My Story Part One

5/14/12

I have been waiting to get this blog going until the Lord gave me a sense of peace that I was supposed to begin broadcasting this.  Recently when I was listening to the Lord, I sensed him telling me to start this, so here I am.  I am not real savvy at spreading the news about my blog, or making it look pretty, so your help in these regards is appreciated, though if you give tech advice, you must be excruciatingly specific.  Thanks!

To introduce you, I am a follower of Jesus, and have been since I was a teen.  I reside in Colorado Springs where I am involved in organic church.  I work as a musician giving guitar and bass lessons in a music shop I happen to own.  I am a husband to Meridee and father to Matthew (3) and Jadeline (3 months).

Henry Blackaby in his famous book Experiencing God, says that once you see God at work, it may take radical realignment of your life to join Him in this.  In 1998 I began working in personnel at a Missions Agency many considered to be cutting edge in terms of integrating discipleship and community development in poor countries.  I spent 1999-2004 working on a Masters of Divinity at Bethel University in St Paul.  I married in 2001, and we both expected to leave this side of the pond to work as missionaries with an unreached people group in Africa.

So how in the world did I wind up as a musician in Colorado? Two words: radical realignment.

From 1999-2004, it became apparent my wife and I were not going to be going to Africa, at least long-term.  Don’t misunderstand; we visited there itinerintly, yet as a couple we had all the markers in common with those who move to the mission field and end up coming back.  I should know; after all, I led the assessment teams that hired and trained missionaries.  So this was step one in God killing a dream I had associated with my life mission.

If I could not go overseas, church planting here seemed like the next avenue.  I took classes in seminary, and candidated with a denomination to become an institutional church planter.  The process was just like going on The Apprentice, except you fill out forms detailing every sin you ever committed.  It was intense, but I was hired on the condition that I learn as much as I could about church planting in the year ahead.

Learn I did.  I interviewed church planters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Arizona.  I met with people who succeeded and people who failed.  Some were spiritual leaders, and some were not, by their own admission.  What was telling was that some of those who failed were actually devoted followers of the Lord.  Even more telling was that some those who succeeded credited their successes to their administrative and business leadership abilities, and admitted they were not all that spiritual or disciplers in the slightest sense of the word.

I was also saddened that one of these men was made to feel a failure by those who sponsored him.  He had started a church of about 150, and most of them previously had not known the Lord.  They were in their 20’s and 30’s.  And he was repeatedly pressured and told he was failing because his charge was to reach those in their 40s and 50s.  Why?  According to the sponsoring church, at one of their church planting trainings where I attended, it was because those in their 40’s and 50’s give money and those in their 20’s and 30’s do not, at least statistically.  Since he was not reaching his designated target, the sponsoring church repeatedly pressured him until he finally quit. A man God used to lead over a hundred young adults to the Lord was forced out as a failure.

In June of 2006 I attended The Greenhouse, an organic church planting seminar in St Paul, MN.  I also read books by Neil Cole, Wolfgang Simpson, and Frank Viola about this thing called organic church.  The mission agency I was associated with used very organic methods overseas in hopes of de-westernizing the gospel and the church, and in hopes of seeing people movements begin that would outlast our seminal involvement.  But when it came to church in the USA, most of us just assumed that the Western Church was just a cultural expression of the Gospel here.  At the Greenhouse, I learned about people movements transcending countries, people groups, and regions.  Viola uncovered many non-biblical things we do as church in his book Pagan Christianity, dispelling the assumption I shared that the Western church was simply an a-biblical expression of the Church in the West.  Many things we do, from hiring a clergy, to having a liturgy performed by a few professionals were at odds with scriptures like Matthew 23:1-12 and 1 Cor 14:26, among many others.  In short, I became ruined for the very career I had been preparing to do for the prior 7 years, and the Christian life I had been seemingly living since I was 14 years old.

In 2006 we exited the institutional church.  It was no longer a place where I could live out what God was telling me to do.  Unlike many people I have met, I do not have terrible tales of abuse there, nor was it all bad.  In fact, I had many great times there, and some bad ones too, but I did not leave embittered.  God uses all kinds of churches, and He used the institutional church to find me and call me into His family and for that I am forever grateful and pray they will continue to be fruitful.  For me the most comfortable thing I could have possibly done was to stay there and to start my own funky version of church that my training had empowered me to do.

Why didn’t I?  When I was candidating, I was asked whether I could forgive myself if I failed as a church planter.  I said yes.  But deep down, I knew I would be so depressed and desperate that any forgiveness would be hard to arrive at.  For better or worse, I decided I could forgive myself wholeheartedly only if I knew I was going about church planting God’s way. If I did it His way, the success or failure was no longer my responsibility.  But if any of this was me, than forgiving myself would be hard as I would have myself to blame.  As it so happened, much of my ministry plan was me.  So with that, I wrote  a letter to the denomination stating that I could not accept the position without violating my convictions.

3 Responses to “My Story Part One”

  1. Cindy May 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Congrats on your new blog, Steve. It’s good to hear your story. 🙂 My blog is at http://www.journeyintotheson.com. I’m not an expert, and this is a .org blog and so a little easier to spruce up.

    Actually, I have a question for YOU. How did you get the twitter and FB share and like buttons on the bottom? I can’t find them in the widgets.

    Thanks!
    Cindy (in SD)

    • Steve May 16, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      Thanks Cindy. I am not sure, they appear automatically on the template provided by wordpress. Wish I could be more of help!

  2. Ronald Smith October 11, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    What an incredible testimony, Steve. It is amazing how similar our stories are. Take a look at my website if you get some time. Watch the video in the section, “the living room project” I want what’s in that video for my region here in Central Florida. Also a couple of articles that you may enjoy reading. See you Friday at 3 eastern time.

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