In all of this, we have been praying, more than anything, for clarity. One part of God’s answer to us has been getting clear about a dream. We just keep dreaming about this future church.
We dream of a church that brings the fullness of the gospel to a diverse, educated, progressive context like Claremont, CA–a context which might assume Jesus doesn’t have much to say to it. We imagine a church community that is committed to the way of Jesus, and moves towards the world in all its complexity.
We want to equip people to joyfully and sustainably live the one-anothers, neighbor well, and do justice. That’s it. We don’t want to create Jesus-magic for an hour a week, or ask people to replace their busy-ness with churchy busy-ness. We want to be part of a church that helps people build a rhythm of life–a way of follow Jesus in our everyday, real lives that helps us be oriented around the values of…
- Sacrifice – giving ourselves away for the sake of others
- Authenticity – bringing our real, messy selves to Jesus, who restores us to our truest selves
- Openness – engaging in practices that helps us live connected to God
- Diversity – honoring the image of God in those who are different than ourselves
- Relationships- doing this alongside one another
In short, we dream of coming home to Southern California and starting a church under one simple vision:
Following Jesus into the world, together.
That means our time at Willow has come to an end. The conversations around that transition were hard and kind and honest. We are so grateful to have been on staff at Willow these past 4.5 years.
It also means we are moving back to Southern California! We love our home there, and we miss it. Along the way I asked a mentor –a pastor who’d launched a campus– about where we should try to do this. At the time, Northern California was mid-exploration, and it had strong leads on a building, a base of people, and donors. But there was also a path back home–to Southern California–with a tiny group of people we love deeply and have a ton of history with. But….no building, no base, no donors.
“That’s easy,” he said. And I thought, Good, there it is. Do the stable, secure thing. Take the advice and stop wishing for a way home.
“You go where you love.”
He said that we should do this where we love with people we love, and that everything else becomes a lot easier to navigate. And it’s true, our love for the people of the Pomona Valley and for Southern California overall is deep.
So here’s where we are:
- WE HAVE A MINISTRY PARTNER: We are partnering with Communitas International, who have equipped people to start churches for the past 50 years. Because of their long-time work in post-Christian Europe, they are especially helpful for imagining church in a culture where church participation is not the assumption or norm.
- WE ARE SELLING OUR HOUSE: Our house will go on the market this week, and we will move into my parents’ home in the interim of moving back to Southern California. Offloading our house payment is part of how we’re stewarding resources well.
- WE ARE LOCALIZING OUR DISCERNMENT PROCESS: Communitas has a workbook called The Dynamic Adventure. designed to help a group discuss and discern what form of church God might have in store for their unique context. We have a group of friends going through the workbook with us with a focus on the Pomona Valley.
- WE ARE IN A MILLION CONVERSATIONS: So many pastors and church starters are offering their time and insight, and we are on the phone a lot asking them questions.
- WE ARE TICKING OFF A MILLION TO-DO’S: There’s a list I won’t bore you with, but it goes on and on helps us get from here to there. So we are working away at it, bit by bit.
I’m fighting a desire to go into every detail, elaborate on every over-simplification. How do you take all God’s done over these 2 years and put it into two blog posts? But hopefully there’ll be time for that. For now, if you are a person of prayer, we would be grateful for you to join us in praying.
- PRAY FOR OUR KIDS: Our oldest is sensitive, deeply connected to his friends, and very rooted here. This will be a challenging season for him, and we hope he feels deeply loved in the midst of it.
- PRAY FOR FUNDRAISING: This project will require some fundraising, which feels daunting at the moment. At the same time, we’re really trying to be anchored in Jesus’ own words: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or your body, what you’ll wear…seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
- PRAY FOR THE MASSIVE TO DO LIST: There is so much to do in the next couple of months that we are a bit overwhelmed, and we are relying on God for stamina and focus.
Thank you for being in this with us, which you are if you’ve managed to read this far.
More to come!
Love to you, and here’s to 2019!