Thursday, July 23, 2009

Movin on up to the (north) east side???

Well, we're leaving this Saturday to go to Connecticut for the week to meet with the people involved with Interim Pulpit Supply, to check out the area and generally explore the possibility of moving (on) up to work with this ministry. We're hoping and praying that God will use this trip to make it clear to us whether or not this is the place God is calling us to be. We'd definitely appreciate it if you would pray for the same thing.

Either way, nothing has changed financially. If we do believe that this is the direction in which God is leading us we will have to raise all our own money, which is a scary thought. So please pray that God would work out the provision for this if it is his will (and help us find that dee-luxe apartment in the sky). Please also pray that if this isn't the place God is leading us to that he would reveal the direction we should be going in and do it soon!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not sure...

I borrowed that quote from my friend Jeremy because it feels appropriate at the moment. Today we had lunch with Doug and Ann Miller, who will be heading up Interim Pulpit Supply in Connecticut. To make a long story short they still really want us to come to Connecticut with them and help get this ministry going. The only problem is that there is exactly zero dollars to pay us. We're most likely still going to go up in two weeks to meet the people involved, get acquainted with the area and pray that God will give us a clear sense of whether or not this is the place for us. If we feel that it is the place for us we'll be 100% on our own to come up with the money through raising support and/or getting jobs.

Obviously, this isn't exactly the circumstances in which we were hoping to move 12 hours away to a brand new geographical region of the country. Please pray that if God wants us to continue pursuing this and to be willing to do whatever it takes to get there that He will make it abundantly clear to us.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Not so much...

So the opportunity to move to Connecticut with Interim Pulpit Supply is not looking very good at the moment. The church that was considering hiring Doug and I has decided they're not interested. To be honest, this strikes me as pretty strange considering that they haven't had a pastor in over a year and two people have turned down jobs there. So, though we're not happy about it at the moment, we might have dodged a bullet here, but we'll never really know.

Either way, that leaves us even more uncertain what is next. We're going up to Hickory to have lunch with Doug tomorrow and reassess where we're at. It's hard to know at this point whether to continue pursuing this or move on to something else. There's nothing very definitive to move on to at the moment, though. We are hoping to talk with a pastor about the possibility of helping plant a church as an assistant in a couple weeks, but we don't know where that will lead.

Please pray that God would give us some clear direction on what to do and where to look.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where we're at right now...

So here's where we're at right now. For several months we've been talking with a Pastor in the area, Doug Miller, about moving to Connecticut to help him organize and develop a ministry called Interim Pulpit Supply of New England. Chances are you aren't aware of the fact that over 30% of churches in New England have no pastors, you may also not know that only around 2% of the population of Connecticut, for example, would describe themselves as Evangelical Christians. These statistics blew my mind. The purpose of IPS is to fill the pulpits of these churches with Biblical, Gospel-minded, reformed preachers. In addition to simply not having a pastor for some time many of these churches lost the Gospel long ago with the move towards theological liberalism. After years without the Word of God people are hungry for the life-changing truth of the Gospel and there is tremendous opportunity there, which is where IPS comes in.

IPS works by bringing seminary students or recent graduates to the area for an internship in which they preach in local churches who have no pastor. The Ultimate goal and hope is that the churches will actually want one of these interns to become their full-time pastor, or that these interns will develop a passion for the area and plant new churches there. Until now, IPS has been a part-time ministry run by people with full-time jobs and responsibility. The hope is that Doug and I will be able to develop it into a full-fledged ministry.

There are only two things holding us back at the moment. Doug needs his house to sell and we need an income. Doug has been thinking creatively to try to solve this problem and we have a potential solution in the works. Basically, Doug has approached one of these churches without a pastor and offered them a 2 for 1 deal. We would both come on staff at the church for one year (or more if they want). He would live in the house the church owns and we would take the salary. (Doug's retired and doesn't need the income.) The elders of the church are supposed to discuss this possibility this week (today, in fact) and let us know tomorrow whether we should come up and meet with them to further pursue this. If that works out we could be moving in a month.

At the same time there are several other opportunities I'm pursuing by applying to several Assistant Pastor positions and we're also hoping to talk with one church about the possibility of helping plant a church as an assistant. This is hard for me, however. I'd much rather be committed to Interim Pulpit Supply and pursue that but it's entirely possible that tomorrow we'll find out that the church isn't interested and be back to square one. And, though we love the potential that this ministry could have, so far God hasn't convinced us 100% which direction we need to go, which, again, makes it hard. If we were convinced of our direction then we could work towards it and do whatever we needed to, but as it is we have to wait on God to make it clear, which is not fun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

So what are we trying to do anyway?

I wanted to try to give you an idea what our goals are in this whole thing, why I spent the last 5 years working through seminary, why Kerstin spent the last 3 years supporting us financially and why we're now working hard to find me an overworked, underpaid job in a church.

It really started when I was in college. Kerstin and I were involved in a campus ministry at Valdosta (this is actually where we met). For about a year and a half it was a great experience for me and I learned a lot. Things really started to change, however, when I found myself a part of "the leadership." Once I was on the inside I started to learn all about the ministry strategies that were being used by this ministry and my perspective really started to change.

Just to give you one dramatic tidbit, I was having lunch with a group of people in "the leadership" when I heard one leader refer to a particular guy as "a great ministry tool" because he was good looking and she thought lots of girls would come to the evangelistic meetings if he was there. This got at the heart of how they thought ministry should be done. It's simple, evangelize the good looking, popular and influential people because once they become Christians they'll be good looking, popular and influential Christians and this will grow the ministry. This was a big problem for me since the Bible seems to say something about using weakness to show God's strength and it seemed like Jesus recruited a bunch of regular, unimpressive and certainly uninfluential people to lead the church.

So all of this made me start wondering who we were missing because we just didn't think they were important enough to devote our time and energy to. At first I applied this to this campus ministry and started to see a lot of people that we were missing. But it wasn't long before I started to look at the denomination I was a part of (the PCA) and realize that there were a lot of people we were missing there to.

Now, I don't think that the PCA in general was just choosing not to minister to people who needed the gospel. But what I realized was simply that there were certain types of people that the PCA was good at reaching (suburban or rural, middle to uper-class, educated white people) and other types of people (everybody else) that they weren't. At the same time that I was realizing this, however, I had started to take classes at RTS in Atlanta. Very quickly I realized that this realization was more than an observation about what is the case, it was a calling to do something about it.

So where we're at now is somewhere in the middle of the journey to do something about it. Our calling and ultimate goal is to plant a church in a community of the types of people that the PCA hasn't historically reached, a community of people in need not only of the Gospel but of a community of faith to be a part of. Because it's not enough for us to minster to people, we must minister among and with them. In other words, they need a church to be a part of. So now that I've finished seminary our next step seems to be for me to get some experience in ministry and, hopefully, to be mentored and trained in preparation for this ultimate goal.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How did we get to Charlotte in the first place...

A little background in case you don't know our ministry story....from Kerstin's point of view.

TJ and I met in college while both being involved in the same campus ministry. We had lots of mutual friends and were both fine arts majors - I in Public Relations, he in Jazz Performance. Yes, those are both considered fine arts. :) After a long friendship, we began dating. At this point it was like falling in love with my best friend. It was sweet and very secure - if that makes sense. I just loved his wisdom and how thoughtful and considerate he was of people. Even then, I could see he had a "shepherds heart". We were married in March 2002 and had purchased a condo in Atlanta. TJ was teaching music lessons and working at a lab equipment company (which I would later work at as well) when he started checking into RTS Atlanta with the intent of persuing Christian counseling.

A series of serendipitous events had him starting classes in the Fall 2003 at the tiny annex RTS Atlanta campus. Watching him start down this path - which I must admit I had no clue it would culminate into this - was so exciting. He seemed to be energized and just devoured his classes. This is saying alot since he took all four systematic theology classes here. It became quickly evident that full time ministry in a pastoral sense was his calling, and for TJ to complete his Masters of Divinity, we'd have to move to a full time campus - Jackson, MS; Orlando, FL; Charlotte, NC. This was a no brainer for us, Charlotte was the obvious choice.

I was heartbroken to leave my job and my friends there. I was content and comfortable and really couldn't imagine going anywhere I could love more. I had a small group that I was just not ready to give up. As we began exploring Charlotte (via online from Atlanta), we first looked for a church and found Christ Central. We visited the church in May of 05 and met the pastors. TJ was pretty much instantly sold on CCC, I still was hoping God would change his mind this crazy moving idea. It took us until Thanksgiving to get the nerve to put our house on the market and break the "we're moving" news to our friends and family. We found a realtor - who was a believer and she had a very bleak outlook on the saleability of our home. We were asking alot in a really tough market and agains what "industry pros" would recommend. But we knew God called us out of there. So we prayed.

Two months later, our condo sold and we even made money on it! Imagine that. At this point I had found a job, we knew what part of town we'd be in and had found a house to rent with a great landlord. On February 11, 2006 we packed a U-Haul and off we came to Charlotte to live in the crazy arts district called "NoDa". We couldn't have planned the logistics better if we had tried - it's as if God was actually pulling the sovereign card in all of this. :)

While we've been here we've been involved in and had the honor of leading a community group. I've been actively involved in women's ministry and pulled off a couple retreats with the guidance of some amazing women. We have made some incredibly dear friends that I will forever keep in my heart. Things turned out so much better than I ever expected them to. Oh me of little faith....

So here we are - July 2009. Tj has graduated with his M. Div. and here we are, again at a crossroads wondering what's next. I remember being in this similar place 4 years ago and being scared out of mind and wondering why God had to be so crazy to call me to be a pastor's wife.....and now I'm so excited and wished that we were on our way yesterday. When moving day comes it will be so bittersweet. Even so, I can hardly wait.