metaphor for the relationships we have around the country through RYFO. We have many relationships with individuals who share our heart to see transformation in the lives of musicians. As I continued praying the Lord revealed that, in order for these volcanoes to erupt, there needs to be a kickstart.

In light of the conference topic, I saw this picture as a prophetic representation of the current state of RYFO and a proclamation of the type of potential that exists. I am ready to see a Movement of God sweep through the Music Industry as individuals are activated and the Gospel flows out from them to transform the land around them.

-Simeon

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Our amazing view from the 6th floor of our resort! God was so good to us!


As mentioned above by Simeon, there are many things we could share about our experience in Cancun. God’s movement was evident and refreshing! Personally, I experienced God healing me on a deep level,and like Simeon mentioned, God was a Master Surgeon who worked skillfully on me, meeting my every need and removing the “junk” that has been building up over time.

One area of my life that God dealt with was my ever increasing anxiety. As a new mom, I have been slowly gathering more and more reasons to be anxious, even though I knew this was not God’s intent for me, I found myself suffocating with worry and fear over potential harms and danger that could affect my son.

God highlighted this dangerous sin in my life and removed it from me at the same time! I cannot pin point the exact moment it happened, but around the 2nd and 3rd day of the conference I felt lighter and more free than I had felt in months! During a time of worship I was praising God for the experience of freedom and it hit me: MY ANXIETY IS GONE!

A month after the conference I am happy to report that the anxiety has not returned and that feeling of freedom has taken root in my heart and shifted my perspective.

Another exciting takeaway from the conference is our newfound vision and direction for this school year at Concordia and what follows next; our dreams are BIG! And while our dreams cannot be shared just yet, we are confident that God is moving in our lives and grateful for His loving presence. Stay tuned for more!

-Johanna

What is Heaven?

Music has a unique ability to influence people. This influence is powerful enough that we often associate music with memories of a place, a person, or simply a season of our life. As I’ve been wrestling with the question What does it mean to be a music fan? I find that I’m more mindful of song lyrics and deeply interested in knowing what life circumstances have led musicians to write the songs they write.

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Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Brett Dennen. If you’ve never heard of him and you like Ray LaMontagne or Amos Lee, you would probably dig his stuff. I encourage you to check him out! Brett has a song titled Heaven that has been especially intriguing…

Beyond the rules of religion
The cloth of conviction
Above all the competition
Where fact and fiction meet

There’s No color lines or casts or classes
There is no fooling the masses
Whatever faith you practice
Whatever you believe

Heaven. Heaven.
What the hell is Heaven?
Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?

Throw away your myth misconceptions
There ain’t no walls around heaven
There are no codes you gotta know to get in
No minutemen or border patrol

You must lose all earthly possession
Leave behind your weapon
You cannot buy your salvation
There is no pot of gold

(chorus)

Heaven ain’t got no prisons
No government no business
No banks or politicians
No armies and No police

Castles and cathedrals crumble
Pyramids and pipelines tumble
The failure keeps you humble
Leads us closer to peace

As I’ve contemplated the “story behind the song.” I’ve felt compelled to respond to Brett’s question: What the hell is Heaven? I’m currently in the process of writing a song that responds to that question. I think Brett’s thoughts on the topic capture some of the truth that I’ve come to know and my deep desire is that Brett would also come to know The Truth!

How would you respond to Brett’s question? How has music influenced you? Do you care about the life of the musician behind the music you’ve chosen as the soundtrack to your life?

What does it mean to be a music fan?


A couple weeks ago I shared about RYFO at a show and I posed this question to the audience. The responses were what you’d expect to hear: buying merchandise, listening to music and going to shows. I pointed out to everyone that the list of things they provided were primarily acts of consumptions; a list of ways to enjoy a musician’s work. I presented the audience with the challenge to adopt a shift of perspective. A shift that places a greater significance on caring about musicians rather than an emphasis on the “consumption” of the art they’ve created.

Last month the RYFO staff had a chance to experience the impact this shift of perspective could have. Together we attended a show and brought one of the bands a care pack of items they were in need of, a handwritten note of encouragement, and found an opportunity to talk with and pray for the band after helping them load their gear into the van. The show itself was fun, but it paled in comparison to the memorable interaction with that band through our simple acts of love.

Imagine what the music community would look like if there were a growing group of fans that followed the example of Christ and loved musicians ahead of their interest in the music they create. A movement like that would create numerous opportunities for the Gospel to be proclaimed and for musician’s lives to be changed for eternity.

So I ask again, What does it mean to be a music fan?

-Sim

I woke up in a dream

I had a dream a couple nights ago that I have had a few times before. It’s a friendship reunion. A conversation I wish I could have. I should mention that I rarely remember my dreams unless I wake up out of one, which is what happened in this case.

If you could sit across the table from an old friend, what would you ask them? 

I know what I would want to ask. How is your heart? Are you satisfied? What is the sources of joy in your life? Are you at peace? What do value most highly? How can I pray for you?

The dream ended in this way. I had a chance to pray for this friend that, in reality, I have been disconnected from for many years now. At times I find myself wondering what this friend’s life looks like today, the reality is – I may never know. In fact, it is likely that we may never reconnect the way I dreamed. I am saddened by this thought, hopeful that it is not the reality; yet more importantly I am challenged by this dream.

Why haven’t I been praying for my friend? Sure I have said a few words to God about this friend over the years, but I have never made a commitment to lift him up in prayer with any regularity. Through God’s omnipresence and loving pursuit of my friend- I know that my prayers can reach him, even if I cannot pray for him in person.

So, I am committing to pray weekly for this friend. Thank you Lord for this dream, and thank you that your presence can reach my friend. 

Who do you wish you could reconnect with? Is that longing a call to prayer? It is for me.

-Sim

Learning from each other

“Remain teachable!” was the earliest advice Johanna and I received, at that time we’d only been dating for 2 months. To this day we are thankful for these words of wisdom given to us by Johanna’s cousin-in-law. We have carried that advice with us for over 2 years now and we continue to discover profound implications for this simple concept.

Here’s an example of how I’ve applied this concept…On a relational level, I’ve always found it difficult to connect with other people’s struggles when I’ve never faced those same struggles myself. I feel compassion and sympathy, but often can’t seem to relate beyond those feelings. Johanna has modeled for me the ability to empathize with others and therefore share in their pain. I see in her an ability to understand the deep hurt in a person and relate to them on that level. Through my observations of my wife’s ability to relate in this way, I’m slowly learning how to be more empathetic.

Acknowledging and appreciating our differences helps us to learn from each other.

Our affection grows deeper. Our teamwork improves. Our support of each other through difficulties becomes more dynamic. And the list goes on! We have no way of knowing what joys and sorrows the future holds for our marriage, however, one thing we intend to continue carrying forward with us is simply a desire to remain teachable!

Sim