Season 2 | EPISODE 5

Living in the Favor of God: Longevity in Life and Ministry

58:01 · October 3, 2023

In this episode, a Serge missionary couple opens up about how leaning into God’s favor and grace has not just sustained but enriched their 20+ years of ministry. They candidly discuss the challenges of feeling the pressure to have it all together, their efforts in nurturing a culture of grace within their team, and helping other ministry leaders in Europe find much-needed spiritual renewal. Their story underscores how learning to receive and extend God’s favor frees us to step boldly and tenderly into the world with love.

In this episode, a Serge missionary couple opens up about how leaning into God’s favor and grace has not just sustained but enriched their 20+ years of ministry. They candidly discuss the challenges of feeling the pressure to have it all together, their efforts in nurturing a culture of grace within their team, and helping other ministry leaders in Europe find much-needed spiritual renewal. Their story underscores how learning to receive and extend God’s favor frees us to step boldly and tenderly into the world with love.

In this episode, they discuss...

  • Longevity in ministry—the biggest threats to endurance (9:15)
  • Cultivating an atmosphere of grace on ministry teams (20:03)
  • What’s the difference between God’s grace and God’s favor? (22:20)
  • Why we should never discount our “showing up” in ministry (32:00)
  • How thinking transactionally toward God limits our ability to love others well (37:02)
  • The key to pointing ministry leaders (and ourselves) back to the gospel (45:37)

Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!

Referenced in the episode...


Our guests for this episode have chosen to keep their identities anonymous to protect their safety and the safety of those they serve. At Serge, we have many workers serving in closed-access countries around the world, and we prioritize security, which is essential for the success of their work. This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen, Aaron Gray, Brooke Herron, Ashlie Kodsy, and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy

𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.

Connect with us!

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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at podcast@serge.org


*Names and specific locations have been omitted from this transcript to protect the sensitive nature of the team’s work and the privacy of the communities involved.


Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His Kingdom.


0:00:24 Jim Lovelady Hello, beloved, welcome to another episode of Grace at the Fray. If someone asked you to describe how God thinks of you, would you be able to articulate with personal stories, how you understand that you live in God’s favor?  You know, you live in God’s favor, right? Believe it. Zephaniah 3:17 says this, The Lord your God is in your midst a warrior. Who gives victory? He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will renew you in His love. 

Now, there are two characters in the Bible that represent for me, two ways that you can experience living in the favor of God, the first is King David, and the second is his great, great, great something or other grandmother, Ruth. So King David was called the man after God’s own heart, so it’s easy to think about how the favor of God rested on him. He said that David did pretty much whatever He wanted, sometimes it was good, but a lot of the time it was bad, he sinned boldly and he repented boldly because He knew that God’s favor rested on him. In his darkest moments, he leaned into God knowing that God loves him. So here’s a guy who lives life arrogantly, self-righteously, passionately, because he knows that he has the favor of God. 

On the other hand, the story of Ruth brings out a different way to settle into the favor of God: she’s timid, broken, and needy, she’s the kind of character that when we see, we all root for her because she’s the underdog, and it’s easy for us to have compassion on someone like Ruth. 

The story of Ruth and Boaz is a picture of God’s favor, and we have a wonderful sense of satisfaction when we see Boaz take such tender care firm, it’s a beautiful story. 

Well, a core aspect of the DNA of Serge is the idea that gospel renewal leads to mission. So, as regards to living in the favor of God, I think about it in two ways: are you experiencing the favor of God for yourself? Well, that’s the renewal piece. Are you embodying to others the favor of God? Well, that’s the mission piece. 

My guests today are [Redacted], and they serve in Spain, where they find themselves shepherding ministry leaders and other missionaries and pastors. Their main goal is to settle into the favor of God so that they can create a context where people around them are also able to settle into the favor of God.

And in this conversation, you’ll see how they practice a little King David-type boldness and tenacity and some Ruth-like humility in their life and ministry because they cultivate the understanding that they live in the favor of God.

0:03:02 Jim Lovelady: Okay, so how’s the culture shock…is it weird every time?

0:03:32 CJ: I feel like I pay less attention to it…

0:03:36 Jim Lovelady: It’s just there.

0:03:41 CJ: Yeah, I’m always struck by certain things…the affluence in America.

0:03:46 Sally: One thing we often don’t know what to do is, in Spain, our understanding is that when you’re invited over for a meal, you stay for hours and hours. But when in America when you’re invited over, we’ve found that we don’t have a sense of social rules…

0:04:02 CJ: We have no intuition.

0:04:03 Sally: And no intuition for how long, ’cause we feel like the conversation has just gotten going, but we’re wondering whether people are thinking… I need to go to bed, or I need to move on with my day. And so that’s a point of confusion for us. We often just tell people, we’re probably not gonna read the cues, but please let us know—we’re not offended.

0:04:25 Jim Lovelady: What would be the cues, I suppose?

0:04:28 Sally: Yawns…

0:04:30 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, in the evening. Yeah, well, looking around or something, I don’t know.

0:04:35 Sally: And we don’t wanna put people in a position where they feel like they’ve got to throw us out…

0:04:39 Jim Lovelady: We used to have, at my old church, small group Sunday evenings at my house, and that awkward. I don’t know when to kick people out. I was just like, we gonna have to face this. And so it was just like, alright, I love you all…get out! And everyone laughs, and then it became like this mantra every Sunday evening about the same time—everyone would be like, Oh, I love you, now get out. Just like a choir of people.

0:05:10 Sally: I had a friend who said when she was ready for people to leave, she’d say, “Hey, can I get a picture of everybody?” and everybody would crowd together on the couch, and then after the picture, people didn’t really know what to do and they would start leaving.

0:05:24  Jim Lovelady: Wow, that’s genius.

0:05:27 Sally: It is pretty genius.

0:05:30 Jim Lovelady: It’s like twiddling their thumbs. I guess we’ll go home now. You know in Spain, they do this. That’s Lori and I’s cue.  I’m gonna keep it off camera; that’s Lori and I’s cue when I’m at a party. From far away. I’ll be like…

0:05:48 CJ: Right? Yeah.

0:05:48 Jim Lovelady: You know, I wanna leave. Let’s go. You’ve just gotten used to it.

0:05:57 CJ: I don’t know that we have. In many ways, it feels like even though we want to land and kind of slowly enter in, it feels like we really land and start running. Yeah, we don’t think about it a lot. You don’t pay attention to things for my kids like, “Hey, what do you think of that?” or “Do you understand that? Do you know what they mean by that or…”

0:06:30 Jim Lovelady: How have they been doing? 

0:06:33 CJ: I think in general, quite well. We listened to a webinar on how to care for TCKs (Third culture kids)  on HA (Home Assignment).

0:06:48 Jim Lovelady: Third culture kids on home assignment.

0:06:48 CJ: Exactly, and basically it said, the first three or four months, TCKs are in a state of unsettled and they’re gonna struggle more, not necessarily with things you can point out, but they’re just gonna probably be more difficult, complain more.

0:07:10 Sally: Yeah, our work selves are heightened under the stress, I think, of entering in and adapting and it’s true for the kids as well.

0:07:19 CJ: Yeah, right. With that said, they’ve done well, and they actually suggested every time we’ve come back, we’re like, okay, our kids don’t have friends in the US, so every time we go to a church, we kind of force them in the Sunday school. If they can go to a youth group, they’ve gotta go. And this webinar basically said that that’s a good idea, in theory, that you want them to have friends, but it really doesn’t work out in reality like that. And maybe we should be more gracious towards our kids.

0:07:56 Sally: And protective.

0:08:00 CJ: So, we’re trying to move in that direction this time. Even though our kids would say, you’re just dragging us around to a lot of different places!

0:08:09 Sally: We really are.

0:08:09 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah, yeah. ’cause that’s what they’re experiencing. You expect to have the culture shock going into a foreign country but when you come back to your first country, there’s a language.

0:08:24 CJ: Home country.

0:08:24 Sally: Home country.

0:08:24 CJ: A passport country, you might say.

0:08:27 Jim Lovelady: It’s often surprising, and I remember when we came back from Spain, being surprised at how jarring it was and really having to wrestle with all these things about America that now I don’t like. And all that kind of stuff. But for a kid who doesn’t have the language or anything like that, it’s gotta be very exhausting.

0:08:54 Sally: Yeah, it is. I think because we’ve been doing this a long time, not even conscious of it, but I just click into “America mode” and it’s just a different setting. Gonna just do it. But things do pop their heads up and surprise us or remind us. 

0:09:15 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, how long have you all been doing this? 

0:09:19 Sally: 23 years for me.

0:09:21 CJ: And 21 for me.

0:09:24 Jim Lovelady: Okay, well, my wife and I just celebrated 21 years of marriage.

0:09:30 CJ: Congratulations.

0:09:31 Jim Lovelady: Your ministry is of legal age to drink, so…

0:09:34 Sally: That’s right.

0:09:34 Jim Lovelady: I can give it that way.

0:09:34 CJ: Yeah.

0:09:36 Jim Lovelady: So party on. That’s kind of what I wanted to talk about—you all have had a certain kind of longevity in ministry that is pretty incredible. And so I wanted to see, how do you stay? 

0:10:02 CJ: I’ve got lots of thoughts when I hear that, but one is a story that one of our teammates in [Redacted] would tell when he first arrived in Spain any time he met someone who had been in Spain for more than 15 years. He would say, “Okay, what’s your secret?” And he tells the story about this man that he met who had been in Spain for 20 years, and he said, “Okay, what’s your secret?” and the man thought for a minute and he said, “Stubbornness.” 

And the first time I heard the story, tears started rolling in my eyes. Not because I ever thought that before, but I related to it. I haven’t left, not because I’m strong or not because I decided I’ve got to do this or anything… it’s just…well, I haven’t left. That’s one of the reasons that I’m still there, right? That’s not profound or anything. 

But in all seriousness, I think team has been critical for us. I think about the teams that we’ve been on and their different looks throughout the years, and without team, there’s no way. There’s no way we would still be there, in my mind.

0:11:24 Sally: What came to my mind, too, was what makes me wanna go back or what would make it really sad to not go back? And if that were the case, I think it’s getting attached to specific people. I’ve got a people group, and we’re learning to enjoy the people in general, but specific faces coming to mind make me wanna go back to them. And also, because we were in [Redacted] for a number of years and then shifted to [Redacted] and had to start over (not completely because we understood a lot about what it was to live in Spain) but I remembered this familiar feeling of I’m sitting around with a group of moms from school and I don’t know them very well, and it feels awkward and I don’t know what to add to the conversation. And we’re learning another language now, and I can’t speak it very well. But I remembered you have to live through the awkward and the hard to get to the good stuff, right? And we got to the good stuff in [Redacted], and so I think in general, lasting or enduring is realizing and accepting there’s going to be a whole lot of hard and a whole lot of awkward. It may not be dramatic, but it’s still hard. But seeing all the really sweet stuff is moving through that and there’s no way around it.

0:12:54 Jim Lovelady: And having experienced it already in [Redacted], it’s like, oh, we could do this again because that was totally worth it.

0:13:02 Sally: Yes, that helps. So someone just starting out has to believe blindly but remember another situation where they had to live through that to get there.

0:13:16 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, what was one of the other thoughts? You said you get a flood of thoughts.

0:13:19 CJ: I think God’s just been gracious to us as well. I hear of other people’s stories, things they’ve had to face. I haven’t had to face that. God’s been gracious.

0:13:35 Sally: I had some ministry experience in other countries before our company before Spain, and I always felt I needed to prove myself and I needed to show like I’m really good at this cross-cultural thing. So, I’ll eat anything, I’ll try anything. But there are, for example, with food, some things I just really, really don’t like. And so, I remember my first day or two in Spain, I was with our team leaders, and they served olives with anchovies in them. And I did not like the anchovies and I didn’t know about the olives, but I felt the sense of, they’re just getting to know me. I want to impress them. And I want them to think they didn’t make a mistake by saying yes to her. It was this awkward thing. And I can’t remember whether I ate that olive or not, but I know that when new people have joined us, I’ve wanted to reassure them like, “Please don’t feel like you have anything to prove…” One thing that helps with longevity, is being willing to let us know or let teammates know, or a trusted friend know when it’s hard. You don’t have to keep your game face on because all of us who’ve been here longer know that it’s really hard.

We expect it to be hard. Very often, in fact, something really, really hard happens in the first few months, and…

0:15:04 Jim Lovelady: You’ve seen that…

0:15:06 CJ: Yeah.

0:15:08 Sally: Over and over again. And I don’t normally tell people that when they come. And I don’t wanna pat them on the head when the hard thing happens. But between us, we’re like, oh, there it is again. I don’t know if it’s spiritual warfare or if it’s God’s refining or some mysterious intermingling of both.

0:15:24 Jim Lovelady: All that, yeah.

0:15:26 Sally: But it’s predictable. And so, when people suffer that alone, either because they feel like they have something to prove or are scared to be known, or whatever the source is, I think it really does undermine longevity, in a big way.

0:15:42 Jim Lovelady: When those things catch you by surprise and you’re reeling and sometimes you don’t recover from that kind of reeling. So. you guys have been in this long enough to see that and be able to predict that. That’s just a lot of wisdom there.

So, this isn’t changing the subject, but this is kind of a tangential aspect of this…I know that your ministry is toward ministry leaders, which I resonate with because I came to Serge with the Renewal team because I have experienced burnout, pastoral burnout, and ministry burnout throughout the pandemic.

I’m seeing tons of people, tons of pastors that are just like, “You know what, forget this, this is stupid. I’m gonna go get a part-time job at a furniture store or do anything…” So, my heart for walking alongside burned-out pastors and missionaries and ministry leaders is…I feel it, I know. It’s a thing. 

And so that’s what you’re doing, but it also comes from this foundation of hey, we’ve stuck this out, we’ve been tenacious or stubborn or whatever. The Lord has been good, and we’ve had people that have been around us, and people that we love, and can’t imagine doing life without. And all of that are the ingredients for us sticking it out by the grace of God in the midst of…the stubbornness may be an idolatrous tenacious, whatever…but still, the Lord is going, this is how I’m gonna work my salvation through you. This is how you are gonna work yourself at your salvation out with fear and trembling, and this is how your sanctification is gonna be happening. 

So talk about what you all are doing, and this might be embarrassing to say, but I think it’s worth celebrating, so I wanna hear you talk about how what the Lord has done over the last 23, 21 years, has put you guys in a position where he’s made you capable and wise and ready to do this kind of ministry where you go, “Yeah, you know what? You can expect that things are gonna blow up in a couple of months…” It’s profound, the kind of wisdom that you have to offer a young missionary, so feel free to brag about yourselves.

0:18:17 CJ: This isn’t bragging about ourselves, but it is related to what you’re talking about. I can’t remember when this was, but sometime in the last 10 years, I went to a retreat for pastors in Spain as a participant, and I met lots of Spanish pastors. But I remember several of them sharing at that little two or three-day retreat, that they had been walking in the desert for months and hadn’t had a drop of water. And they got a drop and it was like, this is the best thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. 

And I remember thinking, wow they’re really struggling. But I experience something like this retreat every week during team meeting. Does that make sense? Like a place where when I’m struggling, I can just say it, and people are praying for me, and then they’ll ask me about it later. 

So I realized that my experience of being in ministry on a team where it’s safe to struggle is not what most people experience. Especially pastors. Especially church leaders. And so I thought, huh, you know, I’ve been working as a team member and then later as a team leader facilitating this type of environment…is it possible to do this with ministry leaders? Can we provide something that I’ve experienced as normal? Is there some way that we can replicate that to some extent with other ministry leaders so that they can get what I’ve been receiving? Does that make sense? 

0:20:03 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, absolutely. So walk through the distinction between what you have been cultivating over the years. For example, why are your teams a safe place to not be perfect? Why are your teams a safe place to be open and vulnerable, especially in pastoral ministry? In ministry, in general, the expectation is for the ministry leaders to be super Christians. So, how did you bridge that? 

0:20:38 CJ: I remember when I arrived in Spain and I had in my mind, I do not want to be a burden on my team leaders. And I remember I’d been there a week or so, and somehow I let them know, look, I don’t want to be a burden, and they were like, “Whatever gave you that idea that you couldn’t be a burden? That’s why we’re here.”

0:20:55 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, that’s what you were talking about earlier.

0:21:00 CJ: We, and they, cultivated this atmosphere, this culture of grace in a sense, where they shared their weaknesses. They asked for prayer, even though they were, you know, 20-some years older than us. And they not only loved us, but we saw them loving other people in radical ways. And it was just like, okay this is what we received. We received this atmosphere of grace and for the most part, our teams have done fairly well together.

0:21:39 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, well, when you say that, immediately my mind goes, so they never fought? No…

0:21:48 CJ: No, no, no…definitely there were disagreements, there were tensions…

0:21:50 Sally: Differences…

0:21:51 CJ: Differences of opinion. But that was entered into in this atmosphere of favor. I don’t think it’s something that we cultivated, I think it’s something we received and tried to continue to live out of, even as we led. I don’t have like a paradigm, like “Here are the rules of it.”

0:22:20 Jim Lovelady: You keep using the word grace, so that’s the paradigm.

0:22:23 CJ: Sure.

0:22:26 Jim Lovelady: Okay, grace as opposed to what?

0:22:27 CJ: It’s relational, you know? So I want to say grace rather than rigidness. Not that there was never anything that we weren’t rigid about, plenty that we’re rigid about, but…

0:22:44 Sally: Maybe as opposed to…there’s something really uniquely wrong with you.

0:22:48 Jim Lovelady: Oh, interesting.

0:22:50 Sally: Yeah, I was gonna say, like, I think we inherited this from the founding team leaders, and then I think we’ve practiced it, not unfailingly. But I think we’ve shared our own need with the team, asked for prayer, and shared our struggles and sin. Not just struggles, like hard things that happen, but our sin patterns. And I hope that that creates an environment where someone feels like, they too can share. I mean, different people have different levels of comfortability with that, just from personality or background issues, but I think we did experience in [Redacted] an environment where we were really sharing ourselves with one another and supporting one another. And most of the time, not unfailingly, especially if someone’s sharing their struggle, there wasn’t a sense of judgment or “Oh that’s really alarming.” But I can also think of sometimes when we were in leadership situations where I think we did the opposite.

0:23:53 CJ: Exactly.

0:23:55 Sally: And we did, you know, I can think of some specific situations where we did make people feel like there was something especially wrong with them. Or that because they didn’t do things the way we thought it needed to be done…

0:24:07 Jim Lovelady: Sure.

0:24:12 Sally: So, you know, we’re growing in that as well.

0:24:16 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I love the word “favor” that you use because the word grace is like, I mean, the podcast is called Grace at the Fray, you know, so it’s a good word. Not just for a podcast, but it’s a good word. But for you to tweak it a little bit with the word “favor.” where there’s this context where you have the favor of God. If you mess up, if you are caught in sin, this isn’t the end of the world because God’s grace is sufficient for that. Well, let’s not put it to the test, not like, go on sinning so the grace should abound, it’s not that. It’s like, what does it look like to swim through those kinds of waters? What does it look like to navigate a world where you have the favor of God?

And so let’s just presuppose that you have the favor of God, how would we behave? 

Well, I guess that would mean that I have to move towards someone with the understanding that I want to walk with you. Jesus says, show them the same kind of favor that I show you. Welcome to repentance and the struggle… So where do you see the word “favor” in all of this? 

0:25:39 CJ: I think for me, “favor” is a relational term. It’s not status. But when I think of it, if I’m going to have a relationship of favor, it’s, “I am for you, even if I don’t agree with you.” “I’m for you even if you just did something really stupid.” Now obviously, we don’t practice this without fail, as [Redacted] mentioned. I start remembering all the things, but that would be a desire that we could operate that sort of way. 

I can think of an example…someone that I was talking to recently was in a hard situation, the direction they were leaning and responding to the situation I thought was a really bad direction. And I mentioned that. I said to them, “I think this is a bad direction,” and I went home thinking, “Okay, what if they take this direction?” 

0:26:50 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. What am I gonna do? 

0:26:50 CJ: Right, how am I going to respond to that? Because this could go public, this could affect my ministry, in a sense. I’m advising this person who’s gonna go in this direction—what does that say about me? And I thought, “How does Jesus respond when I make all kinds of really bad decisions?”  It doesn’t change his outlook on me and I thought, you know what? I’m sticking by this person, even if they make a mess out of this. I want to stick with them and show them, even though I disagreed…I haven’t rejected. So, that’s one example of what I wanted to do. It turned out, it didn’t work out in this bad way, but that’s a picture of what I’m shooting for when I think of favor.

0:27:53 Sally: I think the opposite comes to my mind as well. I think of Jesus’ words in Luke 7 where he says about the simple woman in Simon’s house, “He who has been forgiven much, loves much” or the parable of the unmerciful servant. And when I’m harsh with someone in my family, I do feel like maybe the Holy Spirit is ringing in my ears well. The problem there is that I don’t really grasp my status—the favor I’m under. And therefore, it’s coming out sideways. And so, as opposed to me just trying to work on the externals, (I think there’s worth to that of trying not to be harsh with and repenting of that) but also feeding the, “Oh Lord, I really, really don’t know that I’ve been forgiven much,” or “I’m still holding over someone else because that hasn’t penetrated deeply enough.”

0:28:57 Jim Lovelady: It’s where the rubber meets the road for how to love other people. It means I need to relinquish control. Well then, you know, coupled with that, if I relinquish control—who’s got me? Have you seen Superman? The Christopher Reeves, 1979 Superman?

0:29:18 Sally: Long time ago.

0:29:26 Jim Lovelady: One of my favorite movies. And there’s this scene where Lois Lane is up in the helicopter and it’s about to fall off a skyscraper. And she falls out of the helicopter, plummeting to her death, and everybody’s down below, and they’re like, ohhhh, and up comes Superman and he grabs her and says, “Don’t worry, I got you,” and she goes, “You got me…who’s got you?” 

And it’s like that. If I relinquish my control, do I have the favor of God in such a way where if I relinquish control—who’s got me? Because I’m so used to being in control and here I am. 

You know, the story that you unpacked was, I need to love this person more than I love my own agenda. How are you gonna do that? And your answer is, well, you have to lean into and trust that the favor of God is a real thing for you right now, and that liberates you, to go, okay, if I have the favor of God, then maybe I can let this person try what they wanna try, and it’s like, oh, is this gonna work? You know, and it’s scary and we do it imperfectly. Anyway, when did you realize that we’re not leaving? When did you realize that? 

0:30:48 CJ: I don’t know that I have…

0:30:55 Jim Lovelady: Oh, interesting.

0:31:00 CJ: You know, people have asked me over the years at different points, like, do you think you could ever live in the United States again? And I’m like, sure, if God calls me there, I could do that. Even now people are like, will you be in Spain like forever? And I’m like, I really don’t know.

0:31:20 Sally: But we never talk about life anywhere else.

0:31:20 CJ: No.

0:31:22 Jim Lovelady: Right. I mean, the practical reality is you don’t talk about life anywhere else.

0:31:28 CJ: Yeah. I don’t know that it’s my love of Spain that keeps me there. It’s a sense of purpose, a hope in that purpose that’s where I am right now, I’ve got lots of hope.

0:31:42 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, say more about that.

0:31:45 CJ: You know, we’ve been in [Redacted] for four years. 

0:31:50 Jim Lovelady: Has it been four already? 

0:31:52 CJ: Yeah.

0:31:57 Jim Lovelady: Holy moly. Okay.

0:32:00 CJ: We went through Covid there, and so that changed things. But in general, I kind of look back on those four years and go, wow, I had no idea how doors were gonna open for the potential ministry that we were wanting to be part of. And I look back and I go, but it’s happening, and I believe that’s the work of God. And I believe, you know, sometimes with doubts, that what we’re hoping to be part of will actually produce fruit and longevity. And not just longevity, but flourishing of local pastors, local churches, and multiplication. But I can’t draw a line and say, this is how it’s gonna work. It’s like we’re walking in a direction and we’ve seen God meet us so far, and we’re gonna trust that he’s gonna continue meeting us as we keep walking with Him. And that fills me with lots of hope.

0:33:05 Sally: Yeah, there’s just a sense that God is in it. I don’t know that I consciously think that way, but I think that’s what fuels the conviction to stay.

0:33:17 Jim Lovelady: How do you keep your antenna open or tuned to that? Where you get a sense that God is in it? Describe what that’s like.

0:33:26 Sally: Well, I think it’s a subjective interpretation.

0:33:27 Jim Lovelady: Oh, totally, absolutely.

0:33:29 Sally: Wow, God opened that door…People, you know, sometimes ask [Redacted] to mentor them, ’cause they can’t create this ministry, but it seems like God is unfolding this other ministry that we knew we couldn’t bring about on our own. I guess I don’t how to say this.

0:33:57 Jim Lovelady: Maybe antenna isn’t the best analogy, maybe it’s like, how do you keep your eyes on the lookout? ‘Cause everything you just said was, well, it seems like God just did this, and, if I wasn’t paying attention, I wouldn’t have seen that.

0:34:15 CJ: I think for me, I remember when we were making the decision to go to [Redacted], I was talking to our original team leader, who we hadn’t been around for a number of years. But I was having a conversation with him, and I was like, “ I think God’s calling us to [Redacted] to do this. I’m not sure that I’m able to make that happen, because it requires networking, and anytime I’ve been in a networking situation, I feel like I don’t belong. Or I’m the oddball out, and…”

0:34:50 Jim Lovelady: You’re not a schmoozer.

0:34:53 CJ: No.

0:34:55 Sally: He’s not a schmoozer.

0:34:56 CJ: I don’t come in with lots of ideas. And he said to me, “You don’t have to make anything happen, just show up. And trust that the Holy Spirit will make happen, what needs to happen.” Boy, that was… you know, just hearing that from him took a huge load off my back. 

And now here I am, four years later going, I showed up. And everything that’s happened has been because the Holy Spirit has moved to open doors to bring people into our lives. And it’s like, wow! Because I’m not a driven kind of…”I’m gonna make this happen.” There are people that do that.

0:35:39 Jim Lovelady: Like an entrepreneurial spirit.

0:35:43 CJ: I’m not like that. Not that I don’t take action. I do things and that whole thing. I kinda look at it all and go, this is what God has done and I’m amazed. And I’m sure plenty of people would look at it like “but you haven’t really done much in four years…” But in my mind, it’s like, the world has changed.

0:36:01 Jim Lovelady: Right. I love it.

0:36:05 CJ: Yeah, so I’m filled with hope ’cause I see lots of potential. Lots of possibilities. And I believe that God could use it for good in His church.

0:36:18 Jim Lovelady: Show up with your eyes open, that’s what it is. Show up with your eyes open. And it’s not the first time that someone has said, I just showed up. To just show up and be ready for whatever the Lord is gonna throw at you is a pretty scary prospect but it’s beautiful. And then, well it goes back to your stubborn, tenacious, this is where we are, this is what we’re doing, And I have a hope that the Lord is in it right now and that he will be in it moving forward. So, that’s why we’re here.

0:37:02 CJ: And there’s direction, there’s things we want to see. But I really want to see God do it, does that make sense? I think as humans, as Christian humans, there’s lots of stuff that we can create that look like the work of God, and I’m sure He uses that for His glory. I wanna walk this line where I’m stepping forward and I want to see Him work and not just see me work, if that makes any sense. I don’t want to see a carnal work. I don’t know if that makes sense.

0:37:47 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Like where you made it happen or whatever. What makes it a no-brainer for you to be like, I know I want God to work? Other than, of course every Christian’s gonna say that. But we know way too many stories of pastoral and ministry failure and burnout that we can point to and say, well, it doesn’t look like that’s what the Lord wanted for that ministry.

So have you seen that? What is it that makes it a no-brainer?

0:38:24 Sally: I think of carnal parenting, and this is gonna sound crazy, but my deepest, deepest, deepest desire for my kids is that they know and walk with Jesus, and that is clearly God’s deepest desire that he would want us to have for His kids, but it shifts into an idolatrous realm for me.

0:38:46 Jim Lovelady: Oh Preach. Absolutely.

0:38:47 Sally: But it feels really weird to call it that because it feels like the most supreme thing anyone could ever want. But I find that the great goal, carnal, gas, and the engine or propulsion is operative all the time and my nervous control to try to make it happen. And so I know that there’s a parallel in our ministry, but just an intensity and an independence that is often very operative and mean.

0:39:22 Jim Lovelady: Oh, man, that’s so good. I’ve been really wrestling with that as I’m driving down the road, and Jesus goes, hey, what are you anxious about right now, and I’m like, my kids. What are you worried about right now? My resting anxiety as of late, has been regarding my children. So, how do you not do it? 

0:39:48 Sally: Well, I don’t know because I’m right in the middle of it! But what comes to my mind and my saner moments is what all people who speak into my life say, which is, This is the work of the Holy Spirit And obviously, we are his instruments in that process, but I absolutely cannot make it happen, and this… It has to be him, and it happens to be His heart as well, and we don’t know the end of the story there and human instrumentality in the middle of all of that, I don’t know, but I know that I have to pray, and I also can’t make that a work that somehow in my mind is earning something, but I have to…

0:40:29 Jim Lovelady: You know how funny that can even sneak in.

0:40:30 Sally: Totally, at least in me, but I have to pray in a trusting dependence in His heart and pouring out my heart before Him, which I think in this one area of my life, I think my heart is His heart, but still pushing that the emphasis on the work being His and begging Him like the story where the widow, she keeps knocking at the door, like begging him, by the trusting the heart of the one who’s on the other side of the door.

0:41:01 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, I’ve been promising in my prayers, I’m like, Lord, I promise I will not get mad at whatever decision you make about the kids, whatever, however you work it out, I promise I’m not gonna get mad. Please help me when I get mad. Please help me in my own belief because it has driven me to a certain kind of prayer, but it’s also driven me to a certain kind of like… Maybe my prayer life could be more of like a negotiating with God, where my prayers are kind of like the money that I put at the table, look at how many prayers I prayed for my kids, that temptation where it’s like, I know that that’s in my heart and so immediately, it’s this sense of, I need to repent to that and relinquish that and let Jesus see what’s there. I noticed it. Of course, He knows it. That’s my heart.

0:42:03 Sally: Well, and the flip side of, oh no, prayer is key and I’m not doing it enough. Right, it’s at this transactional view of things rather than… Yeah, it’s just twisting the gifts of God, of prayer and the power of prayer into another work that’s me focused and me dependent, and I don’t think Scripture teaches that even though He invites us to do it and somehow mysteriously, there’s some sort of connection between our prayers and what ends up happening. But yeah, it’s… in the “Oh no” moment, it shouldn’t be the… oh no, what’s gonna happen? I haven’t been praying enough. But just a returning, that amendment is an invitation to dependence, childlike dependence. And not like work.

0:42:52 Jim Lovelady: The second Chronicles, where Jehoshaphat says we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Yeah, yeah. It’s the childlike dependence. Jesus, I don’t know, right? I don’t know what to do.

0:43:06 Sally: Simple. In Psalm 62, pour out your hearts before Him. It’s relational. Not transactional, right? And I tend to gravitate towards the transactional, but he’s inviting us.

0:43:20 Jim Lovelady: That’s another ingredient in this whole thing, ’cause you said relational a number of times, and I was like, as opposed to what… Or grace as opposed to what? Transaction. And a lot of the conversation has been us trying to wrestle away from thinking transactionally about our relationship with God, and how that thinking transactionally toward God actually translates into people who are transactional with one another, and there’s no room for love there. If it’s all negotiating and hey you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back. Right? You didn’t hold your end of the bargain or whatever, you know.

0:44:04 CJ: There’s a movement called minimalism… if you’ve ever heard of minimalism, they have a tagline that says, love people, use things. Don’t use people and love things, right? Yeah, yeah. And I think about ministry and how ministry sometimes can actually use people and love the results that those people give us, like I’ve created this program or this church or whatever, then that means I’m somebody now, right? These people are now just a means of me getting this other thing that I want, and It’s the same with God, like, I did my part, I’ve prayed. So you fulfill your part. Or, I did this thing.

0:44:54 Jim Lovelady: After all, this is for Your Kingdom.

0:44:57 CJ: Right. But you know the First commandment, love God. It’s love, it’s relational. And the second is love people, and I think it’s just so easy to move away from relational ministry, move away from a life that’s relational, and move to a life that’s about productivity or about getting something for me, using people. That’s just so easy. Without even thinking about it. That’s just natural. So I have to constantly reorient myself, you know, what’s going on here? Am I loving anyone? 

0:45:37 Jim Lovelady: I learned to see that quicker. What you all do in [Redacted], it’s very similar to what I’ve been trying to do. You know, realizing that pastors need pastors. Right, missionaries need missionaries. So it’s really fun to hear. It’s hard to pinpoint. I tell everybody, they’re like, Hey, what are the Serge workers like? And it’s like, you just gotta go hang out with them. You just gotta catch the vibe that [Redacted] are putting out as they’re doing ministry in [Redacted]. So this conversation has been a lot of like, this is the vibe, we don’t wanna be transactional. We wanna be repenting of our transactional, we want to move through grace into this reality that we have favor with God and in that…it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. And we love because He first loved us, and so we’re kind of at the same. We kinda do the same job. So give me your best advice. How do we do this? How do you point ministry leaders to the gospel? 

0:46:54 Sally: One thing comes to my mind, I have had people share things with me, and I think they think sometimes maybe they’re sharing the thing that is gonna totally change my view of them. I think we all have stuff in the back, like if people really knew, and so I might be there for some of the “If people really knew” moments.

0:47:15 Jim Lovelady: If you spend two minutes in my brain, you would not want me to be your pastor.

0:47:18 Sally: Right, and so I think… and not faking it, but having a pastor that’s like, here’s that thing, and is not alarmed. It’s like because we know what it’s like to struggle too, and we know the battles that we faced to keep believing and keep trusting and keep walking. And so I think there have been times where I think that encourages people to keep sharing and to keep bringing things out of the darkness and into the light, and that may provide the avenue for challenge or encouragement or expectation, but because people know that they’re with someone, who has seen that if you only knew and still is with them. And is not like excommunicating them or relationally or otherwise. I know, I felt that from people as well, and it has encouraged me to keep talking and keep leaning in and to keep seeking care and help and health and growth.

0:48:24 Jim Lovelady: Especially toward ministry leaders who feel like it’s the last thing that they’re allowed to do. Jesus is not surprised by any of these things. When we recognize these things, when we finally come to a place where it’s like, oh Jesus, I’m seeing that this is not good. Other people have pointed out and I don’t like them for it, but I’m starting to agree with them. And He goes, yeah, I know I’ve always known. And the favor of God rests on you. You know, I know, I love you always.

0:49:06 CJ: So you ask.

0:49:07 Jim Lovelady: Yes. So, what would you say? 

0:49:09 Sally: Yeah What would you say? 

0:49:12 CJ: I’ve been racking my brain. A couple of things come to my mind. One is, am I receiving from God? Am I living in that atmosphere of favor and realizing it and receiving in that? Like, bringing everything I’ve got right? All the good and the bad and the ugly. Am I experiencing His favor, right? The belief behind that is I can only offer to others what I’ve received. The other thing that comes to my mind is this quote that I heard several months ago, and I keep repeating it everywhere I go, it’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We’ll read the whole quote…

0:49:54 Jim Lovelady: Do you have it memorized…

0:49:56 CJ: No.

0:49:58 Jim Lovelady: Give me your…

0:49:58 CJ: Yeah, this is my best. He basically says that the Word of God, in your brother is stronger than the Word of God in your own heart. The words that you say to yourself.

0:50:09 Jim Lovelady: Right. That’s life….

0:50:13 CJ: Life together, yeah.

0:50:14 Jim Lovelady: Life together, right.

0:50:15 CJ: And so, I can remember many times, as well as I experience and even now, where I’m in some sort of struggle, whether it’s sin or just brokenness of this world. I’m struggling, and I speak what’s true to my own heart, whether it’s the gospel or God’s favor or His presence or whatever, and it’s like I speak it and it falls to the ground. And it’s like, I can’t grasp it. And there have been times when I knew that I needed someone else to speak it to me. Right? And he even says something like, your own word, where you’re uncertain and unsure, your brother’s word is not. And I’ve experienced that so much. And we need to be like that for each other. And he would even say, that’s a Christian community. We come preaching salvation to one another. Yeah. So anyway, those are the two things that come to my mind. The last one being—we need other people who know our struggles and know us. And who speak into that for encouragement and challenge. Right? It’s both. It’s not just one, it’s not just everything’s okay.

0:51:32 Jim Lovelady: So how did you start over up in [Redacted]? How did you start over? Because you had that for a long time down in [Redacted], and then you moved over to this new place. Well, how do you start over like that? 

0:51:47 CJ: I would say I’m still doing that as far as like…

0:51:51 Jim Lovelady: That’s encouraging to hear, actually, ’cause I’ve been doing this for about a year, so I feel like we’re kind of starting over in some way…

0:52:01 Sally: Yeah, yeah.

0:52:03 CJ: As far as my own personal relationships, I have very strong relationships in [Redacted]. Like people that I could say anything to, and expect to hear favor and truth. Yeah, right. And I was actually just talking to someone about this, I think this morning or yesterday. In [Redacted], I don’t have those same relationships yet, moving in that direction, but I realize that I need it, I need to find that somehow or another, as I even enter in and hope to facilitate it for other people. Does that make sense? Like maybe I’m not the guy (maybe I am) but I hope to facilitate other people having those types of relationships.

0:52:57 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, you’re talking about becoming the catalyst for the very thing that you need.

0:52:58 CJ: Exactly, yeah, exactly. I think that exact same thought frequently.

0:53:03 Jim Lovelady: I really appreciate it. It’s funny. There is a vibe. When we start talking about grace, it’s like, actually, no, no, it’s just this thing that you live in the favor of God. You just live in it. And so hearing y’all talk, it’s just kind of like an hour settling into that. We don’t do this great, and we’ve messed up a lot, but the Lord has sustained us and the Spirit has guided us, and here we are. God is faithful and we have great hope.

0:53:50 CJ: Yeah..well, thanks.

0:53:50 Sally: Yeah, thank you.

0:53:51 Jim Lovelady: Oh, it’s my honor. 

0:53:58 Jim Lovelady: What does it mean that you have the favor of God? It means that when you fail, it’s not the end of the world. It means when you’re in situations that make you timid, you can take steps of courage knowing that ultimately you don’t need anyone’s approval because you have the favor of God. It means you can be wild and passionate and self-giving. It means you can quietly trust and submit yourself to the one who looks on you with favor.

Can you imagine what that would look like for you today? Wherever you are. Well, it’s like spiritual amnesia. If you’re like me, you’re constantly forgetting who you really are, who you actually belong to. And so if that’s the case, then I want you to know, you don’t have to stay in that place. 

Serge’s one-on-one mentoring program called Sonship is a magnificent way to allow the Holy Spirit to jar you out of your spiritual identity crisis. In the session of course, you’ll be given a mentor who in the span of 16 sessions will guide you back to the joy of your salvation. This course is life-changing. So, for more information, go to serge.org/mentored-sonship. And whether you’ve taken the Sonship course once or twice, or taking people through the Sonship material, I wanna encourage you to do something that is both wildly bold like King David and wonderfully humble, like Ruth. I want you to take a week off of work later this month and join us in Hollywood, Florida for Sonship Week, October 22nd through 27th. And though it’s right around the corner, we still have spots available, and this may very well be the week that completely reorients your entire life around the joy of settling into the favor of God. So check out serge.org/sonship-week for more information about that. And don’t forget to check out this episode’s show notes for more details on how you can settle into the favor of God.

And of course, Jesus is the one who embodied the favor of God and showed us what that looks like more than anyone. When God the Father at Jesus’s baptism said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” it ignited Jesus’s ministry, giving him a boldness and a tenderness that can only come when you know that you’re God’s favorite. So, how can you know that you’re God’s favorite? Well, think about it this way, God the Father looked at His son with such pleasure and joy full of pride and love and more. Beloved, Jesus’s victory over sin and death means that you are forgiven past, present, and future. And when the Father looks at you, He has the same pleasure, full of pride, love and joy.

God says this over you, “This is my beloved daughter or son, in whom I’m well pleased.” And you say, how can this be? After what my day has been like? Or my week? Or what this year has been like? And He says, “Because you belong to me, you were bought with a price and I love you.” Now go to a world that is desperate to experience the favor of God. 

So it’s in that reality that I wanna send you with God’s blessing: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face smile down. May the Lord be gracious to you. Turn His bright eyes to you, and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting. Amen.


This may be a missionary or ministry leader, whether an individual or a couple, whose identity is anonymous in order to protect their safety and the safety of those they serve. At Serge, we have many workers serving in closed-access countries around the world and we prioritize security, which is essential for the success of their mission.


Jim Lovelady

Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.

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