Growth in Christ: Personal reflections from Jacob

[Originally posted on April 2, 2015]

By Jacob Toman

The question was asked today from a friend in a facebook group: How did you come to trust God as Lord? This was a great question and led me to answer in the following way. I'm not sure how the Lord is going to use this, but hopefully this may be an encouragement, a challenge, or provide a glimpse into the work you are a part through this particular piece of the body.

I think for me this is a continuing growth issue. God is constantly pushing my boundaries & faith in who he is and his love for me. My faith is daily tested in the circumstances I & my family share, and those whom we love & serve share.

Prior to moving to St. Louis Missouri for seminary I worked in an internship in a church plant, testing gifts & discerning how to move forward serving Christ. My wife and I had 3 things we never wanted to do after leaving Michigan for St. Louis:

1. No more church plants. We moved to STL and looked for an established church that had been through disagreements & spiritual warfare.

2. No more fundraising. Seeing how dependent others were on fundraising was heart breaking. Missionaries that we knew suffering through poverty due to what we thought was poor marketing, poor efforts, and a poor system.

3. No new languages. Neither of us wanted to travel, learn a new language, or adjust our lifestyle to a different culture. We wanted to follow God's call----(which really looked like our own wants rather than HIS desires) by going to seminary, studying, & then returning to our Michigan culture and lifestyle to pastor those we were familiar with.

As soon as we moved to STL...God began breaking down our control idols:

1. We attended an established (existing and having continual leadership for more than 50+ years) church for the first 2 years of our stay in STL. Involved in community groups, events, and church administration. Then as seminary came to a close & God pointed towards starting a ministry, several close friends advised us to attend a church plant in the city that had many gamers & a heart for reaching unreached people groups. So....back into the church plant environment we went, accepting the responsibilities, challenges, and joys. We had forgotten much of the joy of church planting with the way how things ended at the last church plant.  

God's challenge and answer to us: Hey Toman's-don't want to be a part of a growing, creative target for spiritual warfare? How about you go right back in! 


2. Missions (even part time tent making missions) requires trusting that God will provide in all aspects of ministry life. Fundraising isn't just one aspect of trusting God-it's an essential aspect of trusting God. Some have asked me over the last 2 years "If God stops providing $X amount, will the ministry stop?" The answer is no. Funding is one of many ways God reveals himself, but it's not the only way (and it's not even the primary, secondary, or tertiary way-creation, Jesus in the flesh, and the Word are all much higher up on the revelation hierarchy than funds). Fundraising for us isn't about hitting a certain number, making a quota, or even stewardship (those are all in there, but they aren't the main thing God was teaching us). Fundraising is about trusting that God will provide through all things (including jobs, supporters, partnerships, etc). I'm not in control, God is, and this has been a huge growth area for us as a missionary family-to trust that God is the one who provides-and that we work for Him, not any group, individual, or organization that signs the paycheck.

God's challenge and answer to us: Hey Toman's-you may have a network that's burnt out, not interested, and start with $0, you're not in charge of converting people-that's my Holy Spirit's job. The Toman's are not in charge of selling gaming missions-that's a collaborative kingdom effort. And lastly, hey Toman's, all men & women in all times and in all places and spaces must struggle with contentment-will you trust me to provide for your needs and conform your wants to my wants? Now get out there, and share Christ, I'll send you some badasses to support what you're doing. Focus on serving, I'll focus on supporting.

 

3. First classes on campus were Greek, Greek, and Greek exegesis. When I was finished with Greek, then it was on to Hebrew. All the while during formal linguistics I didn't realize God was teaching me the languages I would be using for vocational ministry. The Greek and Hebrew I still use, albeit much less frequently than the third language: gaming language. It was in seminary that I became a LoL player, and enjoyed my primary interactions with friends across the country and world through online gaming. Sure I grew up playing C & C ("For King and Country"-anyone remember that unit?) Civ2 ("We are rich sire! Rich! Rich! Rich!"-I miss the old counsel) and Timesplitters 2 at other people's house (that little monkey....so provoking...), but I didn't grow up gaming. I still daily am learning new slang and key terms in the various dialects of gaming (across genres/platforms/game modes), and I'm still learning about who gamers are as a people. They say you can't really know your own culture & language until you've been to another-seeing the world through a gamers eyes has changed and informed my perspective on language, thought forms, and communicating the gospel.

God's challenge and answer to us: Hey Toman's you don't get to say who you were serve, what you will learn, how you will grow or what challenges you will experience. Do you not know that I am the Lord? Do you not know that it was I who lived for my people (including you)? It was I who died for my people (including you)? It was I who rose from the dead as the promise of what is to come for my people (including you?). Stop trying to dictate, and start learning what this means "so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21). Go share about ME and what I've done-I'm offering you to join me in this work of building my Kingdom. You want a piece of the action? Jump in, and start learning gaming and start loving gamers.