Journey to Obedience

Terrance’s parents pastored a large church and were well known in their denomination. Unlike his elder brother, Terrance found it difficult to live their restrictive interpretation of holiness, and became the “black sheep” in a family of pure white.

He first encountered the living God when he was 12 years-old. Receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit changed his life, but the change faded. He failed to mature in his faith by relying on his parents and other respected leaders instead of developing his relationship with God.

Two years later, he sat in church listening to his father preach about God’s call to service every Christian receives. Terrance had an overwhelming urge to join his father on the stage. He could see himself as one with his father, even knowing what his father would say before he said it. Terrance eventually understood the experience as a call to ministry. As a pastor’s kid, he had witnessed and experienced the difficult life of ministers. It’s not the life he wanted, but the more he rebelled, the stronger the call became.

He tried to obey God during his senior year in high school. His father gave those who felt called to ministry an opportunity to speak at fellowship meetings, later called youth meetings. Usually, two or three would speak. Every time Terrance’s turn came, he could not put two thoughts together.

In his denomination, there were three options for full-time ministry: pastor, missionary, or evangelist. He had no desire to be a pastor or live overseas, so he decided to be an evangelist. His father arranged for Terrance to speak at other churches. The people were not as forgiving as his home church. His lack of spiritual maturity became painfully clear when a pastor invited him to speak three nights in a row, and Terrance struggled to develop three different sermons.

He looked for inspiration in a legacy gift his father gave to him and his brother. He thought the three-ring binder filled with his father’s sermons would make him as dynamic a preacher as his father. He soon learned he was wrong. Terrance lacked the relationship with God his father had.

Publicly, he continued the facade of a good Christian, privately he yielded to sinful desires. In his early 20s, he married and entered full-time ministry as a worship leader. The next five years, living the life of a hypocrite, were the worst years of his life that ended in divorce. Instead of turning his back on God, he returned to Louisiana to attend a large church where he could disappear in the crowd. Then his life took a downward spiral into alcoholism.

He could fool the people about his true spiritual state, but he could not fool God. One Sunday night, the preacher scanned the audience until his eyes fell upon Terrance. He motioned for him to come to the altar. Terrance resisted. The preacher persisted. Terrance yielded. He made the long walk from his seat on the balcony to his destiny. The preacher had a word from God that broke the chains of his rebellion. That night, Terrance surrendered his life to God, and God removed the lust to drink. He never drank alcohol again.

This time, Terrance stayed on the path to spiritual maturity. In his quiet times of prayer and reflection, God reminded him about the call to preach the gospel. He became a worship leader in a small church, where he met Mona and fell in love. They married and started a family.

They were married a little over a year when it entered Terrance’s heart to show Mona where he grew up. He was not a fan of New Orleans, but Mona wanted to see the city before they left. They were in the French Quarter doing tourist things when someone told them there was going to be an early Mardi Gras parade.

They found a spot at an intersection that gave them a good view when the parade passed. He sat on the side walk and wrapped his arms around his daughter to keep her safe. The parade began with colorful beads tossed their way. Then slowly became depraved as the people riding the floats replaced the beads with plastic body parts. Righteous indignation rose in Terrance. He wanted to call down hellfire and brimstone on these sinful people, and thought they are all going to hell.

God’s voice shook him from the top of his head to the souls of his feet. “Yes, they are. What are you going to do about it?”

Terrance, who never cried, started weeping and could not stop, as an overwhelming burden for New Orleans weighed heavily upon him.

On their way home, Mona looked at her husband and said, “What are you thinking?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“We are going to move here,” Mona replied.

“I think so.”

“What are we moving here for?”

“I think you know.”

“We are going to start a church here.”

“Yes,” said Terrance, as tears streamed down his face.

Terrance told his pastor he felt called to plant a church in New Orleans. His pastor neither encouraged nor discouraged him. He simply said, “Ok.”

The urge to move to New Orleans grew stronger with each passing day. He met with his pastor again. This time, the pastor said, “You don’t feel a call to preach. You don’t feel a call to pastor. God just gave you a burden for the lost. It’s my job to show you how to use that. You are not called to go anywhere. You are called to stay here.”

The pastor’s counsel troubled Terrance. But his father had raised him to respect the man of God. Fearful he would return to a lifestyle of rebellion, he replied, “OK, if God wants me to go to New Orleans, he will tell you. Until then, I am here to serve however you need me to serve.”

Three weeks later, the pastor asked Terrance to attend a prayer conference with him. Terrance turned on the TV in his hotel room. The news flashed images of New Orleans ravaged by hurricane Katrina. Again, Terrance could not stop crying for the city. He canceled his plans for the evening to stay in his room and pray. As he cried and prayed for the city, any doubts that God had called him to start a church in New Orleans vanished.

Abraham tarried in Haran fifteen years before he obeyed God. Terrance only tarried seven. Six years after he returned from the prayer conference, he approached the subject with his pastor again.

“No,” said the pastor, “you are not called to go to New Orleans. If you go, you will become an alcoholic, prostitutes will seduce you, and your kids will get raped.” Then the truth came to light. The pastor confessed, “If you go there without my blessing, it will kill this church. If you must leave, you need to go to a place that I bless.”

Again, Terrance set aside his convictions to obey human wisdom. “Where do you want me to go?”

The pastor and Terrance had a mutual friend who had asked Terrance multiple times to be his worship pastor. His pastor arranged for Terrance to be an associate pastor; with the understanding he would train a worship pastor. Terrance accepted the position, but it soon became clear that his new pastor had no intentions of finding a new worship pastor. Terrance and Mona were miserable. They endured eleven and a half months and twelve and a half hours before they returned to Louisiana and the center of God’s will for their lives. Obedient at last.

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