I first met Chuck Wenger after dinner on the same day I heard one of the best devotionals I can remember. I was a college intern at a conference for an international ministry called The Navigators. Being in the heart of my formative years, I spent that weekend hanging onto every word that fell from a speaker’s lips and to this day I still read my notebook from that conference. Despite the opportunity to sit in on some great talks from people that included the likes of Dallas Willard, the most influential thing the Lord taught me came from a humble man with a soft voice from South Africa who only spoke for about ten minutes. His name was Mike and he was the new President of the Navigators. But his new position had been tough on him.
I remember Mike’s transparency. He was speaking to hundreds of people but talked as if he were sitting down with just one of us. Mike shared his recent struggles in leadership, which began when he took on the new role as President. By his own admonition, he tried to do too much. It was hurting his family, health, relationship with the Lord, and the ministry itself. Things had gotten bad. As he shared details, he didn’t leave out that the breaking point came when a team of Navigator leaders intervened and rallied around him to discuss what his role in the ministry should be moving forward. They met for a number of days and as Mike recollects, he cried the entire time, “A pretty good tactic now that I think about it,” he laughed.
But we all knew Mike somehow survived. He was standing there in front of us, cheerful and in good health. He was begging the question we all wanted to know. What happened? Mike realized and accepted that he was trying to do too much. He took a break and listened to what the Lord had to say, and no surprise, he had a breakthrough. “We’re the Navigators” he felt the Lord tell him, “Stop trying to create the wind and the waves and the sail. I provide those. Your job is to steer the ship.” Mike found rest and freedom in remembering that it is God who provides and man who manages. Steer the ship. When he stopped trying to do everything, Mike found the Lord working even more. His health rebounded, family relationships were maintained, and the ministry continued it’s long history of success under his leadership.
Later that evening an older, bald-headed man with thick wirey eyebrows approached me, “Let me ask you a question,” he said sharply. “Do you think you can change the world?” That was eight years ago this month, and I sort of feel sheepish admitting I spent the last few weeks connecting with Mike more than I would have ever wanted to.
My desire so ensure the continuity of Band of Brothers in Christ looked a lot like Mike’s desire to keep the Navigators floating. I was worried that many of you wouldn’t be excited about a program that operated outside of Florida. I felt like I needed immediate answers to some of your questions, many of which deserved more time to answer than I seemed to have time for. Before the turn of the new year I was running on more nights of little to no sleep than I can count, I hadn’t exercised in weeks, and I wound up in urgent treatment in need of a few rounds of antibiotics just to regain my health. Making it worse, anytime people asked how I was feeling I just defaulted to, “I’m getting better.” You know, because there was so much for me to do.
I drove home last week pounding cough drops and shouting prayers of joy in my mind for the property I had just visited (the one in the picture above). I knew God provided and foolishly found myself telling Him in prayer I just couldn’t believe it. Sharing with a board member how providential the whole day had been, I heard myself speaking to him with a tone of surprise. But why should I be surprised at God for providing? He gave us exactly what many of us had been praying for. My job was only to respond to what the Lord put in front of us.
Immediately after Moses’ death, the first thing the Lord told Joshua was get ready to cross the Jordan and enter the land He had prepared, “I will give you every place where you set your foot,” he said in Joshua 1:3. It should come as no shock that God recently did the same thing for Band of Brothers. Isn’t it amazing that the cabin pictured above was the first of over 15 properties I planned on inquiring about? It was the first place I stepped foot; God didn’t just provide, He made it pretty easy. Imagine how ridiculous I felt, in light of having been so impacted by Mikes story, but letting myself fall into the same trap of thinking the continuity of Band of Brothers depended solely on me. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes but the wise man listens to advice.” I’ve decided to take the advice I learned from Mike eight years ago and just steer the ship. The last few weeks have taught me that steering looks a lot like listening. Listening has brought me to my knees, where I’ve been reminded that this whole ministry was never about Chuck, or being in Florida, or sailing, or snorkeling, or eating lavish meals. Those things were great, but they were just a method God used to point young men to Christ and equip them for a life of discipleship in order to change the world. As long as God provides the men, we’re going to disciple them. It’s what we’re all called to do.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit.” -Matthew 28:19