What many of you may not realize, because we didn’t even realize it until recently, is that you’re not just following a story about the Sanders family. Aaron made an agreement with God that he would blog all the “God things” that happen in our life. As he has mentioned before, he made that agreement before realizing that life as we knew it would fall completely apart. So, the things we share with you are not just our story. They are our journey of discovering who we are. The drawback of having to talk, or write, things out is that you aren’t really even sure of where it’s going or what it means at first. It’s like climbing a mountain. You know your destination is the top, but you have no idea what you’re going to encounter or what those encounters mean or how they’ve changed you until you either take a moment to think on what you’ve been through or you reach your destination and can look back.
We are thankful for each of you that have believed in us through our journey. Although this isn’t your journey, you’ve been like loved ones that eagerly wait for news of our journey to a foreign place, traveling paths we didn’t know we’d encounter, and finding things we didn’t know exsisted. You’ve cheered us on, been confused with us, sad for us, happy for us, financially supported us, but most importantly, you’ve prayed for us. Much of what we have shared has been received as bitterness against church, anger with people we left behind, or an eagerness to leave where we had been. While, none of that is true, looking back through our blogs I can see how it could be taken that way. We left not knowing why we were leaving and didn’t know what we’d do when we got here. To top that off we had been assistant pastor and worship leader at our church in WI, then came here and didn’t attend church for awhile and began writing blogs about the church not doing what it is meant to do. This has caused some of our closest friends and family to distance themselves from us and for a few to even go so far as to not talk to us.
I’m not sharing any of this to try to justify ourselves or make us look like Western Christianity martyrs. I’m sharing because we can see where a disconnect happened and we want to help people reconnect and really see where we are. To read with no preconceived ideas and to know there are no hidden agendas on our part. We’re sharing our journey and our thought processes with you. If you don’t agree with us, please call us or email us. If you’re not satisfied with what we’ve shared and how we’ve arrived there, please contact us. But, remember, we might not be able to “eloquently” explain it yet because we might still be processing. When we say, “that’s what we feel like God is telling us” we really mean that. It’s not a cop out answer. If it’s our own feelings we’ll readily admit to that. We’re not going to try to have God as a scapegoat for our crazy ideas. He’s more than capable of coming up with his own crazy scenarios. 😉
Having said all that, do you mind if we start back at the beginning?
Hi, this is a blog about the Sanders family and we do really crazy things because we’re learning to hear God’s voice and act on it. We don’t have any logical answers for why we do what we do. For the most part our answer will be “we feel like God told us to”. We’re learning to be ok with it being that simple. Our biblical heroes of faith were ok with that answer. If we want to have that kind of faith and see the things they did we should be ok with it too.
Is that a better way to start off? I’m not trying to be cheeky (well, maybe a little bit I am), but I feel like a lot of confusion and misconception would have been avoided if we had learned to be comfortable with that answer from the start.
One of the things that prompted the Sanders family into living the way we do was Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. He talks about movie producers coming to him wanting to make a movie of his semi-autobiographical book “Blue Like Jazz” but admitted to him that his life was a little too boring to be made into a movie, they’d need to liven it up a bit. That got him thinking about what does make a good story and what inhibits us from making a good story of our lives? We began to ask ourselves that same question and came up with two answers that we really didn’t like. Fear and money kept us from making a good story of our lives. Our life wasn’t terrible by any means. We had a house (that I hated at the time, but would love to have here to live in now), a great church where we were assistant pastor and worship leader, Aaron had a fantastic job, our children went to a small Christ centered private school, I nannied two adorable little angels, my family was close by. So many things were “perfect” but we weren’t making a good story with it.
For years we listened to sermons and teachings, some of which Aaron himself spoke, about stepping out in faith, letting go of fear or following God with all your heart and he’ll take care of you. I led worship and sang songs about swimming to the ocean floor to find more of God or not wanting anything, not even blessings, only God. These are all messages that preach well and songs that are sung well in the safe confines of Sunday morning church or campmeeting, but when put into practical application, are viewed and felt in an entirely different way. For whatever reason reading that book opened our eyes to see that we weren’t really living the things we were preaching, teaching and singing about.
We began to pray and ask God to help us hear him and obey without fear; to simply trust that what he said was what we needed to do. The first thing we heard was “put your house on the market.” That’s pretty easy and not overly scary. But, that led to us asking “where are we going to live next?” and that’s where things started to get weird. We felt like God was telling us he was ok with wherever we wanted to go, but, if we stayed where we were we wouldn’t grow into the things he intended for us. It wasn’t necessarily a matter of salvation. We didn’t feel like he was saying “if you stay your kids will walk away from their faith” it was more like he showed us that we were capable of more and he was leaving the decision of stepping into the “more” up to us.
So, because we’re crazy we stepped into the more. We left our church, family, friends, job, the only place the kids and I had ever known, and moved to a place where we knew 2 people, had no job, no church and no family outside of the 6 of us. Why? Because we kept thinking, if we don’t do this we are going to miss out on something great and we’re going to regret it for the rest of our lives. That’s all the answer we had. God was calling us to who knows what and we knew if we didn’t do it, it would end up as a death bed confession of regret.
Because we were stripped of everything that was safe or that made us comfortable we’ve been able to step back and see so many things we were missing. Not having church actually caused us to draw closer to God and seek him like we never had before. We discovered we were going through the motions and saying the right things, but we were doing church, we weren’t being the church. The only people in the city of Hudson that were impacted by our absence were about 40 people that attended the same church we did and another handful of people we interacted with at the gym and actually, the majority of people in these 2 groups didn’t even live in Hudson. That is pathetic. The first church walked into a city and turned it upside down. They weren’t only known for preaching about Jesus Christ they were known for their love for one another, for their good works, and for the power of God being evident in whatever they were doing.
When we say “the modern day church isn’t doing it’s job” or “what if modern day church isn’t what church is supposed to look like” we aren’t telling you to stop attending your church. We’re not telling you to go to your pastor and tell him that everything he is doing is wrong and he needs to scrap it all and start over. We’re saying, stop the crazy, busy madness. Look at yourself. Look at the impact your church is making. Are you doing everything you can to help people around you? Not the people in the cooshy church chairs next to you. Look at the people next to you in line at the store, your neighbors, the people you see at your kids’ sports games, the people you see at the park, look at the local food shelves or homeless shelters or safe houses. Do you see where God would want you to go and be his hands and feet? Then go! His hands and feet didn’t minister to the religious, his hands and feet weren’t pierced and bled only for the people willing to come into the temple. His hands and feet ministered to the broken, to the ones who didn’t even know they needed him. His hands and feet bled for everyone. That is what we are saying. We need to stop creating cliques and programs and clubs and mutli million dollar buildings to house them all and we need to start creating disciples that will go OUT, get dirty and even suffer to minister to people like Jesus did.
When we tell you to “step out in faith” we aren’t saying you should copy us and quit your job and leave everything you know behind. That is our story. You don’t get our story. God is going to ask you to do something that will stretch you. Maybe you don’t really like your job or the area you live in. It’s not really a leap of faith then to leave them, is it? Maybe you get to keep your job and stay in your area but God is going to ask you to give 3/4 of your salary to feed the poor or maybe he’ll ask you to open your home to shelter the homeless. Maybe you’re just starting out in faith and what he’s asking you to do is simply an excerise in learning to trust him and showing him that you do. Whatever it is he asks of you, it is going to stretch you and will even break you. That’s another thing modern Christianity doesn’t like. It preaches like it does and sings like it does but when it comes face to face with it, it rejects it. You have to be broken for God to use you. Why? Because we’ve hidden ourselves beneath layers of busyness, logic, hurt, bitterness and a plethora of things that have happened to us in our lives. You have to be broken for God to be able to reach inside and heal those things and reveal to you who you were created to be. That could look like: your world falling apart, people you know and love distancing themselves from you, people telling you you’re wrong, people telling you what you’re doing isn’t biblical, you thinking you have no idea what the voice of God sounds like, you thinking you’ve gone completely mad. But, when you find quiet moments of prayer and seek after God with all your heart, you find yourself in him and realize he is there and he is the one holding you through the madness. It’s there that you find you can sing “we don’t want blessing we want you” or “your grace is enough” and truly understand and mean it because you’ve lived there and know that that he is all you need.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed all my capital letters and underlining in this post. I feel VERY emphatic about all of this in case you haven’t noticed. 😉
We pray for all of you all of the time. Even though we don’t personally know each person that visits our blog or even their names, we pray over each post and pray for the people that read them. We want everyone to experience God, God himself, outside of traditions, boxs and preconceived ideas.