As I continue through my favorite prophetic book in the Bible, Jeremiah, the latter few words in verse 38:28, for the first time, struck me as a significant challenge to my spirit.
"So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken."
Many of you may not fully grasp my deep sense of calling to cities, which actually began as a ten-year-old, but was only later fully grasped in 1978. Near that year, I had begun to seriously pursue the scriptures, not for memorization purposes or any newly required adherence for religious purposes. I was simply trying to discern what compelled such high risk behavior among these Biblical characters, the "why" behind their lives and those who would follow afterwards.
When I got to Acts 17:6, I felt compelled to inquire as to how someone might change a city, let alone a world! The verse, in part reads, "the rulers of the city, crying, 'These that have turned the world upside down have come here also.'"
I then recall rather naively offering up these very words: "If a creature can give the Creator permission, I give you permission to do whatever is necessary to make me a city changer!"
Perhaps the most life changing moment in my life, apart from marriage and the birth of my daughter, were the words spoken immediately to me in reply: "Wherever I send you, seek that city, if not this city, the next. I will give you a city!"
Those words in that moment would be forever chiseled upon my heart, in fact, now for decades!
At age 30, having by then become fully engaged in what I thought would be the means of that mission, the Institutional Church, I was co-laboring with a pastor whom I had met through my engagement in an Interdenominational Prayer Breakfast.
My wife and I, as relative newlyweds had fully committed our lives to a single congregation, and as I recall within that very year, a few of us had begun literally constructing a physical facility to better serve our city!
I would serve there as an assistant pastor for years, though still holding my position as a science teacher in a local school system. Later, I would pursue a Master's degree in community education and resource development. My motivation being my work as a denominational leader within our state wide district, while as well, serving on a couple national committees. I was one busy dude on a mission!
As stated before, I had begun to see the Institutional Church as the God ordained means of reaching cities. However, once my Master's degree was awarded, I was led to accept an opening in the school system that served the city in which we then lived. That along with my engagement in a local church seemed the best of both worlds.
It would however take me out of the classroom and with some regrets, as I had come to love the scores of kids I served there. My new administrative position however, seemed a means of scaling my efforts, as I would serve muliple schools and represent the city school system alongside the superintendent, in a role primarily focused on community relations.
After five years and another graduate degree in Leadership and Administration, that role along with my denominational assignments, led to a relationship with a senior pastor in my former hometown. The church he pastored was in a rapid growth mode, and because of that would lead him to inquire of my interest in serving on staff. They also had a small day school, thus a fit as well.
Eventually, I accepted the offer, trying not to be reckless in my decision, holding off until I could take an early retirement from the public schools. In my mind a larger church, and thus higher community impact! The goal was still about becoming a "city changer!"
Given campus expansions alongside of a major corridor and adjacent to a major university, I was soon asked to be a part of developing the Unified Development Ordinance Plan for the county, followed by an appointment to the local Planning Board.
Still on staff, I was at times distracted by the church's approach toward her city, that is attracting people to the campus, maintaining said campus and programming accordingly. Someone said it well when I first heard the comparison made between a battleship and an aircraft carrier, the latter my preference.
I had an idea, perhaps I should better office myself downtown, "flying in and out" from office to church campus, wherever needed, again the best of both worlds. When I shared the idea, the response was, "that place is only concrete after five oclock, when everyone leaves work!"
I would later decide to resign and launch out on my own, giving full focus to the city. I recall a moment similar to my 1978 inquiry while standing in the vast parking lot of the near mega-church facility. How would I explain my decision to leave this thriving campus, worse yet, where would I create income for my family? We had even begun construction of a new home in a nearby bedroom community, an attempt to replace the home I had build in the former city before resigning.
Entrepreneurs were not as popular in the Kingdom of God as they seem to be today!
That day in the parking lot, I recalled a vision not seen since age eleven, that of a window opening into the heavens, and the same voice as in 1978 spoke again, "This is what you are here for!" The move from the school system in a smaller town, back to my larger hometown now made sense. God was positioning my city-calling.
I would end up on the 24th floor of a glass tower downtown (photo above), a gift from a business man whom I had met while serving the city. My view was as endless as that window into heaven which I saw as a child.
Master Counsel, Inc. was launched and has served us well until this day!
What does all this have to do with Jeremiah 38:28? The journey is not over yet, still one thing yet to witness, and that being a word of prophesy from three unexpected Africans from Zimbabwe, who once visited my 24th floor perch.
The Word from the Lord (their words), "your city is one of the transformational cities in America", they then went on to describe how that might unfold.
When I read through the last few words of Jeremiah 38:28, it was if I was assured that I would be there when that transformation occured, even against all odds at age 75, now some 26 years later!
Jeremiah, at times with his neck on the line, stayed with the Word in his heart until that day when what had been prophesied became a reality.
Another verse, which I have often prayed over our city is found in Isaiah 62: 6-7 and closing with verse 12:
"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem (Salem) a praise in the earth." Parentheses mine!
"And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken."
I plan to be there when!!