“I’m not going to be a loose cannon, firing up random things, you know. I want to be able to join the ranks [and] be able to say, ‘Here I am Lord! Use me—send me!”
Not everyone wants to be sent because many are satisfied with an average, mediocre lifestyle of Christianity, where we show up on Sunday, sing our favorite songs and get a little shot of faith to keep us going until the next time we return. But, when we say “send me” to God it comes from a place of passion that oozes purpose and destiny and longing, a longing to be part of something that we know in the deepest part of our soul is sovereign and true and destined to be.
Those who lay themselves aside for the sake of God do it willingly, authentically and typically after a long battle of wrestling with God for destiny, for truth and for real love. In that wrestling to get all of our whys answered by God (like Why did you give me gifts I’ve been forbidden to use?),we discover that God’s love is often outside of the box of our religious context or rules.
LIFE AS A MENNONITE
“Joe Joe” Morris was raised “hardcore Mennonite.” He says “I had a call on my life since birth to be a leader, but I always thought I wasn’t worthy.” In his own words, “very very conservative. Lots of rules. You know, we sewed our own clothes. I was raised on a farm and I drove a tractor around every day and that was my life.” He and his family drew attention with their attire being hand made and he recalls, “People would take pictures of us when we would go to the grocery store.”
His perception of God and his faith was wrapped up in a box that was simple, archaic, outdated and extremely religious. He, too, wondered why “normal” people wore the clothes they wore. He was taught to focus on the outward appearance rather than the heart of a person. But, in the deepest part of himself was a thirst for truth, for meaning, and to belong to a community and a tradition where he, as well as his gifts, could live and thrive in the way he felt so lead.
The experience as a Mennonite for Joe Joe was “oppressive” because the gifts that he had for music were not only stifled or discouraged, but deemed “from Satan.” And he even had his guitar taken away for playing the “wrong” kind of music. He says he remembers thinking “how can the devil come up with such good music?” This was only one of many questions he had on his personal journey to find freedom from religion. Even though he couldn’t see it at the time, God was building a hunger in him and the desire for an intimate encounter with the Creator that would send him out into the world—free to be uniquely who God designed him to be.
A JOURNEY OF FORGIVENESS
Two years ago he left home after an extraordinary encounter with God (that we’ll share about in the next issue of MM). He left the Mennonite community and he was excommunicated from the church. He says, “It was because of God’s calling on my life that I cried out to God. I said, ‘Lord, show me your people,’ and that’s exactly what [He] did.”
It was a journey for Joe Joe to unravel and break the strongholds of religion in order to experience true freedom and understand his identity in Christ. Through the help of his sister, he got connected to New Covenant Fellowship, a church in Oklahoma, one that three years earlier he and his family thought was “of the devil.” He says, “they were speaking in tongues” and he thought “This church is too evangelical. This church is weird. This church is off—it’s of the devil. I want no part of it.”
God has a sense of humor as He sent Joe Joe back to a church he mocked and likely never imagined being part of. He recalls, “This time I was hungry for the Holy Spirit and God’s like, ‘I want you to go to that church.’ I’m like, ‘Here we go.’ So I go there and instantly I find family instead of what I thought I was going to run into—people that were hypocrites, that were using grace to live in sin. Instead, what I found was a group of people, a community that was seeking God’s heart. And that shocked me because I didn’t think I’d find that anywhere else other than the Mennonites.”
Joe Joe says, “The Mennonites have something the world needs. They have community. They have that bond together that they’re willing to die side-by-side and take a bullet together. He was still looking for that sense of belonging and family. He says, “The world needs Jesus in it. . .but what they don’t need is the control and the religion with it.”
That sense of family in this new church is what Joe Joe found, and God used Pastor CJ to take him under his wing to help him uncover the bitterness in his heart. From this bond, a year and a half healing journey began. He says, “God started demolishing those strongholds in my life and showing me His heart for me, and He gave me a completely new identity that came with the process.” Healing didn’t happen in a day, it was over the span of a year. But within a very short period of time he says, “I had no bitterness towards my parents” and feeling abandoned by a few of the churches he had been part of, “God dealt with that pretty quickly as well” as he was able to release them. His focus became tapping into God’s plan for his life—his identity and calling.
There were bigger revelations that came that ultimately would help Joe Joe realize that he was used to working for his salvation and God wanted to free him from that. He says, “Whether I want to admit it or not, the background I came from, you really work for your salvation and that’s really detrimental because it’s based on my performance.” During 2017, his new church family began teaching him that God wants his success as much as he does. He said, “I learned He’s fighting my battles—He’s literally fighting for me to be successful.” He says, “I found a lot of freedom, not only in breaking up a lot of the religious mindsets, but also freedom in being able to go out in public and have an identity.”
God began opening Joe Joe’s eyes and unraveling lies that he believed about certain churches. Then he began to investigate for himself exactly what they were teaching. What he discovered was an eye opener, leading him to realize how wrong he had been—judging without personally knowing.
New Covenant was a sister church to Bethel in Redding; often his church had speakers come to visit from Bethel. He says, “I used to listen to Bethel Music in secret while I lived with the Mennonites and to Jesus Culture, but I didn’t know what they preached, their doctrine or what the lifeblood of their church was…so I started digging into it.” He says, “I found out that they are literally preaching the same thing I’m hearing every Sunday—empowerment, discipleship and they are world-changing, game-changing Holy Spirit people. He thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He came to grips with what he thought he knew but really didn’t.
Bethel Church taught about real forgiveness and encouraged leadership. “True leadership,” Joe Joe says, “and how leaders work together with a group instead of dominating and standing on top of everyone.” He listened to hundreds of podcasts to hear with his own ears what they really taught. This all happened in 2017 and he ended the year “with a bang.” He said goodbye to religion and bitterness and found out the the truth of who Jesus was and how his life and his calling mattered to God.
IDENTITY AND CALLING
The birth of Joe Joe’s calling to create films and be an entrepreneur came in 2018 after he spent a year being a crane operator, working long hours. Although he is extremely grateful for the training ground of hard work, long hours, accountability and a paycheck, he knew there was more and he was leaning into God to unveil his bigger purpose in life.
God showed Joe Joe a huge business move that he would step into and it would be right along with his passions. He mentions, “A lady had explained that in three months there was going to be a business opportunity that would rise and I would walk right into it.” But within a couple of weeks he says, “I forgot the prophetic word—I forgot the prophecy. Not even three months later, I’m getting all these calls to do film work.” The word he was given was accurate.
The phones were ringing off the hook. And in the meantime, his gift and passion for filming became obvious to his employer. He sent him out (God sent him out) and his new journey had begun. This happened in February of 2018 and by March he was doing film work for Pepsi. By May he says, “I started my film company, Phantom Films. And the reason I chose that name was because I was asking people ‘What was your experience with me filming for you?’ And they said, ‘I didn’t even see you there.’ The name caught on and I started getting more jobs. I got my first commercial gig later that summer in Seattle.”
To this day Joe Joe continues to grow in what he knew he was called to. Beneath the pain of his former beliefs, a calling of leadership, entrepreneurism and worship is free to flourish, grow and shift in the arms of Jesus.
God took Joe Joe through a healing process to view God as someone who loved him, who was approachable and non-religious, who was real and not far away—unreachable. Ultimately, a testimony was birthed in him that could not be denied and a passion to bring heaven to earth and lead a revolution of love was forever embedded. God changes everything, even down to our DNA. Revelation and transformation came from going through the fire on his way to pursuing truth, love and purpose—all prerequisites of being sent by God. No matter where you come from or what you’ve been through, God doesn’t deny the one whose purest desire is to say, “Send Me.”