Rob Mapstone is the pastor of The River Church in Chaska, MN, a small church, Rob says, filled with people that know they need God's love. Rob has a knack for explaining deep truths from the Bible and he has a gift for caring deeply for people. He is not afraid to do the more undignified aspects of ministry… those things that go unnoticed or those things that require a long commitment. Oh, and he is an inspirational friend of mine too.
After his sermon this last Sunday, I wanted to ask him a few questions. He had spoken profoundly from Genesis chapter 12, about God asking Abram to follow him no matter where God led him and no matter what the cost would be. The interview took place in the Crown College coffee shoppe on 1/15/14:
KC: Rob, in your sermon on Sunday, you used the phrase “I don’t want to follow me anymore”. What did you mean by that?
RM: Actually, I found that to be a hard concept to explain. As I was preparing to preach through the passage I realized that Abram was completely preparing to give up all of his control. This hit me because I like control. I like to follow my plans, my ideas of what is to come; how I’m going to grow, or what decisions I want to make. I typically want to make godly decisions…. What I think it means to live for Christ. But the problem is that I’m still putting the emphasis on me… What I think… What I want… What I will do. I’m still trying to point myself in the right direction. I’m still trying to be in charge of getting to where God wants me to go. I might let God get me started, but then I assume that it is on me to get myself there. I’m still relying on myself to sanctify myself. So, even if the direction is right, it is still too much of me directing. And I don’t want to follow me anymore.
KC: You used another phrase that also caught my attention. You said, “I’m ready for the blindfold.” Why would someone choose a blindfold when we’re always taught to try to “see” or “understand” what God is doing?
RM: The blindfold represents somebody else leading you. I hate those trust walks where you get blindfolded and then someone takes your hand and leads you through a maze or the woods or some obstacle. I hate it when I can’t see and I have to completely rely on the other person. It’s uncomfortable and makes me anxious. So when it comes to God I’m the same way. I trust God… but… I’d still rather rely on my own ability to see and to know where to go.
KC: (My inner thought at this moment… I was remembering a trust walk where I was blindfolded and led deep into a strange, creepy part of the woods… and then the team left me there because they thought it would be funny. Yeah, I think I hate trust walks too!)
RM: This might be silly, but this reminds me of that scene in Star Wars with Luke Skywalker, where he puts on the blast helmet. He’s got to let go of his desire to control the situation. Even more profound than that, I need to be completely guided by God and learn to not rely on my wisdom.
KC: Rob, how can someone practically live this out?
RM: I don’t know! Seriously, I don’t know how to do it. And that’s kind of the point. I don’t know how else to do it other than to pray it and to say “Whatever your will is for me today, God, that’s what I want. Whatever you want to teach me, to show me, to ask me.” Ultimately, it’s good to be made a bit uncomfortable in being blindfolded. If it was up to me, I’d choose comfort… so I certainly can’t trust myself to make an unbiased decision about where to go or what to do for God. So instead I want God to guide me and help me get to a place where, even if I feel afraid, I won’t be afraid, and he will be my peace.
KC: You mentioned in your sermon that Abram needed to be like clay shaped by the potter. How does that metaphor fit into all of this?
RM: The idea of the Potter and the Clay is the key to all of this. I say sometimes that I am the clay but when the Potter tries to mold me I resist because I’d rather form myself. The better pattern would be for me to let my guard down, to put down my hands and let God lead me. My only job is to be the clay.
KC: How can a person be successful at being "clay"?
RM: That's tough… partly because the idea of leadership is one of the areas we’ve messed up in the church. We have these expectations about what success is in a person’s life, or in a pastor, or in a church. We measure the wrong things… like numbers or appearances… without knowing what is truly going on inside of a person's life or inside of a congregation. God is concerned about deeper things then we often are. To God success is being led and shaped by Him. Here’s another metaphor: He is the Vine and we are the branches. By God’s standards we are successful when we remain in the vine. When we try to accomplish things on our own, without being led by him, then we are trying to manufacture success according to our will instead of God’s. But when we allow God to shape us into what he wants, then we will be living in God's will.
Note: Right after our interview, Rob went off to the hospital to be with a couple whose new born baby was having surgery. I'm thankful for people like Rob, who are striving to be blindfolded clay branches! 🙂