I am sorry that I have been so long away from blogging lately. My plate has been pretty full and below you will see why. But first some background.
I moved to Detroit, Michigan in August of this past year after feeling a strange pull and had a couple doors opened to me that were a bit too much to be considered coincidence. I had felt a strong pull to church planting work for a great while and felt it was time to take the next step and get my hands dirty and learn something about it. So I moved to Detroit to work for Kensington Community Church which has strong credentials in the church planting world being the head of Vision360, the 37th largest church, the 64th fastest growing church in the country and the #9 Church to learn church planting from according to Outreach Magazine.
That being the case, I literally sold everything I owned that wouldn’t fit in my car and made the 1000 mile drive from Searcy, Arkansas to Detroit, Michigan. I arrived and was thrown into the fire quickly helping an urban church move into a larger space, regularly visiting an artist church in Ann Arbor, Michigan and sitting under the wisdom and teaching of several guys who were doing church planting in the Detroit area. It was such a steep learning curve that I am only now realizing how much I picked up in such a short amount of time.
Through those early months I began feeling like my calling was something different from what I was experiencing. The model that I was being shown was high production, high creativity and high energy. This makes sense– it is a model that has proven useful in building big churches. And when brought under the direction of someone who has the capacity, creativity and skill-set for that, great things can happen.
That person, however, is not me.
It was about this time that I picked up what would end up being a bombshell in my life. That bomb was Neil Cole’s Organic Leadership. In reading that book I began to see a little more the kind of leader I am. I reflected long and hard on the kind of leadership roles I had found myself in before, especially in ministry. As a camp counselor I was able to have great conversations and lead kids to Christ in ways that were unconventional but spoke to kids. This made me unpopular with my camp directors, but effective with students. I thought about jail ministry and the relationships I had built with guys who were just “regular guys.” I thought about the work that friends and I had done on Woodruff street in Searcy which started with a soccer ball.
The common thread that I began to see in all of this was that my skill-set was much more suited toward relationship-based ministry rather than event-centered ministry. I am much better at working in small groups and one-on-one than I am planning a production for a large group of people. This began to call where I was and what I was doing into question a little bit.
Disillusionment with my work along with some financial rearranging led me to leave the internship at Kensington early and begin working with a local non-profit called Elevate Detroit. Elevate does more of the on-the-ground serving and relationship building and community strengthening that I realized I was more gifted for. I have loved my time working for them and have continued to stack up valuable lessons about what authentic and organic ministry look like in this city.
I have come under the wings of several great people who are doing great work in this city. These people are spreading the gospel by cooking burgers, putting people in homes, coaching kids sports teams, working in schools and going out to the community rather than looking for new ways to bring the community in. These people have shown me things that would seem obvious, but are still shocking in their simplicity:
1) It takes time. None of their works or ministries were put together or got to where they are overnight. It is only from long, consistent, inconvenient longevity that they have been able to establish credibility, become reputable and be able to get into the lives of others to show them Christ.
2) Results aren’t easy to measure. Whereas larger groups might measure success by numbers, or giving or baptisms, on the groups work reveals that there are nuances that are difficult to measure. This isn’t to say that numbers are a poor indicator—they’re useful. But it can be harder when your numbers are small and you realize that everyone is messy.
3) Kingdom is bigger than we think. I linked to an N.T. Wright quote recently that sums it up. Measuring success on baptisms or numbers can sometimes overshadow the other battles we are winning for the kingdom. Grabbing a rake, planting vegetables, shoveling the neighbors snow, encouraging others—these are still battles in the kingdom and battles worth fighting.
Dwelling on these things have moved me in ways I didn’t expect. And like I said, I am lucky to have the people around me that I have who are helping me process through this. Over the past five months or so I have been processing what I believe I am called to be doing.
Which is the subject of my next post…