The air was different. There was a warmth and lightness that I had never experienced before. As I charted across the thick white lines, I crossed a walk that would forever change my view of life. What caused this change? I’m glad you asked. I will gladly share how my mind flipped a 180, then 360 by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The date was July 19th. The city…Chicago, Illinois. The street…W Chicago Ave. As I walked across W Chicago Ave onto the 800th block of Downtown Chicago, I trekked on what would be a pilgrimage for me…Moody Bible Institute. Why was I here? For none other than the Legacy Disciple 2017 Conference. For those who don’t know, the Legacy Disciple conference is an urban young adult conference geared to equip attendees to be a disciple and properly create other disciples through application and life on life contact. This year’s theme was “Dedicated to Doctrine” which emphasized the importance and weight of teaching and facilitating proper doctrine. In addition to the general sessions, I also attended 4 of the 80 workshops offered, a poetry slam, rap battle, Story Tellers, Rap Showcase, and outreach in the community. To say that I enjoyed myself is a complete understatement.
I had heard about the conference from a few prominent sources; however, the decision was made shortly after hearing that the conference was based on the campus of Moody Bible Institute. I am a huge fan of Moody Radio! I tune in daily to hear “In the Market with Janet Parshall” and Pastor James Ford Jr. on their daily broadcast. & Here I was standing on the campus of Moody Institute! To say that I was elated would have been an extreme understatement. My goal was to experience Moody, fellowship, learn as much as I could, and try not to die during Story Tellers lol Who would’ve thought that God would have used such an awesome trip to teach me about myself, purpose, and His love.
The calm before the storm…
While at the conference, I barely slept. There was so much to do, learn, and experience. I’m talking general sessions, workshops, courtyard concerts, impromptu worship sessions, sightseeing, etc. My favorite part of the conference was their nature of community. The Pastor Brian Dye, workshop, special guest or “Church Famous” people, whom my friend from Memphis coined lol, just walked around like regular people. There was no hierarchy, special attire, or airs about anyone. Everyone was friendly, humble, and open. I loved how everyone genuinely cared about everyone there. Small talk was not “small talk.” If someone asked you how you were doing they truly cared to hear your response. In fact, If one needed prayer people would stop what they were doing and pray for him or her. I would look around and see small groups praying all the time. The atmosphere was truly set to learn, grow, and fellowship in faith.
Choosing workshops was so hardest so I settled on choosing a few from different tracks. I attended Joseph Solomon’s Introduction to Biblical Exegesis, CD & Melody Fabien’s Counseling the Wounded with the Word of God, John Perkins and Wayne Gordon’s Do All Lives Matter, and Esteban Shedd’s Engaging the Corner and the Multimedia Learner with God’s Transforming Word. Unfortunately, we could only choose four; however, four was more than enough because each workshop served steak, steak, and more steak! I couldn’t wait to meet up with my new friends after each workshop and share notes. By the end of it all, we were all filled and ready to share with the community.
On Saturday morning, the conference held “Legacy Fest” which is a community event geared to outreach and minister in Chicago’s west side at Garfield Park. Yes–I said West side Chicago. I had been reminded on several occasions that west side Chicago is one of the most dangerous places in the US, including a short panic attack by my father after calling to check on me, but the amount of love and peace in the atmosphere made me forget every time. You would think that the violence reported on the news would have met us at the door *tilts head*, but it did not. I was amongst one of several groups, strapped with the word of God and a heart full of love, sent out to evangelize in the surrounding neighborhood. We witnessed to people in commute to work, prayed with prostitutes, people struggling with addiction, etc. My favorite encounter was when a man requested prayer to be delivered from a heroin addiction. Wow. It felt exuberantly amazing to walk where fear and death have tried to claim the streets and share the love and power of Jesus Christ. If this was life…I wanted to live it…every day. Later, we joined the Fest and enjoyed the Rapzilla showcase, Christian Hip Hop concerts, bounce houses, rock climbing, food, petting zoo, and basketball tournaments. Later on that evening, I returned to my dorm and began to pack for my commute home the next evening.
I dreaded waking up Sunday morning. My flight was scheduled for 5:45 p.m. The four days I spent in Chicago was not enough. To my surprise, Pastor Brian and Heidi Dye opened their home to the conference attendees to enjoy food and fellowship post service. Yet another reason added to my moving to Chicago list. Pastor Brian and Heidi really live what they preach. Not only did they open their home to us, expectant of hundreds of people, they fired up the grill and pulled out games. The Dyes lead the main House church in the city. Pastor Dye started a chain of house churches that create as well as encourage Life on Life discipleship relationships amongst those in the community. They believe that our work is not finished once someone accepts salvation, but that we should invite them into our homes and “do life” with them. They followed the teachings of Paul and how he taught and trained Timothy. Soon enough Timothy was strong enough in faith to depart, preach, and create more disciples. I loved this bible rooted “strategy.” When I thought about it, Jesus preached to the masses, but He walked with disciples. Those who wanted to learn more about the ways of God were welcomed to leave all that they knew and to follow Jesus.
All that can be shaken…
My time was up. After a close encounter, I made it to my flight with fifteen minutes to spare. Yes!…but darn it lol I dreaded boarding the plane. I did not want to go home. I had been searching for later flights throughout the day and slightly hoped that my plane would be delayed or get laid over giving me another day to fellowship in the city. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I cowered and dragged myself on the plane with the promise to return driving me forward. I had already begun making plans to move and/or visit Chicago again in the coming months. Depression set in upon take off and a deep frustration set in upon flying into the Miami Airport. Everything annoyed me. Ugh, Can’t they just paint the wall like a regular wall color??? We don’t even have flamingos in Florida. From the brightly colored murals aligning the airport walls to the heat and humidity that seized my lungs upon my exit. The upset onset even worse as time progressed. I lost the desire to attend my church or participate in anything related to it. All I could think about was the awesome time I had and nature of community that I experienced in Chicago. The warmth and genuine care, the passion, the nature of community and discipleship were unlike anything I have ever heard or experienced. Needless to say, I hated being back in Miami. I told everyone willing to hear of how I planned to move to Chicago in the upcoming year.
I became more and more frustrated and often lead inspired sugar coated rants on Facebook. I traded corporate bible studies with individual or small bible studies, continued my outreach in South Florida, but would be irritated by the little opportunities and activities for service and outreach. I avoided my church and when I did attend I counted down the minutes to leave. It wasn’t personal to my pastor, Lazarus could have re-risen from the dead and preached and I still would have found an excuse not to attend. I was irritated at our lack of community. I have been in the choir for 3 years and am still unsure of everyone’s names, what everyone does for a living, how many kids they have, who their kids are, etc. I do admit I am a part of the problem; however, I still want more, especially after experiencing more. I became critical and judgemental our leadership and felt as though the atmosphere was not set for real community. It was more of a come hear my word, drop off your tithes & offering and go. I really didn’t care for how we lack diversity, endorsed an apparent hierarchy, and leadership lacked openness to anyone else’s ideas. I made up in my mind that I was done with Miami and wanted to move asap.
I took my frustration to the Lord and sought if He was “calling” me to Chicago and to reveal my next steps in moving away. What the Lord shared with me changed my mind and life forever. At first, He simply responded saying, “Stay where I have planted you.” Clearly confused, I pleaded for more information. Once again, the Lord revealed to me that He planted me where I am for a reason and to stay in Miami. This reminded me of a chapter in The Bait of Satan by John Bevere. In “How Spiritual Vagabonds Are Born,” John Bevere states that offense is the problem. Churches are not cafeterias. He says, “They think churches are cafeterias; they pick and choose what they like! They feel the freedom to stay as long as there are no problems. But this does not agree at all with what the Bible teaches. You are not the one who chooses your church. God does! The Bible does not say, ‘God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as they please.’ Rather it says, ‘But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased’ (Cor. 12-18, italics added).” He also said to remember that, if you are in the place where God wants you, the devil will try to offend you to get you out!
The Lord did not to allow the enemy to deceive me into believing that Chicago is a perfect place or even Legacy Fellowship is a perfect church. I was only deceiving myself. I had experienced such an amazing time because just about everyone that I met had flown in town or organized the conference. Of course, we were all on fire for Christ because that is what the conference was geared to. In no way, will I ever live in a place where everyone is passionate and on fire for Christ. If that was the case, there would be no need for conferences like Legacy Disciple or churches like Legacy Fellowship. Then it dawned on me. The purpose of the conference is to equip and develop attendees on how to be and develop disciples, NOT come and join our team. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I moved and joined; however, that is not the purpose of the conference. Pastor Dye taught a powerful sermon that Sunday morning declaring who Jesus was, where He walked, who He interacted with, and what He said was never a coincidence. It was a strategic part of His ministry. In Matthew 16, It was in the district of Caesarea Philippi, a place known for idol worship and ungodliness, that the Lord revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Son of God. It was upon “this rock” that the Lord will build His church. Jesus did not travel to the places that already had knowledge of God and if He did he did not spend as much time there. Jesus was about 30 miles away from Jerusalem when this conversation took place. This was not mere happenstance. He did it on purpose. My mind was blown. Jesus chose this opportunity to demonstrate His sovereignty, authority over idols, and most importantly that he cares about the places that would often be forgotten about or left alone. He did not just flock to the Jews, Sadducees, Pharisees, and places deemed Holy ground. He created and declared Holy ground wherever He went.
Bringing it 360…
Soon after, the Lord also revealed a laziness, fear, and cowardice that was stored in my own heart. After a few exchanges, I heard myself say that I preferred to move where the ball was already rolling than to commit to building where I was. Wait…What!? He told me that there will be troubles in every city, Nothing, and Noone is perfect, and what I was running from was sure to meet me there if my mind wasn’t renewed and my heart wasn’t changed. If not, I would find the same issues at Legacy Fellowship that I did in my own church and in my own city. Making a change was the driving force behind my efforts; however, the Lord showed me that I could make just as big of an impact in Miami that I could in Chicago. The heart of Miami is just as dangerous and pliable as west side Chicago. After all, Psalm 92:13 says, “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
After a full repentance and submission to God’s revelation, I decided to commit to being the change that I wanted to see. My meager interactions and outreach weren’t enough for me, so I decided to reach out, look, and pray for more opportunities. I also noticed changes at my church! My pastor offered for us to bring or programs and ideas to the church, I met more passionate brothers and sisters, and the Lord began to really open my eyes to see the wealth of community I had been previously blinded to. Community does exist in Miami; however, I am still committed to helping it grow. I dream of the South Florida Christian scene being as strong and impactful that of Chicago and Houston. Then the Lord said to me, “Sometimes things haven’t changed because YOU are the one to change them.” Wow.
Which brings me to my last point, It is so important that we stay focused on God and His Will for our lives because our choices and decisions greatly affect those around us. Yes, God can and will elect someone else in our stead; however, no one has the capability to be and do the things we were individually made to do the way we uniquely do them. Each and every one of us are important in the grand scheme of things, but we must keep our minds open and our hearts clear. There is no need, nor should there be any room for cowardice, fear, or laziness for the kingdom of God is at hand. We can’t allow ourselves to always flock where things are good and appear easy or allow offense and the devil to run us away from our destiny. Sometimes you will be placed in a dry place and God wants you to plant seeds and water it. It isn’t always easy, but it will always be worth it. Our communities need us and God is calling us to walk into our purposes. I am so grateful for the experience Legacy Disciple and am even more excited to apply my knowledge and attend from this year forward.
Be Blessed, but most importantly Be a Blessing!