The following text is from The Exodus Impact (print newsletter), October 2003. XGW commentary forthcoming.
“From Alan’s desk”[Exodus executive director Alan Chambers writes:]
This is a season of desperation. Personally, I am desperate on a number of levels from wanting God’s answer about Leslie and I having children to being desperate as I pray for God’s provision for Exodus. I know that Exodus is desperate as it moves into the vision that God has for it as a Kingdom ministry and in these days of lack, Exodus is desperate for a solid financial base and generous givers. And all I have to do is flip on the news, read a newspaper or simply listen to people all around me talk to know that our world is desperate for a savior — even if they don’t know the Savior they truly need. That last point of desperation is what often compels me to work harder: I want everyone to know Jesus.
Over the course of my journey to becoming a mature believer I have come to realize that desperation is something that I will never and should never want to live without. And while I have come to realize that, even typing it makes me tired — I guess that is because self-reliance will always seem easier to my human brain. We live in a culture that has learned to depend on itself: we can cure cancer, fly over water, buy anything on credit and basically have anything our little minds can can think of; we, at least in Western culture, lack next to nothing. Think about it, we have cell phones, computers, 10 billion varieties of cereal and children have every toy imaginable; literally we have almost everything. But it’s the “almost” and “next to” that has us ever searching for and wanting more. What will save us? I believe the answer is learning to live with a Kingdom perspective rather than a self-focused one.
Personally, I have once again come to a crossroads. Over the course of my life I have had many opportunities to give up comfort and security in exchange for desperation. The Lord has often shown me ways to sacrifice and I have often opted for the easier, explainable or more short-term sacrifices. Because He is a good God He has blessed me for my teeny tiny sacrifices and never punished me for failing to pass a test He has administered. Because He is a good Father He has never stopped issuing challenges knowing that someday I would take them at face value and choose Him over myself.
Leading up to the conference this past summer I was desperate: desperate for God to do a new work; desperate for God to lead Exodus further into the promise land; desperate for people to catch the new vision; desperate for the work I had been doing not to fail; desperate for Him to drive a spiritual stake down into ground that would advance His Kingdom through the ministry of Exodus. My staff was desperate too and together we prayed daily as we walked around the conference site for 59 straight days leading up to the event. Coincidentally, it ended up being a combination of the number of days that it took the Israelites to walk around the Wall of Jericho and for Nehemiah and his crew to rebuild the wall. These two stories from the Bible were our inspiration, so I am sure that it was no coincidence to God. We were desperate and the Lord blessed our obedience, prayers and planning — the conference was incredible.
One area of the conference that had been of particular concern to my staff and me was the financial aspect. Post 9-11-2001, we noted that destination conferences (conferences that draw from a broad area) are down by 40% so we planned for 800 attendees rather than the 1,000 plus that we normally have. On the morning of June 7 the Lord spoke very clearly to Leslie and me individually, but at the same time. He challenged us to sow financially into Exodus in a way that we had never considered.
Leslie and I have been dealing with the fact that we are infertile. Most of you know what we have gone through trying to have children: in-vitro, artificial insemination and currently pursuing adoption. We trust the Lord and know that He has a plan. We believe that He has told us that we will have children. Because we are joyfully pursuing adoption we saved $10,000, the initial cost at the particular agency with which we are working. The morning that the Lord spoke to Leslie and me about sowing into Exodus, He asked us to give our adoption money. As soon as He spoke it I thought, Surely God wouldn’t ask for that. And as soon as i thought it I knew He had indeed asked us to give sacrificially. Man, even a few months later that still chokes me up. When I told Leslie what I had heard from the Lord she said, “I know. He just said the same thing to me.” Of course we were devastated. We had gone through the failure of trying to conceive, then conceiving via in-vitro only to lose all five embryos and now the Lord was asking us to sacrifice the only hope we had for a child. As we cried and walked the Lord began to speak to us through each other. He reminded us that He is big enough to give us a child without us having the money for it, after all He is God.
We realized that our small sacrifice was nothing in comparison to what He gave up. Most of all we realized that He wants us to be desperate and to know what it means to utterly rely on Him for everything. On the check made out to Exodus we wrote “Isaac” in the memo section. Within minutes our ache was joined with great joy. We are so grateful that the Lord asked us to partner with Him. We are so grateful that He wants to use us to help Exodus — a ministry that He literally used to save my life. the scene in Schindler’s List where Liam Neeson’s character, Oscar Schindler, broke down and asked himself what more could he have given to save the Jews played through in my mind that day. What more could we give, I wondered?
Last month at the Willow Creek Leaders Summit God challenged us again. Pastor Bill Hybels, a personal hero, was speaking on “Passing the Leadership Test.” There are five tests that he says are critical as we look for leaders to serve on our teams:
1. Bias toward action test — Leaders must be geared towards action
2. Can you follow directions test — Leaders must be able to follow directions
3. Who deserves the credit test — Leaders don’t hog the credit but rather pass it around
4. Grander vision test — Leaders must be committed to high risk/high reward vision
5. Will you leave it test — Leaders must be willing to realize that the grander vision is the costlier vision
When Bill got to No. 4, I asked the Lord to give me a high risk vision. As I was writing the title of No. 5 that day the Lord spoke through Bill to me. He said, “Luke 5:11 says, ‘…they left everything and followed Him.’ The grander vision is the costlier vision. God usually doesn’t tell people exactly what to do. Far more often he arranges for them to see the grander vision and then challenges them to go after it.”
The grandest vision I have ever seen is building the Kingdom. He has given us at Exodus a part in that in the specific area that He has called us to. Leslie and I want to give everything we have for the building of the Kingdom — and though it is little in earthly terms I know it is the surrendered heart that matters most to God. The Lord challenged us that day to sell our house, in which we have acquired a sizable amount of equity, tithe the profit to our church and give the remaining majority to Exodus. It is clear, that’s what He wants. We are being bombarded by the enemy now. Incredible houses that we have long admired are now available at a price we could afford if we kept the money from the sale of our house. Wonderful renovations to old houses on our street that we have been waiting anxiously to see take place are going to start happening. And, we have never loved our house more than we do at this moment. Isn’t it just like Satan to tempt us with the seemingly sweeter fruit just after we’ve been offered the one where the initial bite isn’t anything special but the after taste is out of this world? Man! So, the sign goes up in the yard this week and we are achingly giddy with anticipation over what the Lord is going to do.
One of my duties as the Executive Director is encouraging givers to give. Up to this point I wouldn’t say that I have been particularly gifted in this area because I hate asking — I never want anyone to run the other way when they see me coming for fear that I am only interested in their money. However, since reading a terrific little book called The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, hearing Joni Eareckson Tada say that God loves a cheerful giver and a cheerful asker, and taking the challeng to give myself, I have gotten a little better at encouraging others to give to the Kingdom. After all, I am simply asking people to do something that will net them eternal rewards and ultimately mean that others will inherit the Kingdom.
I told you last month that Exodus is in debt. Miraculously, we are making it. We have paid off one large bill through the help of a generous giver and are whittling away at the mountain that remains. All the while we are pursuing our dream of paying our debts, owning a building and committed to never going in debt again for anything. And, you know, we believe that it’s possible because we know the Promiser.
Our mission at Exodus is to build the Kingdom through encouraging, educating and equipping the Church to redeem the homosexual. The vision the Lord has given us is endless. And, if you watch the news you know that the fields are white unto harvest NOW! We are going for it and I want to give you the magnificent opportunity to help us. Will you join with us financially to build the Kingdom? A wise hero in the faith and dear friend to Exodus terms the money given to ministries “blood money” because it is most often given so sacrificially by those who scrape together all they have for the building of the Kingdom. I daily pray that God will challenge all of us to give where it hurts and lay up our treasures in Heaven.
Please pray for Exodus. Please pray that Leslie’s and my house sells for a lot so that we can give a lot and bless our church and Exodus. Pray that God will bring others to give sacrificially. Pray about what God would have you give.
The stakes are high, the vision is costly and I for one will never regret leaving what I have left behind. Join Leslie and me — it is glorious!
For the Sake of the Call!