Anh Johnson is a bi-vocational church planter and pastor of New Legacy in Lynden, Washington.
There are a handful of times in my life when I recall hearing the audible voice of God. The call to “go north” was one of those times. I remember that day so clearly. I was on a Mother’s Day prayer retreat at a beautiful lake. My heart had been wrestling through some things with the Lord. I was trying to make sense of the season. It felt like a holy discontentment. Something had shifted in my heart and it felt like roots were being pulled out. My husband sent me on that prayer retreat to go wrestle things out with the Lord while he cared for our tiny typhoons (our daughters). I heard the Lord tell me to “go north” so I finished my prayer retreat and went home. I wanted to share that word with my husband because I knew that the Lord would not cause di-vision (two visions) in our marriage. Riley, my husband, confirmed the word that the Lord had given me so I resigned from my full time associate pastoral role that night. By June 2017 we were living with my in-laws 2 hours north of where we were living. We didn’t have a home, I did not have a job, and my husband did not have his job transfer. We had God’s word, the prayers and support of our people, and we had the strong desire to show our girls that obeying God is more important than our comforts and plans. There was one major city north of where we lived and where I pastored so I assumed the Lord meant that city because I always assumed that I would be a pastor in an urban area with immense cultural and racial diversity. God had other plans. Now I pastor a home church in a smaller city that is historically known for its Dutch Reformed roots and windmills.
We had the faith to follow God’s word, but we spent a lot of time trying to make His “go north” plan fit inside of our plans for where in the north we wanted to live. Some obedience is better than none, right? Wrong. God asks us to obey FULLY, not partially. We rob ourselves of Kingdom promises when we withhold our obedience to God’s plan for our lives. I didn’t want to move to Lynden because I couldn’t see myself here. How was I going to fit inside of this historically Dutch town as a pastor? I am a tattooed, piercing Asian female pastor from a big city who always dreamed of being a pastor in a diverse urban area. I was so fixated on how I couldn’t see myself here that I failed to see what God was doing. I realized that my own ideas, plans, and insecurities were limiting God. When we limit God, we are limiting ourselves in Kingdom work.
I always tell people that I don’t share this story of how fast we left our established life and my full time ministry position to go north to no pastoral job, no home and no friendships as a way to toot our own horns. We went quickly because my husband and I both had a united vision and a deep peace about the call. We knew we would find reasons to delay our obedience. We would have justified it because sometimes the call of God doesn’t make sense right away. Look at Abraham’s call to leave all that he knew to go to a place that God would show him. Look at David’s call to lead a nation when his pedigree was leading sheep. Or even Deborah who led a nation into battle and worship in a predominantly male-led culture. God doesn’t reveal all the details to the call. He reveals our heart to us by how we respond to the call.