Rewind, Refocus, Reload

Posted on July 21, 2012


Resting in the reality that I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared for me before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10), has given me much relief recently. Not only that, but my sanctification, though I work out in fear in trembling before the Lord, is ultimately a sovereign work of grace as it is God who works in me to will and work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). It is with these truths in mind that I share with you, with joy, the work of grace presently at work in my life.

Rewind

Over the last few years the Lord has blessed me with divine fellowship through the Christian online community. Much of this fellowship has developed by way of facebook. Many of you reading this blog post have blessed me with your friendship, and I have truly valued our conversations as we have edified one another, stirred each other to be zealous for good works, sharpened each other with God’s Word, contended for the faith, and labored together to minister the Gospel to the lost. Yet, as positive as this fellowship has been, I am confident the Lord has closed this chapter of online fellowship for me. Not completely, but certainly significantly. As the Lord draws me into a new season of life, one of the changes I will be making is closing my facebook account.

A few facebook friends have inquired about not finding me on the social network lately. I decided on June 27th to jump ship sans announcement. I had a few reasons for doing it this way, but suffice it to say pulling the plug cold turkey was best for me.

In a sense, this has been a period of detox. I use this term deliberately as facebook has the potential to be addictive, much like a drug. Lord willing, I may write more about that in a future post, but for now I’ll just say facebook was a major distraction (and idol) for me. I’m sure some of you can relate.

These last few weeks have been refreshing. Within just the first couple of days, my mind was getting clearer and I realized just how much time I spent on facebook. Whether in front of the computer or on my phone, the stream of social interaction was never ending. Though in the form of Christian fellowship, there is endless opportunities to involve oneself in a countless number of varying topics, whether it’s posts praising God, the latest church controversy, theological debates, ministry updates, encouraging words, edifying articles, prayer needs, current events in the news, and more. These are all topics I have engaged in, and I believe with good intentions, but sadly, with little restraint.

Facebook has been an instrument of distraction for me. Though I have been blessed and learned much from my friends and ministries I follow on facebook, there’s only so much information I can process before my mind is too cluttered. It has impacted my personal relationships and those I interact with face to face. And isn’t it interesting that “facebook” has had that effect? It seems “facebook” has become a counterfeit or replacement for true interpersonal face to face relationships. To a degree, I have lost the ability to socially interact with people on a personal level due to the trappings of impersonal written communication. Not only this, but even when I was not presently on facebook, ongoing conversations continued racking my brain while I spent time with friends and family. So even while I was there physically, I was absent mentally because my mind was still present online. Perhaps I’m rambling at this point, but I hope some of you understand what I’m trying to communicate.

So in an effort to cut out the distractions (and idols) in my life, facebook is getting canned. I’m rewinding my life to a time before facebook existed and, thus far, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Refocus

I know for certain God has used facebook to bless His people. He has certainly blessed me, whether by fellowship, learning, or receiving encouraging words that something I had written had blessed a brother or sister. Yet, I believe we must change directions as the Spirit leads even when what we are doing is not opposed to the Spirit (eg sinful – take for example Acts 16:6-7). The last couple of months I had actually become more disciplined in my use of facebook, so it had become less of an idol for me, but still remained a distraction, or at least something that was keeping me from better things.

The truth is, I do not want to do many things in life with mediocrity, but I do want to do a few things well to the glory of God. Up until recently, my responsibilities in life included tending to my personal walk with the Lord, leading my family, church fellowship, a full-time job, street evangelism, writing articles, and online fellowship through social media (mostly facebook). I did this for a couple of years, fooling myself it was all possible to do well. However, it was a constant battle for me trying to keep up with everything, and when I excelled in one area, other areas suffered. It was an unhealthy ebb and flow. It was unbalanced.

I now realize I can’t do it all, and I’m not supposed to do it all. But I can do some of it, and I can do some of it well by the Lord’s grace.

Reload

I’ve learned that while the Lord has blessed me with many wonderful friendships online, it is not possible, at least not for me, to have so many without being overwhelmed. I have spread myself too thin and it seems this is not the model that we see in Scripture. I see in Scripture that our primary Christian fellowship is localized to our community. This isn’t to say having so many friendships or engaging so many people online is sinful, but if it negatively impacts how we engage people on a more personal level, we need to evaluate the time and energy we spend on these distant and less personal relationships.

So if I’m largely giving up social networking, where can you find me?

You can find me loving, leading, and serving my family. This is my first ministry. Though I have tried to find balance over the last few years with how much “ministry” I involve myself with, I tended to stretch myself too thin especially with engaging people online through fellowship and teaching. As a result, my family was usually the one to suffer for it. I cannot love, lead, and serve my family well if I am not fully invested in them. By God’s grace, they will get the majority of my time and energy as I seek to sanctify them by God’s Word, love them as a God-fearing husband and father, lead them by example, and simply enjoying life together to the glory of God.

You can find me loving and serving my church body. This is my second ministry. Over the last two years the Lord has blessed me with opportunities beyond imagination to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has taken me to the streets in my hometown of Charlotte, NC and to other states, as well as given me the privilege to labor with saints at the 2012 Super Bowl and the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Through it all, I’ve been hugely blessed by the fellowship of dear brothers and sisters in Christ from around the country, have had countless witnessing encounters, and handed out thousands of Gospel tracts. And as wonderful as these times have been serving our King, it has always been outside the context of the local church.

This is really a whole other blog post, but suffice it to say, evangelism is not just going out to a street corner to preach the Gospel on a box. Nor is it just walking up to strangers to hand them a Gospel tract and possibly engage in a Gospel conversation. Even pointing people to a website for more information, giving them your contact information for follow-up, or sounding from the box for people to join you at church on Sunday does not entail all there is to evangelism. There is so much more.

I do believe God has gifted me to be an evangelist. But this isn’t something I can simply self-define myself to be and work independently apart from my local church. An evangelist is called to serve the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). If I am called to be an evangelist, I am called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. I am called to not only preach the Gospel, but also to make disciples. I am called to invest my life into people. I am called to love people. And I cannot do this simply by only preaching the Gospel, but also to minister the Gospel continually to new and potential converts, teach sound doctrine as the Lord gives me the privilege, and take the time to serve and disciple God’s people as He gives me the grace to do so. This happens most intimately, I believe, in the context of the local church. I cannot do this well if I am stretched so thin as to not have the energy or spiritual fortitude to make a positive difference in the lives of those closest to me.

You can find me loving, serving, learning from, and discipling the men the Lord has brought into my life. God has truly blessed me with some dear brothers, both within the local body and several outside the local body. It is an incredible blessing and gift from the Lord to come together with these men to lift each other up in prayer, to encourage one another, to be accountable to one another, to learn from one another, and commit to another as we strive to be the godly men God has called us to be. I cannot do this well if my mind is distracted and I am emotionally spent from being a part of such a large online community. I am just not built like that and I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of close, intimate brotherhood for the quantity of hundreds of distant, not-so intimate relationships online. Please don’t misunderstand, I love, love, love the many saints I have been blessed to fellowship with online, but for me to love and serve these brothers closest to me well, I cannot do both and must be committed to one or the other. I believe God would have me commit to these men.

You can find me tending to my own walk with Christ. If I intend to serve others well, I cannot do so without abiding in Him. I must faithfully tend to the pasture of my soul through diligent prayer, study, and communion with my Savior. Eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3), and I cannot love Him unless I know Him, and I cannot know the depths of His love for me unless I know Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word. Knowing His love for me and, in turn, loving Him more as I know Him more, will cause me to love others more affectionately and sacrificially. I cannot nurture my personal walk with my King to the fullest if my time and energy is divided among too many efforts and responsibilities.

You can find me here on airō. If I have any time left over, you might find me posting articles. My focus will primarily be to build a collection of solid resources to encourage and challenge people in my local community who I have the privilege to engage with the Gospel and disciple. However, these resources will, Lord willing, be a blessing to as many as the Lord would bring to this website. I am at peace with no longer trying to draw as many people as possible here through various blogging strategies, but rather trust the Lord will lead His people who He would have be a part of this very small corner of Christian fellowship in the online community. Some of you He has already led here, and I truly look forward to carrying on our fellowship. My hope is my dear friends on facebook who do not comment frequently here will subscribe to the blog by email or add airō to their RSS subscription (such as Google Reader). I understand this transition will lead to losing fellowship from some dear saints whom I love, but hopefully some will give me the honor and privilege to continue our fellowship here on the blog from time to time.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading the thoughts of my heart and what the Lord is doing in my life. These are very exciting times for me and my family, and I look forward to sharing more as the Lord enables me. For the next couple of weeks I will remain on facebook in order to keep friends apprised of the Lord’s work in London at the 2012 Olympics. I am privileged to join 13 saints in the proclamation of the Gospel for 11 days. Lord willing, I will keep a daily journal of our activities and offer ways you can pray for the Lord’s work.

Thank you, dear friends, for the joy and fellowship of the Gospel over these last few years. To those whom this may be our last times of communication, may the Lord richly bless you as you grow in the knowledge of His grace and love for you, and to others, I look forward to continuing our fellowship together on airō.

By God’s Grace and for His Glory,

Justin

p.s. I’ve been amazed to read some of Jon Speed’s articles over the last couple of months as God seems to have been sanctifying Jon in a similar manner as He has been sanctifying me. Especially if you consider yourself to be a street evangelist, I highly encourage you to invest time in reading the following articles and meditating on how they apply to your life and ministry. In the second article, Jon concludes,

Commit to the local church.  Bury yourself there and be content to never be heard from again just so long as Jesus is famous and the local church is strong.

That’s what I intend to do. I hope you join me.

We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong Part I

We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong Part II

An Early Retirement

A New Model of Street Evangelism

Posted in: Sanctification