Interview with real-life pastor, Michael Spurlock
By Cori Phelps
CSM was blessed to see an early release of this true story and to interview Pastor Michael Spurlock on All Saints Church and the Karen refugees who planted seeds of hope there. All Saints opens nationwide in theaters (including Lafayette!) on August 25, and is so worth seeing!
CSpot: “All Saints” clearly depicts what it looks like to push back against the limitations of what we can see and those against us—how difficult was that at the time for you?
Michael: The members of All Saints church starting a farm with a community of refugees from Burma, which is the work at the center of this story, was an exercise in exercising our faith as a church, which means we were being asked to act without first seeing any evidence of what the future outcome might be.
If faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, then it could follow that acting on that faith is what it means to push back, or I might prefer “lean into” what we can’t see. Leaning in wasn’t always easy for us because there were no guarantees. We could have failed, never gotten the farm off the ground, had to sell the church. And if God had not been the source of this work, it might very well have failed.
But what we discovered every time we leaned in was that God was there upholding the work in some way from an encouraging word from an unexpected quarter to very real material provision of funds, or equipment, even weather. With repetition, it got easier to lean in towards God because he proved himself to be faithful, present, and reliable.
CSpot: In sharing your story, what do you hope is the most significant takeaway?
Michael: In a world where we often ask, “Where is God?” the events that took place at All Saints serve in some small way to demonstrate that God is alive and well and still at work in his world. To people of faith that might seem obvious, but for someone who doubts or fears that is not the case, it can be a welcome reminder, or a piece of very good news. And when God works out his purposes in very real and discernible ways like he did at All Saints, that can serve as an encouraging reminder for the people directly involved, but also for anyone who might hear or read about the story.
And what’s even better news is that God is at work all the time in all places doing his familiar work of enlightening people, saving them from troubling circumstances, calling them into renewed relationships with him, restoring their hope, even bringing life out of what the world things is dead. His presence and power are in the world ready to be enjoyed by the vigilant, rediscovered by the careless, or discovered for the first time by the lost.
CSpot: What did the Karen refugees teach you about life?
Michael: One day, not very long after the Karen first arrived at All Saints, I was watching them pick through the fencerow of our property and leave with great shoulders full of something they had harvested out of the tangle of what I saw as weeds. They had found something they could eat. The Karen taught me many things along the way, but the very first lesson they taught me was that where I saw weed and waste, they saw sustenance and life. They seemed so much more attuned to God’s abundant provision in creation that I am. It’s one of the characteristics that make them the tenacious and inspiring survivors that they are.
CSpot: What advice do you have for those with the fear of moving on His call in their lives?
Michael: I would quote two passages, the first from our Lord Jesus Christ: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And the second from James’s letter, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Taken together they simply tell us to believe, and then act on that belief. At some fundamental level, Christians must put into action what they profess with their lips.