Chapter 1: Am I Enough?

Someday

Someday has become the most crippling word spoken and lived in the world today. Think about it. Someday I will become a foster parent. Someday I will travel overseas to live on mission. Someday I will go back to school. Someday I will leave this rotten job. Someday I will lead a Bible study. Someday I will stop drinking. Someday I will start giving generously.

These commitments roll effortlessly off our tongue. We lie to ourselves and delay decisions both big and small as if someday will ever come. Someday is our favorite day. It is always close enough to enjoy as a warm thought, without ever having to feel the cold draft of discomfort that comes with change.

Someday is so toxic because it hides behind the appearance of good intentions. We settle for partial credit earned by at least considering something bold. I mean, at least we are thinking about it, right? Maybe we have even prayed a bit. But quickly we determine now is not the right time. We evaluate and convince ourselves we aren’t enough, so we wait. Why would we attempt something for which we are not ready? Eventually, we will have enough experience, knowledge, money, and time, so why rush? We’re still young with years ahead of us. Like a fine wine, we assume we will just become better with age. We can even justify our patient delays in a way that makes us seem wise. However, in the process, we actively have said “No” to the Creator of the universe.

I am no exception to hiding behind someday. The excitement of its potential is much more enjoyable than the sacrifice it would demand. Someday has filled slots on my calendar for years, but you know what? I’m done with it. I am ready to throw back the protective cover I’ve built over procrastination and expose my lack of willingness to the light, just as I would any other sin. To see this commitment through I must attack it head-on. Daily, I must go to war with my own selfish desires to shrink back and live a comfortable, mediocre life. Someday must die and it must die today!

Join me on a journey to discover how Jesus is enough, though we are not. Over these next twelve chapters, we will examine why we delay and then reflect on how Jesus speaks truth into the lies that have paralyzed us for too long. I pray you will read these chapters and discover how God has given you everything you need to step towards the aspirations He has put on your heart. If we allow Him, God will see us through our journey to the destination to which He called us. But, it all starts with seeing God as sufficient. We are enough, because Jesus is enough. Because of that, your someday can start today.

Counting The Cost

My entire life I have felt inadequate, questioning my capacity. Am I smart enough to pass organic chemistry? Do I have enough money to go to Tanzania? Do I have enough theological training to be a pastor? Am I a good enough leader to plant a church? Do I have enough life experience to write this book? Tempted to wait, to train harder, to study deeper, to earn more, I finally realized doubts have never equipped me. I have never been more thankful or in a better place after putting off the work that I knew God wanted me to do. Instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I needed to shift to be in tune with what I have been given and begin stewarding that.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is wisdom in preparation and realism, in counting the cost. I not only know that in my head, but believe that in my heart. Jesus even says in Luke 14,

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.” (v. 28–30)

I hate leaving something unfinished. I will give up sleep, time with my wife, and even moments with Jesus to complete a project I have started. That commitment is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because people can count on me to see things through. It’s a curse because the fear of being known as a failure both paralyzes me from starting and consumes me once I have.

In Luke 14, Jesus speaks truth that hits home. Don’t bite off more than you can chew; save the embarrassment and make sure you can finish what you started. Beyond it being humiliating not to complete a task, it depletes and wastes the time, energy, and resources we invested in the process.

Often, we respond to this caution by inaction. We think it's better to hide behind the intent of future activity than to take that first step unprepared. At first, that pause seems more noble than disobedient. The only problem is that Jesus’ qualifying prerequisite to seeing the task through has nothing to do with having enough money, time or talent to finish the work He has given you. He isn’t demanding we have everything together and can guarantee a successful conclusion before we commit to begin.

His point is you must have one thing, and one thing alone before you act. If you have this, you have more than enough! If you don’t, you’re better off waiting until you do. All other experiences, time restrictions and qualifiers come second to this.

The only thing Jesus demands of us before we start is a willingness to do whatever is asked. He says if you are willing, you are enough. In the verse before He warns us to count the cost, He drops the verbal bomb, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (v.27)

This would have shocked everyone to attention. He demanded a willing and sacrificial spirit as the primary requirement for discipleship. He demanded nothing less than willingness to pick up a cross–an instrument of torture–and carry it wherever He led them.

Jesus was saying to those gathered around Him that if they were not willing to give up control of their own lives, for the rest of their lives, they shouldn’t even start the journey to discipleship! But if they are willing, nothing more is needed.

Maybe the only thing you need to ask yourself before you start your journey is whether or not you are willing to do whatever Jesus asks along the way. Are you willing to take both the first step that seems uncertain and the hundredth step that appears even more unsure? Will you follow your Good Shepherd into the valley and through the shadows? If you can commit to that, you have more than enough. God has worked with much less.

Young And Reckless

When you were younger, did you love to prove others wrong? We relished the opportunity to do unheard of things, to respond to dares. Granted, most of these things held no real significance, but when I was eight years old, if you told me I couldn’t eat two Big Macs in one sitting or chug a whole glass of milk in six seconds, I would have jumped at the chance to prove you wrong. (Full disclosure: I did both of these! My prize was a puking up the Big Macs minutes later, much to the disgust of my mother. She used this as a teaching moment, to say the least.)

Inherent in us at a young age is a desire to show others we can do more than they believe of us. We weren't worried about accomplishing their ridiculous challenge as much as we feared missing out on the chance to try. And then something happened. We grew up and lost that spirit of challenge. We settled for ordinary.

Somehow, nearly everyone loses this adventurous spirit. Maybe it’s because we gained some wisdom and realized consuming 1,200 calories of McDonald's burgers for lunch is not only awful for you, but really isn’t that big of a deal. Possibly it’s because the business of daily living has sucked every ounce of time and creative energy from us. But more than likely, we are stifled because the possibilities seem out of reach and we are no longer okay with trying and failing. Failure is our biggest fear and it seeps so deep we believe that it’s better to play it safe. The world told us to stay in our lanes, and we listened. The enemy says we aren’t qualified or ready, and before long we’ve lost the determination to prove him wrong. That God-given spirit that pushed us beyond our boundaries when young has been quenched. Suddenly, possibilities in daily decisions and in decade-long journeys that require mustering our imaginations to accomplish the unthinkable simply fade. We begin to enjoy hiding behind the curtain of “mature thinking.”

Where in your life have you started to believe the lie that you aren’t enough? Maybe you feel called to plant a church, but you don’t know if you have enough experience or knowledge. Maybe you think it’s time to quit your spirit quenching job and start a business, but you don’t know if you have what it takes to defy those odds. Maybe that pregnancy test just came back positive, and you aren’t sure if you have enough time, money or experience to raise a child. Maybe you feel you aren’t enough to get married, go on a mission trip, adopt a child, stop smoking, change majors, or share your faith. Often our reliance on someday is a result of allowing the world instead of our Creator to define our qualifications. Luckily, God sees us differently.

Lifelong Résumé

As I write, my wife, Madeline, has just graduated from college and is applying to teach middle school and high school history. In a time when job openings are few, and potential candidates abound, it is easy for us to get discouraged. Even though my wife graduated from a highly respected college with a 3.8 GPA, has competitive work experience, impressive interviewing skills, and is absolutely beautiful (if I might add) she has felt like she doesn’t have a chance in the arena.

Proving yourself is never fun, especially when you feel as if the person assigned to make some judgement on your potential never takes the time to truly know you. How much can someone really glean from a resume that you’ve been advised to keep to one page? How can the depth of your potential be explored in a 20-minute interview? Through this process, Madeline knows what it’s like to be labeled by someone who doesn’t truly know her.

We’ve been raised to work hundreds of hours just so someone can make a judgment on our abilities—our potential, our value, dare I say, our worth—in a few seconds. Graduate schools filter through hundreds of applications; potential employers will interview dozens of applicants; even getting a home loan forces you to prove yourself with a good credit score. I get it. These people only have a few hours to make a decision and under the avalanche of options they have to keep it simple.

Standardized tests, progressive work experience, debt to income ratios, and GPAs make for simple standards of measurement, signs by which to cull the herd. But you and I both know it is impossible to reveal the true, deep, capable, eager, competent, trustworthy you through a resume, test score and references from a friend. These may help paint a picture of your past, but previous achievements don’t always indicate future success.

If you struggle to keep your head above water in a stream of hard and fast judgments, let me remind you of some good news. While our world limits its concept of future potential to previous accomplishments, our God does not. The One who calls us to great things knows not only the paths we have traveled but the trails we will blaze!

God’s perspective of you is not limited to what fits on one sheet of paper. He doesn’t restrict us to what we can prove in a 20-minute interview. God has known us before we even spoke a word. He had plans for us before we were ever conceived. I know this because the Apostle Paul clearly tells us these facts as they apply to his own life.

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles… (Galatians 1:15–16)

Paul, more than anyone, knew that God is not restricted by our past to determine our future potential. God explicitly chose Paul, a murderer, liar and self-righteous religionist, to plant churches, preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles and write much of what became our New Testament. God could have picked a more attractive candidate with a much sweeter resume than Paul, but before Paul was even born, God had a plan for his future. This plan could never be spoiled by Paul’s lack of experience, age or merit. The only thing this plan required was a willing spirit from Paul and unmeasurable grace from God to qualify him every step of the way.

Let us rejoice that God is unlimited and sees potential both in the present and in our near future—potential that a quick judgment call based on a brief resume could never discover. Jesus knew us before we were ever conceived, so of course He sees your qualifications before they are even manifest. The question is, do we trust Him enough to let Him use us as He sees us?

Utilizing What You Do Have

“Gray, Tennessee!” I quickly exclaimed. I had spent plenty of time thinking and praying about where we might plant a church and I didn’t need another moment to consider it. This was a no-brainer to me. Gray was just miles from my hometown of Johnson City, it had a rising number of unchurched millennials and our North Ridge Community Church network didn’t have a presence there.

As I explained my reasoning to our lead pastor, Jim Richmond who had just asked me where I wanted to help lead our next church plant, the weight of the challenge ahead started to hit me. I had just agreed not only to pastor a church but to plant one from the ground up. Hearing my enthusiastic and reasoned response to the opportunity, Jim smiled and agreed. Gray was his hometown, and he couldn’t be more excited to entrust me, a 21-year old punk at the time, with starting a movement that could turn that community upside down.

There were many moments both before and after that summer morning in 2015 that I doubted if we could really plant a growing church with me as the pastor and leader. I still had two semesters left of undergraduate studies in Food Science and Technology at UT-Knoxville. We had no money and no core group. I had little experience preaching and even less training in theology and leadership.

It would have been easy to focus on all I lacked and to wonder if I was enough. I started to think, “Surely God would have an easier time using someone else,” as if God needed some help in His decision making and did not enjoy a good challenge.

Luckily, God did not let me dwell in doubt for too long. Every time I began to feel choked out by inadequacy, God sweetly reminded me of what He had provided. And trust me, it was more than enough.

First, I had the Holy Spirit. The same power that raised Christ from the dead and started a movement that has lasted 2,000 years was not only alive in me, but working in the lives of those around me. That alone is enough.

But on top of that, I had support from an amazing group of church leaders throughout the North Ridge Network. They saw both my work ethic and my heart for the Kingdom of God and didn’t make me prove myself further for my chance to step into more. I am forever indebted to the willingness of Jim Richmond and North Ridge Community Church to see me as God sees me, a young man who was willing. They believed in me, and I knew I would always have their support.

Lastly, I knew how to makes disciples and felt that if I could empower a small group of people to do that with me, this couldn’t fail. When I took a step back and saw all God had entrusted to me, I realized I had more than enough, and it was time to get to work. That’s precisely what I did.

Over the next 10 months, I coasted through my senior year of college and focused on preparing the foundation for our church plant. God provided over $30,000 in start-up funds and a core group of 25 underqualified but willing disciple makers and leaders. He gave us a building to rent that I would not invite my worst enemy to live in, but we made it our home.

Most importantly, the Lord imbued us with confidence in His goodness that helped us step out of the boat and into the storm ahead, just as Peter did a couple of thousand years earlier. (Matthew 14:29)

As we moved into core group meetings and toward a public launch, God began to grow me as a leader as He built His church. I experienced how much you grow as you go. I saw how my mistakes can become valuable lessons. I witnessed God's ability to redeem my mistakes into something beautiful.

Three years after that initial conversation with Jim, we still haven’t accomplished the goal of seeing our entire community transformed…yet. But we have seen Jesus change lives. We have witnessed young men start to follow Jesus and then baptize their best friend just months later. We have seen underqualified leaders emerge who once had no idea how much God could use them if they were merely willing.

We’ve outgrown our first building and are quickly outgrowing our second. Young millennials not only are attending, but are becoming disciple makers. Of course, there is much work to do, but that excites me because as our church grows, I get to grow as a leader.

I will never claim to have it all figured out. Instead, I will boast that I am “underqualified” and “too young,” for as long as I can because I know God is qualifying me as I go. Besides, I would rather be labeled “too young” to do something and grow into it, than to stand on the sideline and watch it pass.

This 24-year-old pastor and church planter with a bachelor’s degree in food science, could not be more confident that he is exactly where God wants him to be. Because of that, I will press on into the unknown.

Qualifying The Called

I’ve always been told that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” I’ve always wondered, though, how He accomplishes that. I didn’t disagree with the statement, I just wanted to know how it happened. I would think, “Here I am God, clearly unqualified, get to qualifying.” After not hearing audibly from God, I did pick up a few things about how He works in this qualifying process, as well as how to get the most out of it.

I’ve realized this: qualification isn’t as much about doing more to get ready, as it is recognizing what’s already been done for you. It isn’t about accumulating credentials or experiences, as much as developing a willing spirit to say “yes” and trust God to equip you as you go.

Qualification requires you to reject labels that the world sticks on you so you can accept the title given you by your Creator. Could it be that the very thing we are doing to qualify—waiting—is actually the only thing that takes our qualification away?

I don’t know what Jesus is pushing you toward. Maybe you aren’t even sure. But when He makes it clear, whether big or small, I encourage you to set a deadline and start to make it happen. Your someday may not be accomplished today. It may not even be tomorrow. But a sure way to see your someday aspiration never happens is by letting it remain someday. Replacing someday with this day is the first step to becoming qualified to do God-sized things. So embrace that goal. Pick a deadline. Start acting on it now!

God wants you to arrive at the destination He’s planned for you. The journey may not be what you expect. Unforeseen challenges might pop up, but don’t let that stop you. Count the cost, confess your willingness and start now!

Join me on this journey to discover what it takes to see your someday aspirations through. I hope this book will help you begin to believe that you are enough to do great things because you have a God who is enough to do abundantly more than you could think or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

Take a moment right now and confess to God where you feel underqualified. Confess the times such a thought has kept you from being willing to follow Jesus where He is leading you. Be honest and talk to Him about your fear of failure and the discouragement you have endured.

Now take your eyes off yourself and your past, and fix them on Jesus and His future plans for you. The good news is, we are not fighting this upward battle alone. We have a mighty warrior named Jesus who is with us every step of the way.

Ask Yourself:

- Am I willing to take up my cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads? If not, what keeps me from being willing?

- Do I believe a willing spirit is the most important qualifier for getting started?

- To what have I said someday that God wants me to start today?

- How have previous disappointments and labels stuck on me by others quenched the childlike, adventurous spirit I once had?

- Do I believe God is able to qualify me as I go? If I did believe it, how would this change the way I approach God-given opportunities?