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What Do I Need to Repent For?

  The coffee is good this morning. It’s especially good because it’s early. I awoke before 6am, but I lay there, because I hadn’t slept enough. Then thoughts of this blog started swimming in my head, so I knew more sleeping was not in the cards.   Some people are born bounding ou…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
 
The coffee is good this morning. It’s especially good because it’s early. I awoke before 6am, but I lay there, because I hadn’t slept enough. Then thoughts of this blog started swimming in my head, so I knew more sleeping was not in the cards.
 
Some people are born bounding out of bed, but most of the rest of us have this daily struggle. I think God gives it to us in part as a reminder of what he is looking for in the spirit. We are asleep and we need to awaken.
 
Jesus writes the church, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore…and repent.”
 
I knew he wanted me to share this passage at the Awakening, but then, because I believe that leaders need to model what they want from their followers, his action plan made me squirm.
 
Many of us were slumbering in the spirit. Jesus wanted us to wake up, so he wanted us to repent. And if he wanted us to repent, then he specifically wanted me to repent. People do what they see. As babies, we learn to mimic the smiles of our parents. Our mirror neurons cause us to grow into our humanity in the reflection of example. Leaders need to model behavior.
 
If our deeds were not complete, then that was true for me too. If we had a reputation for being alive, but were in some way dead, then I could start the accountability with myself.
 
Ugh. So in the morning before the Awakening, walking on my driveway, I wrestled this out. “OK, God, you have my attention, what should I repent for?”
 
I needed to repent.
 
And he began to unravel it for me. Not all at once. Not as though I were taking dictation. But in pieces the thoughts came to me.
 
Sixteen years earlier, He’d told me that a fatherless generation was growing up and that I should minister out of a fathering spirit. But too often since then, I’ve defaulted to positional authority and stewardship. 
 
For 16 years I’ve felt awkward in the role. I’ve wanted to defer to those for whom fathering came more naturally. But what people wanted from me was the fathering hat more than the boss hat.
 
“OK, God, I get it.” 
 
The conversation on my driveway continued as I listened for God’s still small voice. “And it’s not just one father – it’s a group of them. This tribe will never be born if the elders don’t step up – if the fathers don’t become elders. Young people are jaded. All they’ve seen are leaders who act out of self-interest. Who will show them a better way?”
 
“It’s true. I have looked for that too. We do have much to repent for.” I paused and reluctantly asked, “OK, while we’re on a roll, Lord, is there anything else on your heart?”
 
I was confused.
 
I’m collapsing time here as I play the conversation back to you. I’m not sure when it came to me, but the thought occurred, “the very thing God asked me to do is the thing I need to repent for.”
 
In 2007, while jogging on a Swazi road, the Lord had said, “Scale this for a movement.” I heard it, and knowing he was talking about the World Race, received it. And like Geppetto in the shoe shop, I’ve been diligently working on the assignment ever since.
 
But now God was saying “repent.”
 
Being a human being is confusing. You think you’re doing the right thing, and then you get a little perspective and you go, “whoops.”
 
Because so many people wanted to go on the World Race, I thought I had to scale at the speed of demand. We could only accept one in nine people showing interest in the Race. What was I to do? Obviously we needed people who thought more systemically than I did.
 
And so, we brought in people from outside. People who had skills and great intentions. Good people. Diligent people. People who slowly began to steer God’s dream off course. People I had to ask to leave. People who still may be nursing the wounds of our conversations.
 
The results hurt a lot of people. Who was responsible for their pain? Ultimately me. Growth hurts. We all make mistakes, but leaders have to own the consequences of their actions.
 
Public contrition & tissues
 
Last Thursday night, standing in front of the Awakening crowd, including my own board of directors, I shared all this. Because, much as I hated being up there, I only know one way to lead and ever since Adventures started in ’89, I’ve been messing up and repenting. 
 
It’s what God wants.
 
Then during Saturday’s session, God showed us he wasn’t finished. Jesse Green, a Racer alum, began to speak to the crowd about what else he wanted. And watching her, God was continuing to speak to me.
 
If you were there, you may have thought, “Well, this certainly isn’t on my schedule.” It wasn’t on mine, either. But it seemed that God wanted to do something with us to restore his body to health. We, the body of Christ, had been limping and hiding for a long time. It was time to get on the divine operating table.
 
I knew that if anyone was exhausted by ten years of messy labor to birth the dream of God, it was Clint. I drug him up onstage. And before long, the crowd was laying hands on the two of us and we were weeping and snotting. If I could have crawled off the stage, I would have. Double ugh.
 
Kneeling there in that heavy place, someone passed me a tissue and I don’t think I’ve ever needed one more. 
 
I guess it was what God had in mind, because the fruit afterwards was good. A number of those who I had hurt came to me over the next few days and said things like, “I’m sorry too. I was hurt. I didn’t even know that I was bitter, but I want to walk in freedom. Will you forgive me?”
 
Those exchanges are sweet. We are all flawed humans and we do better when we own our status. I don’t know if we’ll ever birth the dream of God. But if we do, we’ll do it together.
 
Frodo in Mordor
 
I mentioned to the crowd that I had felt like Frodo on a hard, lonely journey to give the World Race to a generation. And Clint had been my Samwise. We had struggled and bled and wanted to give up. It had felt like death and we were in desperate need of resurrection. Here is their dialogue:
Frodo : I can’t do this, Sam.
 
Sam : I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.
 
A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
 
Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?
 
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
I never wanted to do this alone. I’m glad that it’s not my private journey, but the fellowship of the ring. The world may look like Mordor sometimes, but our quest to establish freedom in dark places is a righteous one. I’m so glad that I get to do it with friends.

Comments (17)

  • Gosh. Thank you. You’re a man, a father, (and Clint) I always want to follow! It takes a lot of guts to repent in general (learning more and more every day as Erin and I go towards marriage), but to do so on stage…wow! Props. Haha. I’m sorry too by the by. One of the things I’ve also been learning as Erin and I are moving in this life together is regardless of what I learned on the Race or since then I still at times operate in my powerless flesh and not as the powerful man of God that I am! NO MORE! Boom! Haha.

    Thank you again for sharing your heart and conversations with Abba! Always good.

  • Thanks Seth. This spoke to me this morning about pressing on, even in pain, even in confusion. Trusting the Lords direction more than our own or the agenda of the world. Im with you in this journey!

    • Pat – you and Andrea were the best sermon illustration Monday morning that I’ve ever had! Thank you for doing what you could only see with the eyes of faith. It was a beautiful thing!

  • I’m so incredibly proud of you, and thankful. and humbled!

    I can’t IMAGINE all of the light that he’s about to bring in. New wisdom. Fresh breath. Come on Holy Spirit!
    So much beauty, from some dead ashes.
    He’s not finished with you yet 😉

    Take your time processing this. Like a phoenix, he often brings new birth/life through the ashes.

    Thanks for staying dedicated through all of this.

  • Seth, first, thank you for the courage and integrity in this blog.

    It’s only been two weeks doing training to be a raised up squad leader and I’ve already had to repent and try to reconcile the relationships I damaged on account of my immaturity and ego at the beginning of the race. But in it all, I am reminded of a question the Spirit keeps asking me: “What kind of man do you want to be? What would THAT man do in this situation?”

    Being separated from the military on account of mistakes I made 2 years ago, I told myself one key thing above all else: never again will I allow fear to prevent me from owning my mistakes or acting on the convictions of the Holy Spirit.

    I say all this because, while not explicitly said, you have touched on the one thing in this blog that’s been missing for a very long time – personal courage. It’s the last of the 7 Army Values and it’s the foundational one that set men apart in depths of Mordor. It’s the one that shines through in all those great stories. It’s the courage that comes from faith that God is big enough to orchestra that “some good” that Samwise spoke about, even when it all seems wrong and your flesh is screaming, “Don’t do it! You will fail and be rejected.” But as your blog shows, God’s goodness shines through when we choose humble repentance – overwhelming our insecurities and pride. And in the end, we awaken to a newness of life that brings others into that space as well.

    Thank you again for writing this and sharing your heart. It’s truly a blessing.

    • I like the way that you lead with courage, Charles! God is fashioning you into a weapon of mass destruction for his kingdom!

  • May we all be as courageous…& with God’s help we shall! What a wonderful Father we have who entrust us with so much…what love…what love

    • Troy – you are and have been! You encourage me. I think if we are ever to build a tribe, it will have vulnerability at its core.

  • Thx Seth! You encourage me!…
    This lady on TED is wreaking me on the topic of vulnerability.
    Brené brown

    Seems everywhere I turn it’s more on this topic! It is waters I will cross and right now I’m standing on the shore Thx for showing me what navigating the oceans of vulnerability & leadership could look like.
    I’m overwhelmed yet expectant/hopeful.

  • Made me cry. Good tears. Holy tears. Purposeful tears. There is a lot in here that moves my heart. Thank you for your transparency and teaching. I am learning.

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Seth Barnes

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.



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