By: Jennie Allen
“The Road Not Taken” is one of the only works I can still recite after two decades of school. I have always been drawn to that overgrown path in the wilderness, even though it scares me a little even now. Truth is, IF:Gathering began as more of a hunch than a vision.
Today, many years since the hunch, IF:Gathering is a non-profit made up of tens of thousands of women who desire to gather, equip, and unleash our lives and the lives of others around the world for the glory of God and the good of people.
A few years before the birth of IF, I was ushered onto the established highway of the business of Christendom through the door of publishing. Influential people in the industry merged me onto the highway because they saw a seemingly sincere and passionate faith in Jesus. But at 75 mph- my sincere faith felt threatened by the business and structure of it all.
All the while, a quiet road off in the distance beckoned. I doubted I could ever build what God was growing within me without the covering of an institution that seemed to be holding up most everything that had ever succeeded.
Jesus certainly traveled the wilderness road and pursued people while He was here: “I am the good shepherd. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” John 10:14,16 Jesus went after all kinds of people because all people need Him.
And while the Truth of God and his Word never change, cultures do. The Spirit and work of God continues to move in fresh ways through new methods. The Church throughout generations attests to this. It’s exactly what Paul meant when he said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” I Corinthians 9:22
While I wish I were a more confident, rebellious pioneer, God had to nearly force me to the wild, new path He had for IF. I am however compelled to call as many of you as possible to the roads less traveled because there are many wandering who may never make it up to the highway. In fact, it seems we are looking at a generation disillusioned- standing off the highway, outside the gates of establishment. And if none of us go build and pioneer in the wild, we could miss an entire generation?
So if you have a similar hunch…. let me give you my notes from the wilderness:
1. Expect resistance. Actually more like upheaval. While to the world, IF is nothing but a success, behind the scenes in one year we have endured more conflict and difficult conversations than one should have in a lifetime.
2. Embrace the fear. Quit looking for footprints to follow. At first it is paralyzing to head into the wild. Learn to differentiate between the anxiety you feel when you are doing the wrong thing and the good butterflies you feel when you are braving new territory.
3. Give up on maps. There is not a right way to pioneer new territory. It is step-by-step journey, completely dependent on God, who usually only gives you the next step. I still crave a map and a guide, but I am learning to lean into the Spirit and God’s Word when I feel alone and lost and He has yet to forsake me. But do seek the counsel of those pioneers who have cut through the wilderness before. Their remarkable bravery can inspire the strength you need to take new steps.
4. Don’t make a god out of being a rebel. Nothing stays new. So as soon as you think you are cutting a new path and people follow, the paving crew comes behind and turns your hipster little path into a 6 lane highway. Let following Jesus be your goal, not being a contrarian. Because in itself there is nothing special about wilderness paths. It’s the enjoyment of the God you love and the people who meet Jesus that makes it all mean something. Don’t lose sight of the point.
As IF grows, my greatest temptation will continue to be to conform, pave the road and choose an easier path, rather than the unknowns of a life without maps and plans. God protect me and let Yours be the only voice we hear whether we find ourselves on highways or overgrown paths.
What wild, new paths is God calling you to build and pioneer? What is stopping you?