March 29, 2021 -


Taking Risks to Build Community and Step Into Your Calling

David Robbins

Photo of David Robbins
David Robbins shares how following Jesus requires surrender, vulnerability and community. The president of Campus Crusade for Christ, International, he shares his journey through a variety of realities, including the changing seasons of marriage and family, life in New York City and navigating a global pandemic.

Episode Reflection

Invitation to Explore

David Robbins shares how past wounds and desires for approval and affirmation can sometimes lead us away from God and away from our calling. But when a person seeks God to meet one’s  needs and heal one’s wounds, one can continue to take small steps of faith and pursue God’s calling. Take the time to consider your hurts, wounds, needs, and deep desires. Where is God revealing areas of pain that He can heal, worries that He can overcome, and needs that He can meet? Take the time to seek God in prayer to meet your needs, overcome your worries and heal your pains.

Scripture to Study

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4)

Wise Words to Consider

“When you get to give people glimpses of glory because you are walking squarely and where God has you and what you’re created for, it usually means there is an ongoing, continual surrender that is happening in our lives. And it’s not a past surrender that we live off of; it’s an ongoing continual surrender. And that’s been true for us and I see that happen all the time in people’s lives.”—David Robbins

A Prayer to Lead You

Gracious Spirit of life, demonstrate your goodness by leading me to take risks and build community. Breath life into the people that you have called me to love. Help me to seek all my affirmation and value in Christ, to seek my worth in the eyes of my loving, heavenly Father. In the name of Jesus Christ my loving brother, I pray. 

A Practice to Begin

David Robbins explains that when you minister out of your weakness God shows up to bear fruit that will last. This means that God often calls us to move toward areas that expose our weaknesses and our need for Him. Begin to pray that God might manifest his grace in your weakness as you seek to bring Him glory in the place where God has already placed you to love and serve.

Questions to Answer

David Robbins’s story is one of following the leading of the Spirit to go wherever He leads, and what he reveals about the Spirit’s leading is that the Spirit tends to lead us to places where we must confront our weaknesses, needs, and wounds and places where we can receive as much as we give. Are there places in your life that would force you to confront your weaknesses, needs, and wounds? Are there places where you might receive blessings from others as you seek to be a blessing to them?

Resources to Help

Bill Bright, Have You Made the Wonderful Discovery of the Spirit-Filled Life?


Sam Holland  0:04  

You’re listening to the Created For podcast. We believe that everyone was created to make a unique impact in the world. Created For is a podcast to explore ideas around purpose, calling, and discovering how God is inviting you to influence the world in your own way, right now. I’m your host, Sam Holland.

David Robbins is passionate about integrating faith and family, while equipping people to invest in their communities. David became the president of FamilyLife in 2017. He and his wife Meg have served in a variety of ministry roles over the years in Western Europe. And as a national director for Cru’s campus field ministry. Before FamilyLife, the Robbins lived in Manhattan, where they helped launch an initiative with Cru to 20 somethings. In David’s Created For talk, he focused on seven key words, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

So Dave, in your Created For talk, you focused on seven words, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” And it centered us right on Jesus and the Holy Spirit and just how vital they are in the life of Jesus followers. So I’m wondering, how has it looked in your life just to practically live out that truth – Christ in you?

David Robbins  1:32  

Yeah, thanks, Sam. Well, I know for myself, God keeps putting me in positions and I think He often puts those who follow Him and surrender their lives to Him in positions where they are desperate for His power – where they can’t do it on their own.

I remember Meg and I having a conversation just about nine months ago of – man – continual dependency is exhausting. But yet a life of surrender and dependence is what God invites us into. And I remember she replied to me, “I really think this is what God wants it to look like right now, even though it’s exhausting in the moment, we get to see Him come in, and He puts us in positions to where we’re desperate for His power. And then He shows us provision in ways that display His greatness.”

And practically for me, it gets really simple and maybe overly simple – of, at the beginning of the day, in the middle of the day, whenever I’m prompted, just going, “Okay, who’s in charge, Lord, am I being self reliant right now? Or is Your Spirit – the Spirit of God that You put inside of me – am I being empowered by and dependent upon Your Spirit?” Because that is what is going to let me step into my calling and step into my fears, step into my insecurities, and produce fruit that remains.

On my own, I cannot produce fruit that will stick and will remain. In God’s Spirit, I can, and there are days I get to the end of my day and go, “You know, I lived that one out completely in my own strength. There it was – I was self-reliant, Lord, thank you for using me and give me grace and new morning mercy tomorrow to wake up and be dependent upon You.” But it is that moment by moment, minute by minute, hour by hour, I slip into self reliance all the time, and repenting of it and getting right back in step with the Holy Spirit and putting Him in charge. I mean, it’s so overly simple, but that’s what it looks like for me often.

And the analogy that comes my mind a lot, even though I was not in a marching band, but someone told me the analogy once of, often when we find ourselves – that we’ve been self reliant and out of step, we kind of put ourselves on the sideline, wrestle with the guilt and shame and before we get back in there– and I think God invites us in His Word, in 1 Peter – “Just get right back in step, get right back in step with My Spirit.” And you don’t see someone who’s in a marching band go sit on the sideline for 10 minutes before they jump back in. If they get out of step, they just get right back in step. And I think that’s the invitation God gives us all day, every day.

Sam Holland  4:09  

Yeah, you mentioned just fears and insecurities. It reminded me of the story you told which I so appreciated about moving to New York. Is there any more intimidating thing in the United States than just to move to New York City? And you met Trey, the super cool guy who immediately intimidated you and made you feel insecure. And you said something like, “Our internal narratives hijack what we’re created for.” And you also said, “I almost missed ministering to someone else, and then ministering to me, because I was so focused on my own perceived inadequacies.” And I think we all experience that imposter syndrome, I’ve heard it called. So what are the other things that you do when you experience that insecurity and it kind of makes you doubt your calling?

David Robbins  5:02  

Yeah. Well, one route I go is try to identify what am I really trying to get out of this relationship with Trey? Or why is this surfacing? And often for me, there’s threads of approval and being perfect at something that prevents me from stepping in and taking risk into what God has and being secure. And for me, when I’m able to identify what it is that I’m actually longing for, and I need or the pain I’m trying to fill in, then I’m able to go, “Okay, God, Your perfect approval’s all I need.”

And whether that’s dependence or security or all sorts of needs that we have in life, many needs that we have that are legitimate, and that before the fall, these needs that God’s wired into us. And certainly we all have wounds and narratives in our story of pain, and why we lunge after some things in some illegitimate ways that we do. But for me, I stay engaged in my calling and to continue to take steps of faith, when I’m lunging after God meeting those needs, which sounds so simple, I know.

But it’s not simple to identify specifically, “What is triggering right now? Why is it? Oh, I want Trey’s approval. Why am I so desperate? I’m a 40-year-old man, why am I desperate for this 23-year-old guy’s approval?” Yet it was triggering things in my story. “Wait, God, no, no, I want Your approval.” And if I’m identifying with that, in my identity in Christ, then I’m able to step into calling.

And for me, and I think it’s different for a lot of people, it is a lot of stepping into my calling, means continuing to remain secure and God’s, you know, Jesus is– my identity in Christ. And then my identity in Christ not being in my performance and others opinions which I can just so quickly shift to that. My performance and how good is it and others opinions – how am I measuring up? Instead of, Jesus invites us into Christ’s performance in the totality of it. Being secure in that – in Christ’s opinion of us, all of a sudden, we begin to operate really in a self differentiated way, and we don’t get emotionally enmeshed, yet we’re able to move toward empathy, and not just be detached and distant.

We’re able, if those things are true, Christ’s performance, Christ’s opinion, not in some lofty just head knowledge, but in a practical day-to-day, why is this coming up? Let me move into this space attached to my identity of Christ’s performance, Christ’s opinion, then I can really enter into situations and step into calling and not doubt it, in a really differentiated way, and step into hard things even but stay connected with people in the process.

Sam Holland  7:41  

Yeah, I thought that story really illustrated community and what you just ended by saying, staying connected to people in the process. And one thing that you pointed out was that, sometimes we come into situations where we think, “I have to minister to this person.” And certainly if we’re older, we automatically think like, “I have to minister to this person.” And, really, I’ve seen time and time again, what you described, we minister to each other in community. And Trey would have missed out on you, and you would have missed out on Trey, and just the image of God in each other. And so talk more about how you’ve seen that aspect of community play out.

David Robbins  8:24  

Yeah. It’s so good, because it’s always reciprocal. Even though I was some 15 years older than Trey, we developed and I was more in posture of mentor style – God was at work in my life, obviously, from minute one. I met him wanting to do something in my own heart, and it became very reciprocal, and he’s an amazing friend. And it was John Ortberg, I think, that said, “Anytime you see a life flourishing it is because it is receiving nourishment from outside itself.” And obviously there’s nourishment we can get from Divine – Jesus Himself – but also kind of the latticework that we are meant to be connected in.

And I just think so often we want to go independent, we love the idea of community, but there’s a lot of risk involved there. We want the benefits of community without taking the risk involved, of being known, of being vulnerable, of being able to have someone take advantage of vulnerable things you share. And I’m not saying– there is safety that is necessary. And there’s some people in situations – those are caveats, for sure. But as we go through community, and go through life building community, it is this sustaining thing. Jesus as our source being the true vine, of course, but yet His body that He is meant and wired for us to be interdependent with, is a really important part and it takes risk. It takes risk to be known. And it takes risk to be okay when people don’t respond perfectly back, because those are fallen people growing themselves.

We’re all in this “grace and truth over time” thing in life, that we’re walking through of growing and becoming more and more like Jesus, and the body of Christ is a huge part of it. And how we give and receive, we grow in that and I’m grateful for the latticework of God’s Body of Christ that we get to lean on in the process.

And in each chapter in our lives, I think keep showing up, if you only have people that really know you from past chapters, although those can be really significant, lifelong friends, and it’s a beautiful thing– we’ve moved several times – too many times for what I imagined my life would look like, and continuing to show up in the next place and open up again, and take the risk again, that begins to get hard in life, but it’s always worth it.

Sam Holland  10:49  

You’ve mentioned the different chapters in our lives. We’re going to talk about the thread of calling throughout the vocational chapters of our lives. So you’ve done ministry on college campuses, in New York City, and now you’re leading this ministry called FamilyLife. But what has been consistent about the nature of your calling, when vocationally you function in different roles?

David Robbins  11:17  

Yeah. Whether it’s for Meg and I, you know, whether it’s college students, which we loved, and whether it’s 20 somethings in New York City, which we loved, and whether it’s marriage and families now, and the power of home to home, and what happens around the table, and the ministry that can happen life on life, and inside of a home, which is such an intimate, sacred place. You know, I would say the thread that’s been common, goes back to how we originally began to look at what God was inviting us into, and that was just surrender. Inside of our wedding rings is Joshua 1:16, “Whatever you command us to do, we will do and wherever you send us, we will go.” And that was the people’s response to Joshua, as he took over from Moses. And it just represented our heart to the Lord as we married one another. And that’s been something that I didn’t know I would have to take so literal. But yet every step of surrender whatever He’s inviting us into, if He’s going to be in that place, it’s worth following into those places.

So the context may change. And certainly we’ve been all in, in every context we’ve gone to, and there’s been reasons why. And it’s amazing how the people we get connected to and the stories we have – the stories and narrative we have are part of our calling. The giftings and passions and burdens and stories and people that we are connected to, is a huge part of it.

And they have been parts of the directive, but the one consistent has been for us, “Lord, we’ll go wherever You send us to go, we’ll do whatever You command us to do.” Walk with God, do what He says – I mean – really is the simplicity of it. And for us, that’s meant, “Okay, Lord, we want to be Your ambassadors.” We’ve had conversations before, whether it’s time to hang up full-time ministry. There was a season in our young 30s where we really went there, and God reaffirmed, “Nope, stay in full-time ministry.”

But we’ve seen the importance of every person’s calling through time, and every person’s calling that we’ve been a part of – in ourselves and helping other people walk through – all I know is when you get to give people glimpses of glory, because you’re walking squarely in where God has you and what you’re created for, it usually means there is an ongoing, continual surrender that is happening in our lives. And it’s not a past surrender that we live off of. It’s an ongoing, continual surrender. And that’s been true for us. And I see that happen all the time in people’s lives.

Sam Holland  13:53  

Yeah, you’ve been talking about walking with God, and staying connected with Him and just how that’s key to your calling. So how are you formed into a person that knew how to do that? What was your spiritual upbringing?

David Robbins  14:07  

Yeah, so I grew up in a Christian home that we did a lot of the right things. And it was sincere, and I really did have faith. But then I went to college and I began to realize how there wasn’t intimacy. My relationship with the Lord was really defined on what I do for Him, versus how I’m with Him. And even fast forward to doing ministry day in and day out, there’s pivotal moments in the life of a leader where, whatever the promised land is for us, whether that’s a church of certain size, a new ministry, a building, writing a book, landing the perfect job, whatever it is, being sought out as an expert, pales in comparison and significance to our desire for God.

And I will just say that’s been my constant formation of, “Lord, do I really think that intimacy with you is the purpose of life and is enough? And anything that flows out of that, You call me to it and I’ll step into it.” But it can be gone in any moment, it can be taken away, we could be recalled by Him, from something that felt like, “Wow, here we go,” to something smaller because He’s choosing to do that. Those ebbs and flows will happen. And if that’s really getting lived out, which I have a hard time living that out, if I’m being honest, but as that get’s lived out.

My upbringing is, “Walk with God and then show how great you are.” And just work – perfectionism – you know, “Go for it.” And so that’s stuff I’ve had to process and continue to have to process, because I’ll never measure up. I’m not sufficiently good, wise or gifted enough to make this thing work, and to bear fruit that remains. That’s a spiritual work – the fruit that remains.

And I think for me, it’s been a constant upbringing and into formation of putting aside my old self. Putting aside my propensity to perfect the flesh. Galatians 2, “You started in the Spirit, but now you’re perfecting the flesh.” I am so like those Galatians– of what can legalistically– what can happen in my heart sometimes and, “Yeah, okay, I’m gonna lunge after the Spirit, be empowered by Him.” And His power is made perfect in my weakness.

And that story of having it together and proving yourself– all I know for my story, God keeps putting me in situations where I’m desperate for His power. I know I can’t do it on my own. And He shows up when I’m willing to be in that vulnerable space, and minister out of that vulnerable and weak spot.

Sam Holland  16:54  

So we mentioned that you’re giving leadership to this ministry called FamilyLife, which gives you a unique perspective on families. And I’m wondering as Christians transition to marriage and parenting, how have you seen individual callings affected? And, do we have individual and family callings? How have you seen that play out?

David Robbins  17:18  

I love this question. Really, you just combined our last two chapters of working with 20-somethings, watching them grow, get married in their 30s for the most part in New York City – many of them, and the joy of getting to do some of those weddings and then now being with FamilyLife and getting to see the power of what God does when God forms in the home. And in particular, as you bring up marriage specifically– marriage – there’s still obviously individual calls.

God has wired each one of us uniquely to step into the things God has us to step into, that we keep discovering through life. But marriage, certainly we become one and we are wired to grow in oneness. That doesn’t mean you throw off everything about your individual self, but it does mean there is a yielding, and a listening, and a listening for the sake of the other: “How can I keep helping Meg step into who she is?” And there’s seasons where I’ve done that well, and there’s seasons where I haven’t, but that should be a question as a husband I’m always asking. And the vice versa can happen too, and there’s an analogy of, marriage is a lot like a great cup of coffee – where water and beans make coffee – right? But you don’t just throw the two together. One has to be heated and boiled and the other has to be grinded in some ways. And out of it though, comes out something beautiful that I love a lot and is a core part of my day.

And I think that’s a lot of what marriage is – it makes our callings– but we can trust the Lord to surrender and be shaped in some ways and still be able to live out and pour our unique cups of coffee in our unique two mugs, but we’ve been shaped and formed differently because of them.

And so for Meg and I practically, what that has looks like is that in important seasons, one, how are we cheering each other on and not feeling like, “Eh, you’re getting in my way.” I think it’s really important to cheer one another on in a very mutual, reciprocal way. And in different seasons have different times – kids enter, etc. Each season brings a new challenge to cheering each other on in the seasons and the calling that we each uniquely have, but we do embrace that there is a family calling we have also. And those are shaped by values we have that we formed together.

And you know, every three to five years we get away. And you can do it more often than that – we kind of take chapters of life – next three to five years. We get away and we individually list off, “Okay, as we think of this next phase of life, what do we want to be true? What are values that God’s putting on my heart? What’s He shaped me for? Which passion– ?” As we crossed over 40 in this last chapter, as we look at the next decade, as we are looking toward a decade that many say in your 50s is one of your most productive and fruitful decades, “Okay, God, what are you shaping? What values? What do we want to make sure is true, together, that we hold each other to living out?” And so we list those out individually, then we come together and we share them with each other and really just share our heart. That’s a lot of marriage is being honest with what’s really on your heart. And this really is around in calling.

And then we ask questions like, “Why is that one so low? Mag that’s so who you are – come on, that’s gonna be number three! Put that thing up there higher – why don’t you believe that about yourself?” Or, we ask honest questions like, “Now why did that value end up so high? What’s going on that that’s put that so high?” And we listen to each other. Maybe it stays high, maybe it doesn’t, but then an important thing happens. We have our individual values we process with the Lord, but then we combine them. And we don’t include every one. But we go, and we go “Here’s our core values together for this next chapter of life, that we’re here together going to ensure we live out to the best of our ability to dependent upon the Holy Spirit.”

And there’s the top five or seven can often feel there’s a few unique things, but it can seem a little generic and probably live those out in any place that God calls you. But that next layer of those top seven to 15 values, that really begins to go, “Okay, wait a minute, we need to go move to a center city somewhere.” And we were down to Miami, New York, we end up moving to New York, because we wanted to be in our late 30s in a place that shaped us on the field, and where there was a lot of diversity. And there was a lot of people that didn’t know Jesus, we actually had the value, we wanted to live in a location with less than 5% evangelicals, because we wanted to be pushed, and what was shaping secular mindset? And how does the gospel shape there?

In this next chapter, we realize, in New York City, the power of the home and spiritual conversations that we were stumbling into, we’re often, “Hey, what relationship desires I have? What problems do I have in a marriage, or desires I have in a marriage? What issues do I have with the kid?” And not many people would come to church with this. But we were always having spiritual conversations about Jesus related to the home and marriage and family and singleness and desires. And so that really shaped this next chapter.

So that’s something practical we’ve done that isn’t a cure all and it doesn’t solve everything. But we will often, after we do one of those value weekends away, we’ll print it out, put in a Ziploc bag, hang it in our shower and just pray over it for three to six months and go, “Okay God, here’s desires You put as we got away and shared our hearts with one another. What are You doing? What needs to change? What doesn’t? What do we need to hold on to? What do we need to let go of?” And it’s amazing what a Ziploc bag in the shower and in prayer consistently over a period of time can do. Because it’s rooted in some great togetherness in calling also, as we also celebrate the uniqueness and the unique callings we have.

Sam Holland  23:05  

Okay, let’s shift gears and talk about this crazy time that we’re living in. People like to call it unprecedented. I haven’t come up with a better word yet. Every day is a new normal. We’re all trying to figure out how to navigate life during a global pandemic. So can you speak to community and how you have navigated community during a global pandemic?

David Robbins  23:38  

Yeah, that’s great. Well, we have moved cities during a global pandemic, which adds on another layer of loss. And so what’s amazing is the first thing that came to mind was our first six months in the pandemic, which was back in Little Rock, and our neighbors– we saw neighboring and the power of neighbors, and we had two other believers in our neighborhood. And it transformed how we did Easter on the Curb every night – walking through what Jesus did during the week leading up to Easter, together with those two families. And we started inviting families, and sure enough, by the end of the week, we we had like eight families, and some of them – wasn’t sure exactly where they were spiritually, it led to amazing conversations and togetherness. We had meals on card tables in our neighbor’s front yards. And those were things that did not exist, really.

We had relationships with our neighbors, but it immediately set totally new rhythms – walking through the neighborhood. And I grieve the progress of what was forming and community through the pandemic.

And as we get weary through the pandemic, I think as spring hits and temperatures warm again, I just think, what we’re created for – how do we actually redeem the season we’re still in. Prayerfully with this, there will be levels of normalcy we get to sooner than later as the vaccine comes, etc. And who knows how far out we are to “back to normal.” And hopefully we don’t go totally back to normal because hopefully, something like spring comes and we’re back in our front yards again, or around fire pits.

And I just go, “How can we as followers of Jesus, look back and go, we will talk about this with our grandkids someday?” Will we talk about, we persisted and persevered and the ways we were intentional in community? What we needed ourselves, because the way that I shared that made it seem like I didn’t need that. I needed that Easter for myself. I needed the Gladdens across the street and their perspective and some of the things I learned from Jo Beth, who has a Jewish background, and, “Wow, you just took Passover to a whole nother level.” And I needed those things, too. And so, anyway, there was a beautiful intentionality.

Then there was the second half, and we moved to Orlando. And we’re starting over from scratch in some ways. Although some people from FamilyLife– or there’s relationships that we had here and that move with us, but we actually moved to a part of town, because of our kids’ school, that was different than where a lot of other people landed.

And community during the pandemic in Orlando has kept meaning, tenaciously show up – obviously show up safely. But it’s meant, “Okay, I’m gonna go to the prayer meetings at the school with the four dads who’re committed to praying. I heard about it, I’m stepping in.” it’s meant, “Okay, track, that’s something you can do outside that’s still happening consistently. Let’s go to every track meet and let’s be intentional with people.” And it’s meant meals in our backyard and whatnot.

Showing up in a new place – we’ve done that before – doing it in the context of pandemic, we were very concerned. We still have a lot to root in. It’s not like we have, “Oh, I’m fully known in six months here in Orlando.” That’s not true. Yet, I’m hopeful because people respond to intentionality in this time. If we’re filled with the Spirit, He will keep giving us the tenacity, I think, to keep showing up and being intentional.

But I will say, you get weary and tired, you need to take care of yourself. Obviously, more people isn’t always the thing. But taking the steps to keep being intentional for that community has been something we’ve had to keep calling each other to. Because it’s just like, “Eh, it’d be easier just to do this.”

So that’s not a perfect answer. That’s our in-process answer. We’re very much in process just like everyone else, but showing up. And I just think we have an opportunity with spring hitting again soon, to go, “How do we as followers of Jesus, continue to step into the moment of creating – giving the glimpses of glory of real community for others and creating those tables to be around?”

Sam Holland  28:09  

Dave, as we wrap up here, if you had one invitation for followers of Jesus, who are listening right now, who want to step into their calling, what would that be?

David Robbins  28:23  

I would just say something that’s very personal to me, because as you asked the question, it took me back to a season that I’m convinced God has told me, “You will never outgrow this. You will never outgrow this invitation, you will never outgrow – no matter how sophisticated you think your faith gets. This simplicity of the lover of your soul – come be a lover of God.”

Because lovers show and tell of the things that they love. You will step into your calling if you are stepping into– there’s right ways to view God as a master, servant, and king absolutely – as a father, as a vine – all the ways – shepherd – all the way God views us, but I think He keeps drawing us in through those different ways that He’s presented himself to Scripture, to the ultimate example of, “I’m the bridegroom, you’re the bride, come to Me, pursue Me as a first love. Don’t give it up. Keep pursuing Me being more of a lover of you, not just a servant of Me.” I think is what God invites us into. And here’s the thing – if we love Him, and His love is overwhelming us and we’re experiencing Him in a present tense, ongoing way, day-to-day, then lovers will show and tell of the things that they love and step into the callings that they have. And I think that’s the greatest invitation He invites us into.

Sam Holland  29:58  

You’ll never outgrow the simplicity of a close relationship with God. What do you need to do today, to stay connected? Set aside five minutes to start or end your day in prayer? Seek out a friend for Bible study? Make it a priority today.

Created For is hosted and produced by Cru. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe, rate or review it wherever you listen. For more resources to continue your journey to living out your impact, check out the show notes on our website, and follow us on Instagram at _createdfor.

Thanks for listening.

We’ll catch you again on the next episode with Rich Villodas, when we’ll talk about the deeply formed life.

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