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Take the Three-Mile Walk to Holiness, Courage & Faith

The Start of "Jesus Culture"

In 1994, Banning Liebscher was a freshman at an Assembly of God college, and began an internship at well-known Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  The next year, he was hired as the youth pastor.  When Banning married a young lady named SeaJay a few years later, she joined him as co-pastor to the youth.  When he was 25, he felt the Lord direct him to start a youth pastor conference which focused not solely on teaching and techniques, but primarily on encouragement.  That was the beginning of Jesus Culture, named by Banning (who got the idea from the skater brand Counter Culture).  Jesus Culture grew into an international ministry of worship music (with their own record label), conferences, and leadership development.  In 2014, Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson, Banning, and the rest of the church leadership decided that Jesus Culture should continue as a local church as well.  The Liebschers and their team then moved two and a half hours south to start Jesus Culture Sacramento.  The national and international conferences still continue.

Fully Engaged

It saddens Banning to see believers live unfufilled lives, wondering what they’re missing in the Christian walk.  “One of the greatest passions I have, as a pastor, is to see people thriving in every arena of their lives; it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”  He goes on to explain what he believes is missing:  “We are at our best when we are fully engaged in becoming who God has called us to become, and doing what God has called us to do … you will never be satisfied until you are engaging the call of God on your life, because your call is connected to the dreams He has placed in your heart.”  Banning illustrates his point by taking a close look at one of his favorite stories in the Bible, that of Jonathan and his encouraging armor-bearer from 1 Samuel 14.  In a battle with the Philistines, things weren’t going well for the grossly out-numbered Israelite army.  Their disobedient leader, Saul, was sulking.  While it would have been easy to give up at that point, Jonathan, Saul’s son, was stirred to action and said to the young man carrying his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us.  For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.”  In order to engage their calling to defend Israel from the Philistines, they first had to make it across the treacherous three-mile pass that separated the two encamped armies.

The Three-Mile Walk 

Jonathan and his battle companion displayed three characteristics that God used to make their mission successful:  Holiness, courage, and faith.  Banning says that the same three virtues are required of each of us as we fully engage our God-given callings.  Of the first, he says, “What makes us holy is being set apart and dedicated fully to God.  This is not something scary or negative; it’s what we were created for, which means holiness is essential to a thriving, healthy, successful life.”  Jonathan and the armor-bearer separated themselves unto God, unlike the rest of the Israeli army, by heeding God’s command to protect Israel from the Philistines.  To face an army ten times larger than theirs took great courage.  As Banning readily admits, life is not easy for anyone, and having courage doesn’t mean we have no fear, but rather, that we face our fears knowing God is with us.  “It will require us to learn things we never knew and develop skills we don’t have.  It will require us to face our areas of weakness and immaturity and learn from our mistakes.  And it will require us to ask for help, endure frustration, and not give up until the work is done.  All of that takes courage.”  Lastly, Banning points to the faith exhibited by Jonathan and his young helper as they faced an apparently insurmountable challenge. Though the odds were very much against them, they looked to the One going with them.  He says it’s as if Jonathan said,  “I know who God is, I know what He can do, I know He’s with me, and I know that if I step out with Him in this moment, He’s going to be there with me.”  When the two men crossed the three mile pass, they were enabled by God to defeat many Philistines, who, in a panic, started killing one another!  Soon, Jonathan and the armor-bearer received help and achieved complete victory -- all because one man fully engaged his calling, and found God faithful.  

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