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April 12, 2022
March 21, 2024

No Greater Joy

"Wouldn't you like to do something radical?"

Cheryl Barrett said this to her husband, Steve, in 2011. Gifted in administration and leadership, she felt a longing from God to pursue something but she didn't know what it would look like or where she would fit.

From the beginning of their marriage, Steve and Cheryl wanted to exalt God's name together (Psalm 343). When they started coming to The Austin Stone, for the first time in their lives they felt God calling them into steps of obedience every time they left on a Sunday. Soon they knew they wanted to give sacrificially to those serving overseas.

Then they heard that an Austin Stone goer was killed on the field.

As Steve and Cheryl experienced the church's moving response, something stirred in their hearts. This goer was someone who gave his life for what God had called him to do. What would it look like for them to participate in what God was doing among the nations?

They decided to take a 15-week class to learn about God's heart for the nations. Steve, who had spent time overseas documenting an unwritten language in West Africa, was reengaged. Cheryl discovered that everyone has a role in the Great Commission, and the roles don't have to look the same.

The Barretts began taking significant steps of obedience. The first was to go all in with leading classes and inviting others into understanding how they can play a part in the story God has written since the beginning of time. Steve stepped out of his career to mobilize churches and teach others about God's heart for the nations. Cheryl was willing to engage in ministry, but she kept up her demanding career—they had a daughter to put through college and she still looked to her role for financial security rather than fully trusting in the Lord's provision.

In her heart, however, Cheryl knew God wanted more.

Through a slow but sweet process, Steve and Cheryl started serving together as volunteer directors of mobilization for a sending organization. After some time, Cheryl took another step of obedience—she left her career and the Barretts became support-raised staff. In these new roles, their unique giftings were being used as they focused on identifying, training, and discipling people that God was calling overseas.

One day, Steve came to Cheryl and said, "I feel like God is calling us to sell our home and do one of those nine-month training groups with The Austin Stone."

Cheryl thought Steve was just fatigued from a recent trip. Sell their home? They'd already been part of two Disciple-Making Intensives (DMIs). They'd even considered doing the same nine-month Goer Missional Community (GMC) before, but it hadn't been the right season. Cheryl knew they were not supposed to conform to the things of this world, but she thought they knew what was next: retirement, kids getting married, holidays at Grandpa and Grandma's house.

Letting go of those things to receive what God had next was painful. Steve and Cheryl sold their house along with almost everything in it. They re-homed their family dog packed up their kids bedrooms. Parents passed away and others had surgery. "Do you still trust me?" God kept asking them.

It was a significant time of resetting. Throughout all of it, they could hear God saving, "I have more for vou." As they moved into a small apartment in Austin to be part of a GMC, God had prepared them to be people who were ready to receive from others.

They had been broken, and they desperately needed community.

God proved His faithfulness. Those nine months changed who the were. The Barretts stayed in that apartment for several years—the depth of relationship they found, the joy of being one in pursuit of the Great Commission was incredibly rewarding.

They led DMIs and a short-term trip. Many people they trained went overseas. God dispelled so many of the lies Cheryl had been telling herself—that she wasn't equipped, she didn't have the experience. "We got to do crazy things," she says. "I'd hardly done anything with missions. And there I was, at a seminary's missions event, telling people about God's heart for the nations and that they should go overseas."

Then a new opportunity arrived and Cheryl felt that this was what God had prepared them for all this time.

"No," Steve said. "I'm not moving to another state."

The sending organization they worked for wanted Steve and Cheryl to serve on-site at their sending base. After four years of faithful obedience, Cheryl thought God was brilliant. He was providing roles that clearly fit both of their giftings. Everyone has a role. They'd been waiting for this.

"This is how we do ministry together;" Cheryl said.

Steve didn't share Cheryl's opinion. The decision would cost so much. They would leave behind their family, church, and community. There was no easy path of compromise, but neither believed God had called them these past four years only to reach a bottleneck.

So they wrestled through the process, learning to release their own ambitions and discern God's will. They sought counsel in God's Word and prayer, as well as from their community and a church elder—all of whom had been on the journey with them. Out of this came a new understanding of mutual submission and openness to what God was calling them to.

God is brilliant. He had prepared them for something. But it wasn't what they expected.

Shortly after choosing not to move to pursue the new opportunities, another opportunity came for Cheryl to come on staff at The Austin Stone and serve on the For the Nations Team.

"Everything we walked through was a way of God preparing us for this," Cheryl says. "If He had given us the final destination at the beginning, we wouldn't have started the journey. If Steve said, 'Let's go to a meeting to learn how to get involved with missions' and I knew that meant I'd be selling my house, I would've said no. But God is so loving to prepare our hearts so we could take those steps. If I had held onto my own destination instead of taking faithful steps of obedience, we wouldn't be where we are now."

Cheryl currently serves as the director of For the Nations. She and Steve continue to pursue ministry together. They stayed in the same neighborhood, moving only a mile from the apartment. They still live in a wonderful, like-minded community and use their resources for God to raise up goers.

The one thing they got to decide was whether they were going to faithfully follow what He was calling them to or not. "We would've missed so much if we hadn't." Cheryl savs.

"We were focused on the things of this world. There are a lot of blessings in those things, but in His goodness, God let us see that there's more. He said, 'I have so much more for you. I'm preparing you for it. I'm with you in it. And I'm asking you to follow me.' In Mark 1:17. Jesus didn't ask. 'Are you capable of doing this?' He just said, 'Follow me.' No matter what season of life you're in, no matter what comfort or success you've achieved or gifts you think you have, choosing to follow what God has for you will bring greater joy. Nothing was sacrificed when we consider how much we gained, and nothing was wasted."

Cheryl and Steve say, thinking of the ups and downs in their lives, "He's using all of it for His glory. Even if it doesn't appear to turn out how you imagine, His purposes are still accomplished."

Steve quotes Habakkuk 2 and says, "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. He savs Will. There will be a multitude worshiping around the throne. Why would you miss being a part of that when you know it's going to happen, and God's inviting you to join Him?"

There was a time in Cheryl's life when she couldn't see how her giftings could join in with what God is doing. But she began to realize that there are so many roles in the Great Commission and that God calls everyone to be a part of it.

With God's help, she overcame her fears. She and Steve surrounded themselves with community, committed themselves to prayer, and took the step. They were expectant. God met them there. And now, together, they encourage everyone to do the same. "You're called everywhere in your workplace, community, family. We have multiple opportunities to serve Him."

It's true, not evervone is called to serve overseas. But everyone is invited as a disciple of Christ to abide in Him—and out of the overflow of the joy of knowing Him, share with others. And others are right out your front door.

Article Details

Morgan Von Gunten
Related Congregation
Related Ministry
Related Initiative
For the Nations
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