About three years ago, I heard the voice of the Spirit say, “Like Ezekiel, I am making you a watchman.” Although I know Daniel’s prophecy states a primary feature of the last days is “the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay (Daniel 2:43),” I was unprepared for the gigantic disunity and division of the season into which God was leading me to serve as a watchman. If I had deeply considered God’s call to Ezekiel, I would have been better prepared for the watchman assignment.
I was not being sent to Burkina Faso, Thailand, or other cross cultural contexts. My assignment was to the people of our USA congregations, movement, and leadership teams. If God had sent me to lands afar, “Surely…they would have listened…”
4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. 5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you.Ezekiel 3:4-6
My assignment required the “hardening of my head” in order to handle the disagreements, disunity, vitriol, and animosity. Specifically, I was assigned to proclaim God’s hatred of fetal cell line research in which the child is “prepared” for cell harvesting and then murdered. Further, I was to warn Christians of the slippery slope of benefiting from products thus produced. From my perspective, God was saying, “This trafficking in human baby body parts, even at the cellular protein level, involves kidnapping and murder.”
7 But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. 8 But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9 I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”Ezekiel 3:7-9
Most commonly, I was told, “You shouldn’t voice your opinion in public, especially on social media and your blog. Hold your opinion privately.” Unfortunately, for me, I sensed I was assigned to communicate this message. Surely, I presented the message less effectively than preferred, but I attempted to be faithful to the assignment. Many of my friends, leaders, movement, and most of the culture disagreed with my message. One guy said, “Pastor Kent, you are a murderer. The death of those who refused products thus created is on your hands.” WOW. Nonetheless, I attempted to persevere in the assignment.
Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.”Ezekiel 3:11
There was another matter in which it seemed the Lord was saying, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost, not to defend theological creeds.” I surely needed the Spirit’s “hardening of my head” for that conversation. Let’s just say, “I didn’t feel much love” on that one. A friend said, “Kent, you are making enemies by your opposition.” As I sought the Lord, it seemed He was saying, “A watchman doesn’t often win popularity contests.”
I will still watch and pray, however, my primary assignment of being a watchman is coming to an end. Last month, my spirit heard the Spirit say, “I am releasing you from the watchman assignment. You are now assigned a Barnabas role.”
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”),Acts 4:36
My new primary assignment includes being called to one’s aid, providing encouragement, and sharing comfort. Every where I go and each time I speak, I will be speaking aid, encouragement, and comfort. I am much more comfortable with this assignment. My natural personality is much more aligned with the ministry of joy, hope, and encouragement. i pray this new assignment is as easy as the last one was difficult. Also, I pray that I was faithful to endure to the end of the assignment.
Encouragement requires a safe space in which people can communicate heart to heart, without fear, and no need for pretense. May the Lord create these safe spaces for us.