So why am I diving off of this cliff? Why am I walking away from a cushy six-figure job? Why am I downgrading from our “dream home” to a tiny apartment and why am I taking my kids away from the great school they go to? WHY???
Before you faint from curiosity, allow me to share a little bit about how I sensed God’s leading and how I got to this point.
It was 2011. Nancy and I had been serving at a church for 8 years when we began to experience a renaissance in our walk with God and understanding of the bible. A lot of metamorphosis took place between 2011 and 2013. These are just a few things that went down: 1-The Gospel became clearer and more beautiful; 2-Our convictions about discipleship became more focused and passionate; 3-Our appreciation for biblical ecclesiology grew exponentially; and 4-our love of and desire for people to be free from Satan’s traps intensified. Brothers like Paul Washer, Dr. Eric Mason, Matt Chandler, and Dhati Lewis became voices that I resonated with. Their ministries would become tools of encouragement that the Lord would use in my life.
This awakening led us to seek out a new church home that matched our convictions more closely. During this time, we visited A LOT of churches. Finally, we settled on one for 18 months. While there, I read through “Biblical Eldership” by Alexander Strauch and grew in my understanding of what pastoring/eldership was. Not only that but I also realized that eldership is something I’ve had the drive and desire to do for a long time. While we believe God led us to this church in order to grow us in many ways, ultimately we saw that we couldn’t stay long term. Nancy and I felt God giving us clear direction to keep it moving.
Desperate pursuit of God’s will
Not wanting to be church hoppers, we went to the Unashamed Conference in Atlanta, GA in 2013 to get advice from pastors attending the event. We trusted that pastors at this conference shared many of the same burdens we had when it came to doctrine, ministry, philosophies, styles, and contextualization. This trust was rewarded as God blessed us with GREAT individual conversations. D.A. Horton and his wife Elicia, Dhati Lewis and Shai Linne graciously took the time to hear our story and grant some wisdom.
The message we felt God collectively spoke through these individual convos was 1) Be upfront w/ the next potential local body about our major biblical convictions and 2) express my desire to be discipled, affirmed, and sent out for ministry elsewhere. We knew at that time that the elsewhere would be in an urban context.
Interestingly enough, from summer 2013 to summer 2015, God led me to start a bible study in the nearby “hood” to unpack the gospel in that community. Looking back, we can see how God used it as further training for what was to come.
Where God brought us to
After our trip to Atlanta, we found Redeeming Grace Baptist Church (www.rgbcmd.org). My pastor and friend, Adam Polk agreed to do those things mentioned above. As a result, I’ve been going through an apprenticeship where he has been faithful to meet with me, hold me accountable, recommend good books and give me ministry opportunities in the church.
Where God is sending us now
Answering the question “where are we gonna serve?” was tricky. Opportunities to plant a church in D.C., VA, and NC came, but in my heart it was obvious, I needed to go back home to New York City and faithfully serve there. You see, I never heard the gospel growing up in the Bronx . I don’t even remember meeting any serious followers of Jesus. The need WAS and STILL is great for biblical churches in the city. I was in denial for a time because to me, it just sounded too much like “Omar wants to live in the Bronx so that’s why he picked that location as his target to plant a church”. During this back and forth within ourselves, we prayed and sought counsel about where God would have us go. Eventually, I realized that God’s will and my desires didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Psalm 37:4 really helped in this situation: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”.
With the affirmation of RGBC, I applied for approval and backing from the North American Mission Board (www.namb.net). After TONS of assessments, we were “green-lighted” to be a church-planting family. I’m so grateful that I’ll be starting my time in a church planting residency with the Bridge Church (www.bridgechurchnyc.com) in Brooklyn this summer. During my time in the residency, I’ll be getting further training and affirmation from great leaders with church planting experience in the urban context. I’ll also be gathering up a core team of believers that will join us in the effort to plant a healthy church.
That’s the WAY condensed version! There are so many more things I could say about sensing and answering the call. So many more struggles. So many more breakthroughs. So many more great times in God’s presence and so many more experiences of His grace. I’ll end by saying that it is my GREAT PLEASURE to know and serve my Father in Heaven. He is still writing this story and it is for OUR good and the good of the city! That gets me crazy excited!
Feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have any!
Until the next blog...Peace!
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