Each day as he drives from his home in Greystone to his law office in Inverness, Mike Lindsey passes ten stop signs. Ten reminders to stop, take in his surroundings and evaluate his next move. In 2013 Mike and his wife, Laurie, were actually praying for stop signs.
Mike has a rule when he is looking for God’s guidance in his life.
“Follow that trail until God stops it or confirms it,” Mike says. “Follow that trail and pray for stop signs.”
That is exactly what Mike and Laurie were doing when they felt God calling them away from their comfort zone. Early in 2013, God was calling them to leave their church home.
Shades Mountain Baptist Church has always felt like home to Mike. Much in the same way a house holds memories, Shades is where Mike was broken, restored, started a family, and fell in love with international missions. Shades is also the church Mike happily left in 2013. That decision, he says, remains the most difficult decisions of his life.
It is rare that a fully engaged member of any church, who is very much at home, willingly chooses to leave that church. In a sense, Mike didn’t. God called him away from Shades to continue a passion He had birthed in him a decade earlier.
Mike vividly remembers his first experience with international missions.
“I took my first trip with a group to Israel … that lit a fire that will never be quenched,” he says.
That burning fire has taken Mike to another 33 nations over the next 13 years, the vast majority of those as a Shades member. But that wasn’t enough. Mike, his wife Laurie, and his daughter Kimsey were as involved as any Shades members. Laurie taught at the Early Learning Center, she and Mike taught Sunday School together, and Mike was averaging three international mission trips annually.
But God had bigger plans and those plans were not for the Lindsey family to remain in their comfort zone. A man passionate about missions leaving a church dedicated to missions might seem illogical and to understand the difficulty of that decision, one needs to understand Mike’s backstory.
“I was saved when I was eight. It was legitimate,” Mike says. “I was the model child growing up.”
It was during Mike’s time as an undergraduate student at the University of Alabama and a subsequent tour of duty in the Middle East that Mike slipped away from his faith.
“During college and during the Army, I never darkened the door of the church. I didn’t know how to be a Godly man or a Godly father,” he explains, “I looked up one day, and I had a broken marriage and two boys that are growing up in a broken home.”
Mike and his first wife divorced. It was then that Mike, a broken man, looked for anything comforting to his troubled soul.
“I had failed as a father, I had failed as a husband,” Mike says. “I had failed as a child of God.”
That comfort was found in the church of his teenage years. Mike found his journey matched that of a biblical character God said was a “man after His own heart,” the great King David.
“Like David, I recognized my brokenness. I went through my brokenness. God restored me,” Mike says.
And God introduced Mike to international missions, his newfound passion.
“You hear international missions from the pulpit every Sunday at Shades,” Mike says. “Danny was launching the 2010 Vision and I said to myself, ‘That’s me. I’m made for this.’”
Ten years and 33 nations later, Mike felt God calling him to move his family to Double Oak Community Church.
“I felt that quiet, still, small voice. It was almost like a tap on my shoulder and God whispered, ‘I want you to go lead missions at Double Oak,’” Mike remembers. “I was like, ‘Double who?’”
If you are a follower of Christ, you will not sit still. If you are sitting still, you are doing something wrong.
Double Oak Community Church was a quickly growing church located in the town of Mt. Laurel in north Shelby County. One thing they did not have was a full-time missions pastor. The role had always been voluntarily filled by a church member. What Mike had no way of knowing was that the member who was filling that role at the time had to step down, and that God had Mike right in the middle of His plan to fill that vacancy.
“I had no desire to leave Shades. I told God he was wrong,” Mike said. “I was right where I was supposed to be. I was a mission-oriented guy in the greatest missions church ever.”
What Mike learned was that God was trying to stretch his faith.
“I think, maybe God pried me away from Shades a little bit because I had become too attached to an institution. As good and as wonderful an institution as it is, and as much as I deeply care about it and will always call it home, God was saying: ‘Look, you need Me, not a local church,’” Mike says.
“If you are on mission for Me, I’m going to be moving you all over the place, so you need to learn to let go and follow Me.”
It was in a Dunkin Donuts in New Delhi, India that Mike, on a mission trip, first shared this calling with Pastor Danny. Over a cup of coffee, Mike laid out what he thought was God’s calling for him to move his family to Double Oak. Danny was 100 percent supportive.
“He’s seen so many people like me come through, grow and then get sent out,” Mike says.
By trade, Mike is an attorney, a partner with the Jauregui and Lindsey Law Firm. Though he practices law daily, he feels like he was always being prepared for international missions.
“Looking back, you can see God’s handprint all over this. My major in college was international relations, go figure,” Mike says with a laugh. “Then I spent eight years in the military. I’ve always had that adventuresome spirit and the desire to engage with other cultures.”
On the surface it would seem to many the easiest thing would have been to stay at a church where your family is engaged and serving.
But Mike and Laurie could find no stop signs.
“God wouldn’t let me not do it,” Mike says. “If you are a follower of Christ, you will not sit still. If you are sitting still, you are doing something wrong.”
In his time at Double Oak, the congregation has gone from two to three annual mission trips involving 20-30 members to more than 10 US and international trips with more than 170 church members participating.
Other believers have reached out to Mike asking his advice on moving out of their comfort zone. His message never changes.
“Don’t get too comfortable in your pew, wherever it is, because if you surrender your life to God, He is going to move you,” Mike says. “It may not be out of a church but it may be to step into leadership, do something.”
Mike concedes, though, that God may also be calling you to something outside the walls of your church home, but he is quick to offer a warning to any who feel they hear God’s call.
“Follow God down that trail and pray for stop signs if that’s not where He wants you to go. If you finally hit a stop sign … maybe it’s not God leading you,” Mike says. “Maybe it’s your heart, maybe it’s the enemy, but it’s not God.”
In this case, Mike is certain it was God at work in his life, moving him from the known and comfortable into the next step of His will. The missions commitment at Double Oak Community Church has grown exponentially, and the church has developed a vision to grow missions in Shelby County even more. Mike and the other church leaders feel like the opportunities are almost endless.
Put simply, they don’t see any stop signs.