Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Risk of “Yes”

Written by: on September 6, 2018

I am consistently inspired and awed by what God can do through one human life. The fact that He continues to use His broken, flawed creation to bring about redemption in the world is astounding. Pullinger’s story is a beautiful narrative of just how much God loves all of humanity. I am particularly intrigued by her discovery of calling and her simple willingness to say, “yes.” It seems her journey is one that began with a strict view of God’s rules and expectations, continued through the shaping of positive community, and concludes with a freedom found only in the Spirit.

The danger of expectations. “I looked up at the sky and imagined God was up there with a big book. It had all our names in it, and every time you did something wrong, you got a mark (p. 27).” Pullinger’s initial concept of God was similar to my 7-year-old son’s concept of behavior and reward. At his school, when a student misbehaves, they receive a mark on the board. If they end the year under a designated number of marks, they receive a medal. He is doing his best to get through second grade with “no marks.” He often comes home to tell me all the things he wanted to explore in his class but was afraid to. He doesn’t want to get a mark. In the same way, our response to God’s call is framed by our initial understanding of His expectations of us. Just like Pullinger’s book in the sky, many of us have our own fear of not measuring up to God’s expectations. When it comes to calling, this fear can paralyze us and keep us from advancing into God’s purpose for us. What if Pullinger had taken the path of least resistance, free of risk…just to keep from getting a mark?

The safety of community. “It was the first time in my life that my toes did not curl up when someone talked to me about Jesus. I could discuss God easily in that flat (p. 30).” Before she could say, “yes” to the adventure God was calling her to, Pullinger had to find a place to ask questions. She needed to reimagine God without all the unrealistic expectations. The quote above is a powerful picture of what happens when we find a tribe of people who invite us to safe spaces. In my life, especially in times of discovery, it has been difficult to find a place where I could “discuss God easily.” I have been just like Pullinger, looking for the quickest escape route while really needing the richness of Spirit-empowered community. What if she had run out the door at that meeting in West Croydon rather than leaning in to hear the voice of the Spirit?

The power of the Spirit. “I explained to him that one reason why God was able to use me was because I kept in touch through using this gift [tongues] all the time (p. 226).” Pullinger understood that she did not have the answers for the transformation needed in the walled city. Her reliance on and desperation for the work of the Spirit led to the change of trajectory of multiple generations in her city. Not only did she allow the Spirit to guide her to those whose lives needed Him at that moment, but for generations to come. For instance, one of the young men Pullinger ministered to, Ka Ming, gave his time to minister to those who came after him. “He saw them as possible dragon slayers: a band of young men with new hearts and godly values willing to use their vigor and lives to serve the unlovely and unfound (p. 248).” What if Pullinger had given into those who questioned the activity of the Spirit in her life?

I grew up in a ministry family, and I have listened to powerful stories told by missionaries and church planters around the world. These miraculous stories of the supernatural work of the Spirit have created a longing in me to see what is possible when the church rids itself of false expectations, becomes a safe place to “discuss God easily,” and takes the risk of a “yes” to the transformative work of the Spirit.

About the Author

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

4 responses to “The Risk of “Yes””

  1. Karen Rouggly says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. As a mom of a six year old, I resonate with your experience walking your son through the trying task of getting “no marks”. I am especially struck by your last sentence about Pullinger – what would her life be like if she tried to get “no marks”? That’s such an interesting perspective. In the Church today, I find so many, myself included, waffling between the desire to take big risks for God, but only if we’re ABSOLUTELY sure God called us to risk. But Pullinger took so many risks and was able to explore so much through those risks.

    In your higher ed context, how do we help students at faith-based institutions take those good, big risks? It’s a question I feel like I’m grappling with daily! And then you throw in life as a mom, and I realize I have to also shepherd two sweet boys through figuring this out too! Whew!

  2. Mario Hood says:

    I found myself saying yes, yes yes, as I read your post. It’s incredible to me how many of us grow up with the same distorted image of God no matter if we grew up in the church or outside of it. I continue to learn that a false image of God leads to an incorrect expectation of God. Which as you pointed out, leads to the danger of expectation.

    I also loved your second insight into the power of community. In particular the power of the safety of a good community. We can all name a leader or pastor who does not feel like she or he has a safe place to discuss the issues of faith or life but desperately needs to.

  3. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thanks, Rhonda. Because we share a common background, I resonated with the quote by Pullinger and your desire for community to “discuss God easily.” It is unfortunate that many of us feel the resistance when we begin asking questions or share views that press the boundaries. I am always disappointed at the fear this invokes in Christians. Why is it that we cannot trust God and one another with our questions? Why must we limit our wonder inside the boundaries of the safe and known when we serve an infinite God? Isn’t it ironic that Pullinger discovered God as she had never known before, God outside the box, inside The Walled City.

  4. Thanks for your post Rhonda. I didn’t get to write about it on my blog but I too thought that the major theme in the book was the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was just everywhere present in the ministry of Pullinger. I appreciate how naive and felt like such a novice when she was encouraged to consider the power of the Holy Spirit in her life. I can relate. I can’t say that I’ve encountered the Holy Spirit in dramatic ways, i.e. speaking in tongues, etc., but I don’t deny it’s inner working in my life and the life of my friends and loved ones. Even though I don’t come from a charismatic background I don’t deny the power it has for others and how the church is better because of it.

    Another aspect of Pullinger’s Holy Spirit encounters that I appreciate is that she doesn’t sound preachy about it, considering how potentially divisive this has been for the modern church.

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