Lisa Cheadle is a leader in C&YA and serves on our praise team, Temple Worship. In this post she shares with us her testimony of spiritual growth. She reflects on how God used her discipleship relationship to help her see his desire for her life and the purpose of the local church’s structure.
“Stop elevating your feelings and circumstance above the Word and God’s mission for your life.”
This statement was earnestly proclaimed by our pastor, Sam Miles, months ago. It’s one that unmistakably epitomizes my discipleship journey and continues to hold weight that convicts me even now. Upon coming to Midtown, the purpose of structure and the value of submission were two things I thought I understood and had a decent grasp of. It didn’t take long however, for God to strip down the layers of what I thought I knew and replace them with a heart of humility—one that realizes I don’t always know as I ought.
I was a zealous little Pharisee as a child; growing up in church, I felt automatically qualified for such a position. I possessed little knowledge and a lot of zeal. In those years, I’d occupy my days tattling on classmates for not accepting the gospel when I shared it with them. I was that kid. As I grew in maturity I started the see the power of the Holy Spirit in my life and began to understand the implications of what it meant to wholly belong to God. I was going on missions trips. I was sharing the gospel with my friends. I was pursuing His Word, willing to walk through any doors He opened along the way. If it meant not being popular, I knew having Jesus was gain. If it meant losing friends, I knew Christ was always there. Up to that point there were no intellectual qualms; Jesus said to have faith, so I believed.
My sophomore year of high school marked the beginning of an internal struggle of doubt that would take deep roots within. The church I knew and loved was splitting. Pastors and leaders I loved and trusted were walking away from their faith. Division plagued our congregation. Church ceased to do the job of edifying, and instead wrought heartache and brokenness. It left me skeptical. I reached the conclusion that I couldn’t fully trust the church, but I could still follow His Word and seek Him to lead me. I had godly fellowship at school, and began for a season going to church with them, getting involved with various ministries in the community. While the church had seemingly failed me, my God had not. I did fully realize that all the while my skepticism of structure and man was growing. Along the way, someone said, “Lisa, you’re more of a heart person, not really an intellectual.” Thus began my hunger for more knowledge, because by gosh I was going to prove them wrong. Pride, pride, pride.
I’m looking for leaders who are willing to do whatever it takes
Things at church settled down and God in his faithfulness repaired what man had intended to destroy. I moved to Costa Rica for a year, partnering with a ministry that equipped young people in the Bible and Spanish, and there my life was changed dramatically. God grew my heart for missions all the more, giving me vision for what I thought life was going to look like when I got home.
I got home and was met with the altered reality that I didn’t have the community I once had. The road was unknown and I again had to trust in His leading.
God brought me to Midtown after many crazy circumstances. There I had loving community, the Word was preached faithfully and things seemed to be going well. However, this was a temporary fix in my mind. I thought God was about to send me across the world at any moment to do awesome things for Him, be a Jesus preaching machine and make thousands of disciples. Keep in mind, brothers and sisters, there is a grand difference between asking God to bless your plan and truly seeking His will for your life. I got a teaching position in Peru two months later. I came to our college pastor at the time and sought his blessing, expecting him to give me the go-ahead. He then defined the difference between going and being sent and how God gave us the structure of the church to protect and send equipped disciples at the right time.
Well. You don’t know me. I think this whole “structure” thing is weird and controlling. I don’t use your type of Bible and I’m equipped to go. So….
“I’m looking for leaders who are willing to do whatever it takes,” he later told me. That stopped me in my tracks. In my pride, I had forgotten so much. I had stopped depending on Jesus to form me and grow me, assuming I was further along than I was. God closed the Peru door abruptly, and in that he opened one that led me right to discipleship.
My eyes were opened and so were my hands
Walking through that door led me to Rachael Ong. She didn’t meet me loaded with contempt or condemnation; she met me where I was. She saw me. She didn’t seek to change me, but knew the sufficiency of Scripture would do just that. She revealed a pattern of faithlessness in my life, but didn’t leave me to figure it out on my own. Even as a nurse cherisheth her children, she cared for me. She loved me enough to tell me hard truth.
By learning the heart of Jesus pertaining to worship, His Word, and His bride, I learned for myself that my heart was closed off in certain areas, and faithless in others. I learned that I wasn’t seeking God’s glory in the things I did, but that I was seeking my own. I saw through the lens of Truth that I often elevated my ever-changing feelings above the surety of God’s Word in my life.
Through Rachael’s faithfulness and diligence to point me back to the Word, my calloused heart toward the church was softened. My eyes were opened and so were my hands; I was made ready to be a vessel for the Master’s use. God slowed me down and shined His light on the darkest places of my heart.
He’s making me a ready minister with a heart to reach my community and a heart for the lost—wherever that puts me geographically. I’m humbled and eager to grow for the right reasons, to continue discipling and getting equipped. I’ve learned that He’s the greatest Teacher, the one I will be learning from for the rest of my days.