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Before I Formed Thee In The Belly I Knew Thee

The title was taken from one of my most favorite books in the Bible, Jeremiah. Verses 1:5-19 are the words that launched my 25 year-long entrepreneurial journey with Jehovah in 1996.

I had just left a Tuesday staff devotional in 1996, one in which Jeremiah 1:17 was used by a pastor to challenge the team. Though I had read this entire chapter many times, this time it would be quite


I had experienced six years in what would serve as a transitional moment while I explored my calling to leadership. I had left the comfort of my formal preparation as a public school administrator in order to take on an unexpected invitation to serve in a mega church setting. The first few years there, everything needed for the church's growth seemed easy to come by. As well, its phenomenal growth had opened doors for me in the community, similar to what I had experienced in my previous role. Favor seemed to follow me, and I was also back in my hometown.

I recall this particular morning being in a window of unsettling moments. Even prior to this staff devotional I had begun conversations with the senior pastor about a sense of need to be officed in the downtown of our city, rather than on the church campus itself.

After staff devotions, I walked out into the church's massive parking lot, just to be alone. It was there that I suddenly relived a vision given to me as a child, hearing again the "high church-like music" (at least it felt that way when I first heard it as 10 year-old small church Pentecostal kid) as well that morning, I would once more envision an opening into the heavens.

It was during this parking lot moment (if you are a follower, you know it as my second parking lot moment, the first one less positive) that I heard these words, "this is what you are here for!"

I had thought that our move from the small town in which my wife and I first met was to serve this large and growing church. Somehow in all the growth and activity, some of which was quite miraculous, I had forgotten my 1978 word from the Lord. "Wherever I send you, seek that city, if not this one the next. I'll give you a city." It seems I had simply settled for a large church!

Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” “Without repentance” means that God won't change His mind about what He has called you to do.

Within weeks I would find myself looking over our city from the 24th floor of a metal frame glass windowed building. Given that I was now on my own, the "God-wink" to me was an amazing view that was rent free, a place where I would spend the next four years.

Those few moments in the parking lot, and four years in a glass cornered office perch would be followed by 25 years, not only of unimagined sources of provision for my family, but a rentry into community service that involved numerous nonprofits, eight years of participation on a municipal planning board, the chairing a citywide leadership initiative, and even three terms as mayor in the nearby community in which we had built our new home.

I share all this because this trajectory likeky began before my mother's womb. Yes, I was known before, as were you! Now at age 75, my journey still seems full of possibilities, assignments incomplete, and even that seems providential.

My role has varied from praying over our city, serving our city and now walking into a moment when the churches in our city struggle to sustain what seemed earlier to come so natural for this long established institution.

Ironically, my diverse and quite entrepreneurial life experience, when shared with the three generations behind me, my aforementioned Cabin Talks and Coffee moments seem so on point with their desire to reconcile a deep hunger for meaning, yet one which seems less met by church alone, especially church as Boomers have known it.

The "Next" are looking at not only at belonging, but impact on this earth, in their workplace and community. Clearly they understand better than my generation's or my parent's, the true essence of "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

The good news for churches (1. see Barna link below) is that it now seems that church has become slightly more attractive post Covid, perhaps because of a weekly tweaking of worship style and pulpit delivery, even online streaming. Also likely the impact of isolation given the last three years of pandemic stress. Will it continue, perhaps if the churches are willing to change significantly, with a greater emphasis on true community impact.

Still there seems something missing, yet to be delivered given the rapid shift in our culture and our politics. (2. See "future of faith", a most exhaustive study). If Jesus is the answer, the way you walk out your life calling is critical, now less dependent upon whether or not you attend a particular church in town. That really did matter at one time, though today it feels preposterous to even say that.

Finding your calling, that "wombwork" known even before your mother's belly is possible and when found powerful.

For me, it's not over yet!

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