Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 8

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the next weekly installment of this story I’m trying to tell about the ongoing journey as the intern of a church. So far, life has continue to bleed into this story which is not all that surprising and I will tell you why. What I’ve known from the beginning is that ministry is not a typical 9-5 job where you get to go home and crack open a cold one after you’ve finished your time in the office. But it also means that a lot of what you do while working in that ministry will bleed into other areas of your life without you knowing it. God has worked like that a lot with me lately.

For instance, I have been working with a group of people to keep up a blog that maintains creativity and holds each other accountable to keep writing if at all possible. We got to discussing on the blog the issues of relationships both romantic and personal and I found myself reflecting on that and writing an extensive post on the importance of authenticity in relationships. I also unearthed a deep conviction that healing can really only happen in community. Since these posts are more of a summary of what I’ve been doing and learning I think it’s not the greatest place to unload all of that because it’s pretty lengthy. However, it did stem from a pretty long discussion Ben and I had last week so it was pretty cool to be able to share those ideas somewhat with people outside a meeting. It also helped me as I was able to glean some perspective from the people I’ve been writing with.

Community serves well, once again.

So, this week was consumed with a lot of stress about the Gretna Days parade. I thought we were going to scrap the idea of the signs since we lost so many last week but Ben thought it’d be good to do it any way since we had spots where the signs didn’t get yanked up. So, we put down 7 more signs and we lost all but one. We had to get the float built which didn’t get done until the night before and I wasn’t there. The finished product looked great, though. When Saturday morning came around we definitely didn’t have enough people to do what we had planned so we went with simple and just had people hand out bottles of water and it worked great. It was scorching hot but I didn’t really notice on the walk through the parade.

It was the walk back.

By the time we finished the parade it was almost noon and my brother and I had to walk the entire parade route back plus another half mile at least to get back to my car. The heat was so oppressive it felt like I was in a pressure cooker or something. There are just some stresses to the body I’d like to avoid. Walking a 2-3 mile parade route hefting bags of bottled water and then walking back in a noontime heat is one of them. At least I felt like the parade was a success despite all the hiccups in the plan along the way.

I missed a lot of work this week so I’m pysching myself up for a full week. This coming week I will be working on the worship team. I’m pretty excited about that even though it’s been a good minute since I picked up my guitar.

I didn’t note anything I listened to this week. I saw Maylene & the Sons of Disaster live and it was amazing. That’s what’s been in my head a lot.

Oh, and not to leave you out of the loop but if you’re interested in reading some of the stuff we’ve been bouncing around with the last couple of weeks you can check out The Discursive Collective and see what kind of work we’ve been doing. Outsiders are not allowed to comment, FYI.

Advertisements

Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 6

Truth be told, I didn’t want to write this blog. Not because of some sort of rebellious attitude or because I’m sick of this blog. Well, there is a small part of me that lacks discipline and so both cold be partially true. But I struggled to find stuff I wanted to write about. But I forced myself to go and here’s what I’ve got for you…

As you can tell from previous posts I encounter a lot of stuff during the week or I think about a lot of stuff. This week was a lot of stress and it stemmed mostly from the fact that I had been tasked to manage getting everything ready for the Gretna Days parade that is coming up in a few weeks. I hadn’t endured stress like that since the least school year. I know it doesn’t sound like something that would cause a lot of stress but it was killing me for a while. I didn’t think I could handle getting the float together because I’m really not that great at creating things that are visually appealing. I also freaked out because I didn’t, and still don’t, know if I will have enough people to pull off what I want to during the parade. I was really freaking out at one point to where I said I didn’t really want to be in charge of it anymore.

But I feel better now.

I talked to my parents who were in charge of doing this last year and they gave me some really good ideas. I’ve since had these ideas implemented and the float will be done in the next few days or so. As far as the people, well… I guess I’ve heard it enough times this week from enough people that I really just trust God will provide enough people if this is what he wants to have happen. And who knows? Maybe something crazy and unexpected will happen. I apologize now for being vague but this particular idea must be kept quiet lest the surprise be ruined. You’ll just have to be there if you don’t intend on being a part of it.

So, I finally finished reading The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggeman. I say “finally” because you have no idea how many times I started and stopped reading that book in lieu of something else. Old Walt can be difficult to read because of his writing style and voice. Sometimes he chooses to use words that I find unnecessary or difficult and I’d get frustrated at the fact that I couldn’t tear through the book like I can when I’m reading a lot of other books. But, after getting into the book again, I really was entranced by his thoughts about many facets of the prophetic ministry. So much so that I presented the information to Ben and we had a pretty long discussion (with the assistance of a marker board) on Brueggeman’s ideas and how we could apply them in our current issues in approaching the culture of Gretna.

There’s no way I can take the time or space to explain the content of this conversation. You can ask me about it sometime if you’re really interested. Or you could go read the book.

What else happened this week…?

I spent a fair amount of time not being home this week. There have just been way too many people and lately it’s felt like I can’t relax when there are 10-15 people in my house taking up the couch, the floor, the basement and wherever else they can stash themselves to hang out here. On one hand I am really thankful that we can be a house where people feel comfortable to come hang out in. But for me the difficulty becomes that, selfishly, I do not like to be around people all day or even most of the day sometimes. And I guess I can’t say that just about my house. I’m around people all day when I work and I have to be around people for this internship. So, there are some days where I am around people for 12-13 hours straight. And, as we’ve learned from past blogs, I do not deal with that well. My mind and body start to tense up and are on edge. To paraphrase Donald Miller I’m like that battery powered drill that needs to be charged for about 24 hours to work for about 10 minutes.

Ok, so I’m exaggerating.

But I sometimes feel like I’m limited by this facet of my personality.

This whole week has been pretty much a blur. Work has been increasingly lame because of how I feel I’m being treated which may or may not reflect how things are actually working. I sometimes wonder if my perception of the environment around me and how things happen are not some how marred by my tendency to see the negative side of my realist (and sometimes more pessimist) bent toward life. And sometimes I have to tell myself it’s just my pride getting in the way. Basically, what has been happening lately is, or at least it feels like, I cannot get anything done right. That, somehow, my knowledge, skill and experience have not been serving me well lately and I’ve been struggling to do my job well. The reality of the situation is that I’m doing about as well as I have ever done but I’m feeling isolated because I get excluded from everything my team does as a whole because of my schedule. It feels like I’m working out in the middle of the ocean on a raft sometimes. Which sounds like something I’d do well at but in my job if I don’t have some sort of affirmation that I belong it’s really hard to see the vision of what the team tries to accomplish. I only get to see the bad side of things which doesn’t do well with my personality and disposition. And I don’t know how to get past that.

Is there anything else?

Ah, yes. I will be going back to York E-Free Church sooner than I had expected. Initially, Jon had told me that it would be about 6 months before he would bring me back. Well, thanks to the providence of God and his use of some communication issues I will be going up there with no support but God to step in front of that congregation along with a visiting group of bikers from the Christian Motorcycle Association. So, I was hoping to do something that was pretty basic and gospel-centered. That sounds pretty easy to throw together isn’t it? I’d been stressing about it since it was confirmed that I’d be going but I then just started praying and really focusing on what I felt would be a good (and hopefully easy) text to bring to these people. I am a little relieved that I have found a text to work from. I’m a little gunshy about the fact that text though.

Habakkuk?

Granted I wrote a 10-15 page paper on this for a class but there’s a lot of content that I can’t or don’t have time to present if I’m going to rip through the entire book in about 30 minutes. I’ve been thinking about it constantly as has proven to be the best way for me to start assembling ideas before, during and even after I’ve finished fleshing out the sermon. So, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to tackle this yet but I intend on holing up in my office tomorrow for most of the day to get that all straightened out. Your prayers will be much appreciated this week going into the weekend.

Until next time, faithful believers…

Music
P.O.S. – “Never Better”
City & Colour – “Little Hell”
Poison the Well – “Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”
Poison the Well – “Opposite of December… A Season of Separation”
Poison the Well – “Tear from the Red”
Poison the Well – “You Come Before You”
Poison the Well – “Versions”
Poison the Well – “The Tropical Rot”
Dead of Dawn – “The Ultimate Shakespearian Betrayal”
B. Dolan – “Fallen House, Sunken City”
Derek Webb – “Stockholm Syndrome”
Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken – “TN EP”
Arch Enemy – “Doomsday Machine”
Astronautalis – “The Mighty Ocean & Nine Dark Theaters”
Grieves – “Together/Apart”

Movies
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Blade Trinity
Blazing Saddles

Books
The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann
Jim & Casper Go to Church by Jim Henderson

Bible
Habakkuk
Job

Verse
YHWH, I have heard the report of you, and your work, YHWH, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2 ESV)

Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 3

I know these posts, thus far, have been a description of what I did with my week as intern at A2. Truth be told, this last week was kind of an off week. It’s not like I didn’t do anything because I did but it all centered around one task and it was something I was done with rather quickly. It was good for me though. Let me tell you about it.

Right around the time this internship started I had a conversation with my friend and pastor of York Evangelical-Free Church, Jon Wymer, about coming to bring the word to his congregation. This is actually a conversation that was a year or so in the making because he wanted me to be part of a bigger story he’s been telling among his congregation about the commonality of Jesus between all types of people. So, when he gave me the date of June 12 I gladly jumped at the opportunity. I was given no restrictions on what I could talk about. I don’t think I need to tell you how exciting this opportunity was.

But we’ll get to that.

Let’s talk about the rest of the week first.

The last few weeks I have been helping and watch the new church location morph into a bigger version of our last space almost totally built on the volunteer labor of the congregation. It is something altogether different to see people devoted to one central idea in several parts and to give it their best. There was painting, dry wall, sanding, mudding, cleaning, curtain hanging, and things I probably didn’t see because I was at work or elsewhere. I came in to check a few times when I was off to see amazing progress being made despite the small number of people who were doing the work. I guess one thing I would say I was confused and maybe even slightly discouraged was the lack of involvement. Even though we had a lot of people help there were nights where, I don’t know, maybe there could have been more assistance.

Maybe I expect too much. Hope too much. I wonder if that’s typical.

As far as the rest of my week was concerned, I was just left to prep my sermon for Sunday. Sounds like a boring week but it was actually pretty enlightening. I learned a lot about the way I communicate and how my thoughts channel themselves into coherent communication. I actually used portion of Hebrews I blogged about a while back but in reflecting and rereading I really felt I needed to shift the focus a little bit. I started applying the process that I learned worked best when I’m trying to write something. It’s an interesting process.

But I have to think first.

I think about all the things I know thus far, the things I need to know and then I do the work. I research, I read and I go back to my brain. I think the most important thing I learned about myself is that I can put everything together if I just go back to thinking about the flow of things and the content I’m studying throughout the day. I made a lot of connections and had a lot of ideas while I was driving to work or wherever else which was almost crucial in my being able to go from being a manuscript sermonizer to being able to channel the flow of my thought process into a workable and useable teaching. This is a point I really wanted to get to because I just find a manuscript to be restrictive and I don’t feel like I’m communicating. It’s just like anything else I do.

I feel much better if I can move.

Honestly, the rest of the week wasn’t all that interesting that I can recall. I spent some time in conversation with Ben about the book “And” which was really just an affirmation of things I already knew or already believed.

Let me tell you about my weekend.

Time brings on a lot of changes some bad some good. Saturday was meant to be a celebration of the completion of a very trying and scary time for my friend Jon and his family. I arrived in York around 12:30 to the Open House they were holding for their young daughter Sophia Hope. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor, had it removed, and endured chemotherapy. She completed her last round and so they held a party and it was amazing. She’s a little tank now. I remember when she was almost skin and bones during the whole process. I called her a human ATV because she would crawl anywhere. It was mind-bending to see both her and her sister older and more grown up. Sophia was mobile. Jon’s older daughter was actually talking in full sentences, almost conversational.

It’s amazing what time does and how it moves people.

York is in a rural community so it’s surrounded by towns and things that you just don’t see in a suburban community. One of the best parts of hanging out in the area is the little gems and places you don’t expect that almost seem out of place. I was taken to dinner by Jon and his family to a place called Chez Bubba’s Café. The town it was attached to was really small but this was a nice establishment with really good food. I think it was mostly family run. I watched a lot of the people, read a lot of the faces that told me that there were people who didn’t think I belonged there. The wait staff was nice and the food was amazing.

I saw something.

From my seat I could see directly to the server station and the kitchen. I watched our waitress walk back there and I noticed she was wiping tears out from under her eyes and her coworkers trying to console her. My immediate response was to think that God let me see that for a specific, like maybe I was supposed to interject or help somehow. But I asked myself the question, “What?” and realized that I had nothing to offer. And so I asked what the purpose of my seeing this was. And I realized that perhaps I need to learn is that sometimes I can’t fix.

In the driving around the area, I saw something that has been prevalent throughout the last few years. It’s so strange to associate the presence of God with something like this the way I do. But it showed up when I was going crazy in Memphis, it showed up when I was looking for calm when a relationship went bad. It has been a signal of calm in many storms. I think God tells me he’s there in a tangible way based on a story I heard a long time ago about a pastor who was a suicide risk. His congregation followed him to the place where they thought he was going to kill himself. When asked what he was doing there he told them “I just wanted to see something else that was carrying a heavy load”.

He was going down to the tracks to see the train.

I drove past a lot of trains. It’s one of those tangible things which I connect to the presences of God. So, I felt like I was in good hands when Sunday morning came.

But Saturday night we went to a relay for life that was being held in York. There was just so much going on that I don’t feel like i can go into detail. One thing that almost put me into tears was the lighting of luminaries for people who had cancer. They went all around the track they had laid out. There were hundreds of them. So many lives touched by something so terrible. But the people were all in high spirits and I even saw men and women walking around wearing bras over their shirts. They made it fun.
Then came Sunday. I don’t really think that I want to go into detail. I really had a good time meeting the people in York and thoroughly enjoyed talking about Hebrews 12. After I was done I felt more human than I had in a long time. I think it was a confidence that I’d not experienced in a long time. I was even able to maintain conversations with complete strangers which is really hard for me normally.

Well, I’m exhausted. That’s my story for this week. You can check out the podcast with my sermon here:

Which Mountain Have You Come To?

Music
Blaqk Audio – “CexCells”
City and Colour – “Little Hell”
P.O.S. – “Never Better”
La Dispute – “Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair”
La Dispute/Touché Amoré – “Searching For A Pulse/The Worth Of The World”
War of Ages – “Eternal”
The Moment – “Showdown at the Discotheque”
Fear Factory – “Obsolete”

Movies
Last Action Hero
Gone in 60 Seconds
Clerks

Podcasts
The Village Church: Matt Chandler – Colossians (Part 13) When Violence is OK

Bible
Hebrews 12:12-24
Exodus 19:16-12:21
Luke 10:25-29

Verse
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
(Luke 10:29 ESV)

Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 1

Why am I writing this? I was asked to do so. As some of you may be aware for the summer, I will be serving as The Acts2 Church’s first ever intern. It’s an exciting opportunity for me to obtain some really practical experience in the world of church planting which has really captivated my heart over the last year or so. It sounds like a glorious and fantastic role that comes with all the crazy benefits of working at a church plant that is 2-2.5 years old. Firstly, I must say I am very fortunate to have someone leading me in this internship who has been mentoring me over the past couple of years. He told me he wanted to see me continue in what he knew was the strongest extension of my thought process and that was writing. So, naturally, I said that I would do so. You’ll have to forgive how unstructured this is as I’m really not sure how all of this is going to work or look like yet. Thank you in advance for your patience and grace in all of this.

There was a lot of unknowns going into this and there are still quite a few unknowns. The timing for my start last week was fortuitous but for reasons that were unfortunate yet providential all the same. The week I was supposed to start was hijacked by a hospital stay and surgery for my “boss” Ben’s wife and good friend Heather. I call her mom. Perhaps I should count that as my first week of my internship after all since it consisted of visiting her in the hospital. That’s what you do as a pastor, right? Of course, I joke.

A little.

My first actual week was this past week which was actually really convenient. Not really for me so much but for the church because we moved into a new space. I took part in the move which was done pretty efficiently. We had maybe 10-15 people assisting in tearing down and moving everything we had from one end of the building to the other. While we didn’t have a long way to move we did end up having a lot of stuff. I don’t think anyone really calculated just the amount of stuff that we had once it was all moved out of its proper space. So, as a church we moved and it was a beautiful thing almost. It wasn’t the most efficient or professional move but it was people on one focused mission volunteering their free time out of their Sunday to work together. There’s just something about it that makes me look back and wonder…

Why can’t we coexist like this all the time?

The remainder of the week for me was completing one specific task. Ben and I went up to Lowe’s, picked up a Rug Doctor and brought it back to the new A2. My job was to clean all the carpets. I know some might complain or whine that their’s no glory or honor in that or that it’s beneath me because I have talents that could be put to better use, etc. I recall pondering this stance, not because that’s what I thought of the task but because I know there would be the temptation to grumble because of thinking like that. So, my response to the voices in my head that thought it was a menial job and I could be better utilized?

“Exactly”

I put in my headphones and got to work. No complaining, no whining, no grumbling. If I have learned anything from the service trips and projects I’ve been on is that it complaining profits nothing and humility is everything. After the first few rooms I even found that I found a fair amount of joy in what I was doing. It’s a strange feeling for me to be content with anything but with the music going I fell into my own rhythm.

I thought I could clean carpets and be completely content.

We were supposed to have a cleaning night early in the week that no one showed up for, save one. Two if you count myself but I was still there cleaning carpets and moving stuff. Three, if you count Ben who’s always there. When our one volunteer arrived, the three of us moved couches and other items from one side of the foyer to the other so it could be vacuumed and the carpets cleaned. You can take a wild guess who got the job of vacuuming and cleaning the carpets. Not that I minded. I think Rancid said it best in their song, “Radio” when they said, “When I got the music, I got a place to go”. I was able to get the downstairs completely finished and I would have finished the upstairs too if Ben hadn’t told me to go home. I think it was about 8:30 PM. I’d been there since 10. No worries. I knocked out the last room the following day. I’m not complaining, not looking for pity.

It’s not like I had anything else to do that day.

In the Proverbs it’s repeated a couple of times that humility comes before honor (Proverbs 15:33, 18:12). Although I avoid sounding cliché I do have to say that there is a lot of wisdom to that. I try not to view myself as anything special in the sense that there is nothing I can do well aside from when the Holy Spirit is working in me or when I submit to his call or his instruction. I truly want to be of great service somehow and I’m really starting to see the height of the mountain I’ve approached. Part of me is really excited at the opportunity but then there’s that nagging doubt.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

What if after what if…

There have been times when I feel like the enemy has been at the gates of my heart just rattling them. I am an anxious person by my very nature and it has been a small fight already trying to maintain focus in all of this already. On top of my internship I’ve been invited and have accepted the honor of speaking at York E-Free in June and have been offered to share at another church though no date has been discussed or anything. While I feel my ability for communication has vastly improved over the last few months I am still feeling a bit unsettled about it because of my less than favorable experience in my homiletics class where I learned more how I can’t preach like most.

It’s all about the experience though, right?

Right.

So, since this is sort of a record of the training I’m receiving I thought it would be good to give a short rundown of some things. A brief summary of influence and such in the last week.

Music:
Goo Goo Dolls – “Dizzy Up the Girl”
B. Dolan – “Fallen House, Sunken City”
Third Eye Blind – S/T
War of Ages – “Eternal
Bible:
1 & 2 Corinthians
Joshua
Verse:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)
Podcast:
The Table – Kearney: Weapons of Mass Distraction – The Idol of Control
The Table – Kearney: Weapons of Mass Distraction – Sex
The Table – Kearney: Is Jesus Messing With You?
Key words:
Humility
Love
Service