Welcome to my blog! I have been writing it since 2005. For the first ten years, I wrote almost every day. I have been blogging less frequently of late.
I’m motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He’s on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he’s partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.
His son Jesus announced that project to all who would pay the price of following him. “Whom the son sets free is free indeed!” He said. And that challenge has stirred me to my bones. I want to pay the price to follow him and partner with him.
In 1979, I connected with the first of two passages of Scripture that have helped crystalize that challenge for me. In Isaiah 58, I saw an exchange that God is interested in. If I’ll set aside my needs and prioritize the needs of the weak and oppressed, he’ll take care of me.
Years later, what I saw Jesus doing in Matthew 10 fascinated me. I saw the journey of abandon that Jesus sent his disciples on. The implications of these passages were life-altering.
God gave me a tool to walk out that biblical pattern in a contemporary context with the World Race. If Jesus took his disciples on a three-year discipleship journey, I reasoned, could we perhaps get young people started on a similar journey in this modern day?
It grew out of my own personal journey – a physical journey that took me from Virginia to Central America, then to Indonesia and the Dominican Republic. And it found its roots in some of the trauma of growing up in Washington DC at the height of the cultural tumult of the late 1960’s. Here is that story:
When I was nine, my father left my family for a year to serve in the Viet Nam war. It was a sad day in our family when he left. We didn’t know if he would return one day in a body bag. My mom had us two kids (I was eight and my sister was five) and life wasn’t working too well.
Every week my father would send a letter or tape from Viet Nam telling us about the horrors of war and how much he loved us. My mother would get my sister and I together on the couch and share them with us.
If your father has ever left you, you know how painful it can be. There was a hole in my heart that only the love of a father could fill.
Though my mother loved me very much, she couldn’t give me a father’s love. The weeks went by and my father’s absence was a great void in my life. There was no one to throw the football to me. No one to take me fishing. There are things that only a father can do for a son. All of us have a hole in our heart that only a father can fill. I craved a father’s approval and his affection.
One day Shirley Wratten, a friend whose husband had died in the war, shared with my mom about a God who loved her in spite of her shortcomings. And my mom decided to put her life as she’d lived it up for foreclosure. She decided to move from a place of stiff religion to personal faith.
My mom went all-in with her new faith. Later, as I entered by teen years, I realized that she looked to the world like a crazy lady – a fanatic. But to us, as kids, her life of faith was normal. Mom passed out tracts to parking lot attendants. She led Bible studies in the bad part of town. She got up early and prayed on her knees.
I remember my mother read me the story of how God the father loved me so much that He sent His son to die for me. She read about Jesus’ painful death, a death he died so that I might have eternal life. I was cut to the quick.
God wanted to use my dad’s absence as a space to show me his fatherly love if I would just accept it. One night I did so, thanking God for what he had done for me and asking forgiveness for my sins. I didn’t understand Lordship, but I committed my life to Jesus.
So I grew up in a Christian home. My parents loved me and gave me many opportunities. My mother is a prayer warrior and a disciple maker. All my life I never wanted to be a fanatic. The life of a fanatic scared me to death. As a teenager and for a number of years thereafter, I afforded myself the luxury of not joining her in her craziness. I had never been a hot mess like her; never been wrecked. And so, I was able to follow God from a distance, like an admirer.
When I was a junior in high school, my mom encouraged me to go on a two-month mission trip to Guatemala. That took a lot of effort on her part, because I was shy and had no desire to do so. She propped me up in front of her friends and had me ask for prayer support. I thought to myself, “Why in the world would anyone ever want to support me?”
In 1975, things weren’t like they are now. Nobody in Columbia, Missouri went on short-term mission trips.
I got on a bus bound for Florida, and in a way, I was journeying away from my childhood and into the future. The trip to Guatemala was eye-opening in many ways. I saw poverty that I never knew existed. I fell in love with the exotic Indian culture. The beautiful volcanic landscape was beguiling.
The following summer I went on another mission trip, this time high into the Andes mountains of Peru. The love for missions that the Lord had awakened in me in Guatemala continued to grow.
But I later realized that this mission trip was missing two key factors that have since become essential truths to me. Instead of discipling me, the agency I went with focused on teaching us other things like personal hygiene and construction techniques. That led to a second gap in the experience – because most of our ministry was construction, I missed a great opportunity to interact with the nationals.
Still, as I went off to college, I knew that my future lay in overseas work. I was convicted by God’s heart for the poor and oppressed in Isaiah 58 and determined to commit my life to helping others understand that they can make a difference in the world.
During my senior year, a great human tragedy was unfolding. The Khmer Rouge was killing nearly two million of their countrymen. The Cambodian people were fleeing to the Thai border by the hundreds of thousands. As they spilled across the border on the brink of starvation, they were placed in large refugee camps.
When I read about what was happening in Cambodia, it cut me to the quick. I knew I needed to do something to help. I looked for an opportunity to go work in a refugee camp and within a few weeks, I was on a plane to Thailand.
Leaving college wasn’t easy. I’d recently fallen deeply in love with my wife-to-be and was courting her. I had a group of friends that I was looking forward to spending time with. I had all my courses lined up. But what could I do? I knew God was calling me.
The experience with refugees inspired me to go deeper in pursuing a life of ministry. After college, Karen and I were married. We went directly to Indonesia where I did economic development work to help the poorest of the poor. Later, we moved to the Dominican Republic and did the same thing there.
It was only after completing business school and continuing on in ministry that I discovered what had been missing from my walk with the Lord all my life. It was intimacy. While I’d always heard about having a personal relationship with Christ, I’d never understood that it’s possible to hear his voice.
I was at a retreat where author and pastor, Peter Lord, spoke to us about hearing God’s voice. It was a hard time in my life and I was in a broken and desperate place. And as I prayed, I heard God speak to me and say, “I love you, Seth.”
It overwhelmed me! This was not something I’d imagined – it was God the Father bending down and speaking to me in such an intimate way.
After that experience, I began to earnestly seek the Lord. Prayer became much more important to me.
As I pressed into him, for the first time I began to see what a personal relationship with God can be. I wanted to share the good news I’d discovered with others. So evangelism became a passion.
As my children began to grow up, I discovered what it meant to disciple them. This then began to spill into my ministry as I applied what I was seeing with those going on mission trips. A passion to follow Jesus’ methods became more important than anything else. And I saw that they worked – young people were changed as we invested deeply in them.
I’ve been in full-time ministry for a while now. I’m a work in process. I’ve found that the main thing one needs in a relationship with God is hunger to know him and be in his presence.
Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.
I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.