“Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more.” This refrain, or some other similar reference to “The Wizard of Oz” is typically offered in the opening conversation with someone I meet for the first time who is not from the fine state of Kansas. I’ll respond with a polite, maybe sarcastic, chuckle, while often wondering, “Do they actually think they’re the first person to use that line?” Calling Kansas City home means that I enjoy the world's best BBQ, drive across a state line regularly, claim the birthplace of basketball, call the reigning world baseball champs my team, and yes, am oft quoted lines from that famous movie.
Saving you from the temptation, let me say, “If I only had a brain, I could do this new catalyst job.” Somewhere within Home Missions, someone is thinking, “Hey, I was going to say that.” Chuckles can now commence. To push “The Wizard of Oz” story line a little further: starting this new position does have a feeling of excitement and bewilderment, similar to young Dorothy’s famous refrain. I keep waiting for a choir of munchkins pointing me toward the right path to show up on a video call, but I only get more invites for more video calls. One yellow brick road. Is that too much to ask for?
Starting a new church in 2016 doesn’t seem as predictable as I thought the plains of Kansas would be in 2003 when I parachuted my family into the KC area. Armed with the latest church planting literature and passing endorsements from an assessment center, and having been toughened up in Church Planter Boot Camp, I was ready to plant a church. With the right ministry mix of programs, presentation and passion, I thought the world could be conquered for Jesus. I wanted a yellow brick road and got one, but the land of Oz is full of unexpected twists and turns. I don’t know if those yellow bricks did much but provide some comfort of having a colorful path to follow.
I now engage a leadership role which involves the catalyzation of starting and strengthening churches. I think it is important to guard against believing in or offering even the slightest allusion to a yellow brick road that leads to answers and resources beyond some magical curtain. “If we can only discover the right matrix, uncover a missing principle or glean insight from the wisest of the wise, then a church planting movement will take place.” Rather, new churches will develop as the gospel story—the good news of God—is lived and told in countless diverse contexts, each with leaders who are sent with their eyes open to see God at work and ears cupped to listen for what He might be saying in that particular time and place. Church planters become storytellers as they share God’s story in their context. We enter these unique spaces reminded of the words of J.H. Bavink, who stated, “When a missionary or some other person comes into contact with a non-Christian and speaks to him about the gospel, he can be sure that God has concerned Himself with this person long before.” (The Church between Temple and Mosque: a Study of the Relationship between the Christian Faith and Other Religions, J.H. Bavink)
I hope to remain true to my desire to come to this position with a posture of honesty, humility, and hospitality. Honestly admitting that I don’t have all--or even many--answers, I trust that this will cultivate a posture of humility to learn from others and witness the opening of hospitable space for listening, sharing and growing together.
Grace and Peace,