Active God?

We all have questions about God that we wrestle with.  One of my big questions is How active is God?  This comes up a lot in conversations I am having, one way or another.  Questions of Does God answer prayer, Do you think there is one person God has selected for you to marry, Do you think that God opened this door for you, are all questions about the level of activity that God has in his world. 

For a long time I didn’t think that God was active.  I felt that he built the earth and the cosmos, gave it a nudge in the right direction, left a manual behind and let the rest take care of itself.  I liked that because my life was essentially up to me.  I had a couple reference points but largely I was calling the shots and at the end of eternity I was judged on how well I called the shots.

More and more though I am beginning to struggle with a passive God like that.  Mostly because of how several things are working in my life right now.  I will leave you with a good story.

When I came to Harding, I wanted to work in church.  I wanted to be a small town youth minister in a situation similar to the one I had come to faith in.  But a series of events had discouraged me completely from working in church at all, and really made me question whether or not I could even live honestly in any congregational setting. 

In the fall of 2006, on a whim, I jumped on iTunes and downloaded the first church podcast I came across and it was Mark Driscoll’s “Church Planting in Corinth” and it totally rocked my world. For the first time it was suggested to me that I might take the gospel somewhere else to a people more like me and build that church.  So church planting became a real focus of mine while I was in college. 

That hope began to dwindle over time though as my debt climbed and I realized just how hard it would be to finance all of this.  I was going to have to get a real job, eventually the dream of church planting began to fizzle a bit.  I moved to Fayetteville and found a job that I was really happy with.  I was making good money and would have been happy staying there forever. 

In February I lost that job as a result of spreading myself too thin and just burning out.  Directionless and penniless I took an ill-advised road trip to Nashville for my birthday.  I met up with some friends and had a good weekend.  While I was there I ended up having morning coffee alone in a coffee shop called the Frothy Monkey.  I had just picked up a book by Mark Driscoll at the Lipscomb book store and was reading through it at my table.  Out of nowhere a guy speaks up and says, “Hey that’s a good book.”

The voice belongs to Brandon, one of the guys working on a successful church plant in Nashville called Ethos.  Brandon and I talk for the better part of an hour about church planting, doing that kind of work in a place like Nashville.  After we part ways we kept the conversation going via email. 

Since then my mind and my desire have been back to church planting.  I have spent a lot of time in prayer, conversation and study and am still sure that this is what I want to do.  I narrowed my list down to three cities that I would want to work in: Nashville, Detroit, San Francisco and sent feelers around to friends in those areas.

A couple weeks later I am a church planting intern with Kensington Church in Detroit, MI.  I will be leaving August 1st to go. 

I struggle with a passive God because of so many things in this narrative.  Of all the podcasts out there I found that one, when the initial desire of my heart became clouded I lost my job and got put back here, of all the coffee shops I went to that one, of all the people to sit at a table next to me it was Brandon, and even though I didn’t apply for church planting jobs in Detroit that is exactly the job I ended up with. 

It is difficult to imagine that this many good things happened by chance. 

I am still working though what an active God means.  We do realize that if God is active, that means certain things.  I am working through that, more thoughts to come I am sure.


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About coleyoakum

My name is Coleman Yoakum. I am formerly a student at Harding University. Today you can find me in Detroit Michigan doing what I can to expand the Kingdom of God and preparing to start an intentional community in Pontiac. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, music and politics. I am sure that all of these things will find their way to this blog from time to time. Twitter: coleyoakum Facebook: Coleman Yoakum Email: Flickr:

4 responses to “Active God?”

  1. Josh Jensen says :

    I wish you could live here. Still love you, Coleman. :)

  2. Bill Owney says :

    First things first, I ran across your blog while researching a topic for my newspaper column. It’s a topic I’ve tried to duck, because I just hate the all the flack I’ll take, but it keeps gnawing at me; the still, small voice says “start this fight, I’ll finish it.”
    So I’m about to tell Texarkana and surrounding towns that I’m not sure God is all that interesting in conflating religion and politics, that it does more harm to the church than it does good for society. I think political expressions couched in religious terms, or vice versa, nurtures the unchurched, who often hold contradictory political views. It sure ain’t gonna get ’em to show up on Sundays; rather it offers them heuristic to generalize opposition to one view as rationalization to oppose the other. In this case, it doesn’t matter much whether the politics or the religion is the chicken or egg.

    As example, I thought I’d offer the antebellum defense of slavery from the pulpit, so you can see how quickly your blog popped up when I Googled my topic, I found your synopsis of your paper to be clear, contextual and intellectually honest. “This young man has something to say,” I thought. “I must encourage him to trust his warm heart and vigorous mind and to speak up. He has what it takes to be an effective leader.”

    There, I think that’s covered.

    And then you begin to explore the topic of an active God! Though I’m much older than you (60), this is a phenomenon that has burrowed its way into my conscience the past few years. It started while I was sitting on and chairing the staff-parish (personnel) committee for our mid-sized, very active, Methodist church. I predict that you will have to deal with these issues some day, and that you will be shocked at how unChrist-like people on a church payroll can act. My cardinal rule was that whatever actions we took or policies we set, we would at all costs avoid congregational splits. Been therre, done that. The problem eventually goes away, but not the hurt feelings. We encountered some conundrums that that seem to defy resolution. So I prayed. In some cases, that’s all I had.

    In each case, and in His own time, God presented some marvelous resolutions, ones that strengthened the ministries involved and that nurtured harmony.

    During the last three years we have moved into new facilities (you think planting a church is hard? Try telling an 80-year-old benefactor that she will have to sit somewhere else on Sundays) and seen our attendance and offerings continue to increase

    Nice story, eh? Here’s the kicker: Those were the exact things I asked.

    I am also a teacher and I learned to incorporate into my daily routine a small prayer to see my students as my brothers in sisters in Christ and to see them in terms of their needs. So I’d pray with a simple request: Let me be, in even a little way, like that great teacher, Christ.

    Then I’d go inside the building and get lost in the minutiae of a flock of poverty-stricken adolescents. On my drive home every day, when I did that selective rewind of the days events, I began to see that that prayer had been answered, how a child had put down his wrath and assumed self responsibility, because I had responded to him or her in a calm, understanding, and loving — but firm — manner. That behavior is so not me.

    An active God? For my column topic, I feel the instructive, and contextual, passages are in Jesus’ reply when they showed him a coin with a picture of Caesar, and in Paul’s letters to the Romans. I wanted to reread them and, of course, cite them correctly. So I turned to BibleGateway.Com., which had this as its verse of the day:

    “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20 NIV

    Looks like I have a column to write. I hope we keep in touch.

    • coleyoakum says :

      First of all, thank you so much for the words of encouragement. It is always good to hear that these battles and questions aren’t something that preoccupy only my mind. I just finished a large paper on the Restoration Movement and its evolving political involvement in the first half of the 20th century. Restorationists came out of a movement that believed Christians needed to be counter-cultural and abstain from government completely, but over time became just as active in defending it and killing for it as any other movement. Similarly, I believe that Methodism in America made a large impact in reaching and empowering slaves and freedman when that was considered taboo. Both heritages have a counter-cultural tradition to be proud of.

      I know when I started kicking these ideas around I felt like I was alone. I am a student of Harding University, a college which owes its existence to the tireless work of George Benson who married this college to free market capitalism, anti-communism and small government leaders of America. The man raised a million dollars a year for his entire 30 year tenure at Harding. The university became an anti-communist propaganda mill. Still today those ideas are still here. We have the American Heritage Center and American Studies Lecture series, and we welcome military recruiters on our campus on a daily basis. Needless to say, I was a fish out of water.

      I may have kept my ideas to myself had I not been thrown into the deep end of the pool. One fateful day in October of 2006 Sean Hannity came to my college and made a series of interesting statements including, saying that America is the greatest gift that God gave the world and that is something worth killing and dying for. I stood up, said I disagreed, he twisted my words and our 5,000 person auditorium erupted in applause for the guy.

      But out of that others came forward. I was asked to speak at this thing, then another thing, and another thing. I got to write about it a bit. People gave me suggestions for books to read and sermons to listen to. Other people began having similar conversations and eventually my lonely voice wasn’t so lonely anymore.

      So, here’s what I can tell you. You’ll catch flack. You will get far more criticism than you will praise. But! People will come out of nowhere with encouraging notes, ideas, letters and conversations. In the short run those will be trivial compliments in a sea of pushback. But in the long run, those are the words that will stick with you longest.

      Another things I have learned is that this is an important conversation that a lot of people are having right now. I am sure you have probably come across the work that Greg Boyd, Peter Kreeft, Rob Bell, Shane Hipps, Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne and others are doing right now and the larger conversations that are happening on God and Government.

      It is encouraging to know that I don’t have the answers. I like that you (at 60) and I (at 24) are wrestling with the same issues and that I know I will be tossing these questions around until I am older. I like not having the answers.

      Let me know when the column is published. Would love to read it!

  3. Marisa Lynn says :


    I can not wait for you to get to go to Detroit. I believe that God is going to use you in ways you may never have dreamed. After sitting and talking with you about your move last Friday morning, I could hear the passion and fear in your voice. I admire you for hearing God’s voice, even when the answer didn’t come from where you most hoped it would. It came from somewhere that you didn’t even actually attempt to go, so God pointed you there.

    You are making a difference. You will continue to do so. Praying for you, Coleman.

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