After over 10 years of dreaming, praying, and visiting Philadelphia, the time has come for my family and I to finally move out of Texas and into the city of brotherly love. This has been such a long, exciting, anxious journey filled with doubts, struggles, enthusiasm, questions, frustration, affirmation, and joy. During these 10 years, we’ve sat with many leaders, church planters, and pastors. We’ve pursued degrees and gained a lot of ministerial/pastoral experience. We’ve started businesses to generate income. Most importantly, however, we’ve studied and preached from the story of Abram/Abraham.
The story of Abram has been a companion while on this journey. When I first began to spend significant time with this story, I was amazed at the heroic move of Abram to hear and obey the voice from God. “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Gen 12:2). When reading this verse and passage, it always amazes me that God would tell Abram to leave everything to go to a place, but not inform him as to the place he is going to. It is almost like God telling me to go to “adsfjsadhflds.” Where is “adsfjsadhflds”? Exactly, I do not know. In fact, it is an unknown place and frankly, I just banged on my keyboard and this “word” was formed.
The point is that God calls Abram to leave everything to go to a place without any direction. In this hyper informative age, it would sound ludicrous for me to inform my family and friends that God told me to go to “adsfjsadhflds,” let alone go to Philadelphia. This reflection has birthed a question in my heart: has the information age drowned our ability to hear God call us to go to places and do things that would leave us clueless like Abram? Have we become so educated and business savvy that we need to be sure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed before we take our first step? Are we still hearing from God? Is God writing new stories of faith using us as participants in his mission, or have we been paralyzed with contentment and fascination by reading what God has done in the past through the lives of biblical characters?
“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” (Gen 12:4). Where are you going, Abram? I imagine Abram saying, “I do not know, but I am walking.” I know of a family who would hear the voice of God to sell their home(s) and move to Africa or Guatemala and do something else that is often categorized as strange among many North American Christians. I have witnessed people criticize them for doing what we should be celebrating as an example of radical faith for the glory of God. I suspect that most Christians would celebrate people attending worship services on Sundays more than celebrate, support and pray for individuals and families who are hearing a fresh vision from God to do things that are abnormal. It is time for North American Christians to awaken from their ritualistic slumber and predictable ways and pay attention to a God who is moving rapidly and inviting people to move alongside him. This is the radical faith that is often missing in North American Christianity.
As my family and I are moving to Philadelphia, this is the worst time for us to move. Business is slow, finances are low, and we have only a vague vision as to what God is calling us to do in Philadelphia. And what I am learning in this season is that the story of Abram, though I have studied and preached this story time and time again, is not just a story but a call to return back to a faith that inspires us to move when God calls. The story reminds us that our “bad timing” is God’s best time. This is a story that reminds us that God calls us to walk by faith and not according to facts. When business was booming, that would have been the perfect time for us financially, but it would have been the worst time spiritually. Now that we are in limbo, this is the worst time financially but the best time spiritually.
So where are you going, Abram? I imagine Abram saying, “I do not know, but I am walking into my destiny” (Gen 2-3). How are you going to get there? I imagine Abram saying, “I will walk by faith and not by sight.”
When some ask you, “Where are you going,” what will your answer be?
Steven J. Brice is a proud New Yorker. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Christian Counseling from Amberton University and a Master of Divinity degree in Missions from Abilene Christian University. Steven and his wife Regina live in Dallas with their son Brian and daughter Brooklynn. The Brices and a few friends are planning to move to Philadelphia to join in God’s mission there. Lastly, the Brice family are the successful owners of Brice Enterprise & Choice A Real Estate Services.