The amount of times I’ve almost written this blog is so many.
I have drafts upon drafts sitting in my evernote that have gone unpublished. Mostly because I have so much to say and my perfectionist brain wants to organize it all perfectly into chunks and put it out there for the world in an easy-to-digest fashion.
My close friends have encouraged me to Nike this thing and ‘just do it’. So here’s an attempt at that.
I want to tell you about what life has looked like over the past four years, and what the next season looks like.
They called me crazy. I had everything a 21-year-old guy could possibly want and I chose to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. My ‘wise counsel’ advised me not to do it. I was scared. It didn’t make any sense.
In faith, I did it anyway. Three years and six months ago I quit a great job and left a church full of people who are family to me. This job and these people consumed my entire life. I found myself staring at an eerily empty calendar with no idea what was next.
I want to share the story of the last few years with you because you’ve always been there, and God is at work in this story. You– the folks who have followed my journey as a young leader, a lover of God and people, and a friend. You– the families with whom I have broken bread over the years; you have opened your homes, your hearts, and your lives to what God is doing in us as people, collectively, and individually. You– the countless people who have reached out and asked for time over coffee to swap stories and share about our lives. You– the pastors and faith-leaders with whom I’ve connected in San Diego, Orange County, and elsewhere. You– those who are simply curious where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. I don’t know where you are at today in life, but if you’ll lend me a few minutes of your time, I have a feeling you may resonate with some of where I’ve been over the past few years. I hope you’ll be encouraged by where we’re going.
It’s been 13 years since the night the Gospel first clicked for me. An awkward high school freshman, I sat in the youth room at a church in Vista, California and listened to the youth pastor explain that Jesus loved me. I was morally outstanding as far as 13-year-olds go. I had only uttered a dozen cuss words in my life up to that point and I went around school lecturing my peers about how ‘having a positive attitude is everything’. As upstanding as I was, the needing Jesus thing made sense. There had to be more to life than having a good attitude, being a good student, winning debate tournaments, and filming high school basketball games. One could argue that my decision to ‘follow Jesus with all my heart’ was partially driven by a desire to be socially accepted. I grew up on the short end of the bully stick, mostly because I spent most of my time hanging out with my teachers. The fact that some people my age were interested (or at least, doing a great job pretending to be interested) in my spiritual well-being was a solid draw to participate in the group.
I attended Thursday night bible study and outreach nights regularly, and within a few weeks I was volunteering with the Jr. High youth group on Tuesdays. Eventually, I started to ride my bike 6.6 miles round trip to church on Sundays. I already hassled my parents to drive me to church twice during the week; they weren’t particularly interested in also committing to Sunday mornings.
I graduated from high school at the age of 16. Two months after my 17th birthday, I accepted a part time position at the church as the media guy. I helped produce videos and graphics for the high school outreach program that ‘saved me’ just a few years earlier. In the beginning, I was working mostly with Jr. High and High Schoolers, but it wasn’t long before I transitioned into my role as the Director of Production and Communications for the entire church. I loved my job. It was the perfect combination of working with people, working with my hands, and working with technology.
In 2009 we launched a church-wide series called ‘Vision’ in which we cast a new vision for the church. We coined the terms ‘Know’ ‘Grow’ and ‘Show’. The idea was that people would come to know God through our worship services on Sunday mornings, they would then join a community group where they could grow with likeminded people, and finally they would have opportunities to show the world the love of God through local service projects and supporting global missions initiatives.
I was 19 when we launched ‘Vision’. This ‘vision’ had to be God’s vision for the local church. My job was to produce the Sunday morning services, the ‘know’ portion of the vision.
2009 and 2010 were the glory years. I call that season of my life ‘the show’. Alongside a team of really awesome people, we produced videos, designed sets, impressed guests, and created engaging retreats. Together, we created a culturally relevant world where people could experience church in a new way.
It was my job to produce excellent, culturally-relevant, guest-friendly, seeker-focused Sunday morning services. The length of the worship set and sermon were statistically analyzed for their effectiveness at getting guests to return the following weekend. We rallied guest service, production, crew, and creative teams around the idea of ‘invest and invite’. Make friends with folks at your work or in your neighborhood, and bring them to our cool church so we can communicate the Gospel. If we’re doing our job, they’ll come back week after week and then maybe… they’ll want to join a community group, or participate in a service project, or go on a mission.
Sometime in the beginning of 2011, this voice crawled into my head. ‘It’s time to go,’ it would say, over and over again. In meetings, during Sunday services, at High School youth group, the voice would persist, ‘it’s time to go’. It wasn’t an angry voice; it was politely persistent. I didn’t understand it. Working in ministry was decidedly frustrating at times, but such is life.
Over time, the voice got stronger. It’s nice how polite the Holy Spirit can be. I was confused as to why God would ask me to leave his church, but the peace that I felt about that decision transcended any understanding I could possibly seek. So I followed.
At the end of 2011 I left a ‘perfectly’ packaged life. I was consumed by my full-time ministry position which conveniently encompassed my friends (a.k.a. adopted family), job, church, and passions.
The months following the end of my time at the church were some of the most eye-opening in my life. I learned about this concept called ‘missional communities’. Having never stepped much outside the box of my home church in Vista, I hadn’t explored other expressions of church. I thought that all churches were producing Sunday services, shuffling willing attendees into some sort of community group (at least for part of the year), and inviting people to serve or support community outreach/missions initiatives. I had no idea that a small group of people exist who are interested in exploring a different expression of church.
In 2012, I attended a missional community in Carlsbad for awhile and did freelance marketing/branding work. Since then, I’ve bounced around Southern California exploring all sorts of career paths from hospitality and catering to dance competitions and resident camping.
I came very close to moving to Australia in August of 2014. I had job opportunities, and the lure of seeing a beautiful country was romancing me. With the help of some close friends, I took a second look at my motives and decided to re-assess what is most important to me in life. It didn’t take long to decide that my career was not important in comparison with my community, and that moving to Australia was the wrong move.
I decided to move toward settling down in one spot for awhile. February 2015, I landed in Point Loma, and I have no plans to leave.
I was the Senior Project Manager at a marketing firm in downtown San Diego up until June of this year. I left this lucrative career in the marketing world to manage a small inn down the street from my house. This move will afford me more time and energy to dedicate toward missional efforts.
As I turn the corner to my 25th year of life, l’ve learned that our lives are best lived on a mission with a community of people. If you can get some people (even two is a good place to start) moving toward a common cause, and choosing to do life together… you have the foundation for a life well lived.
It’s time to get moving. I want to provide a space for people to gather around and grapple with the Gospel, enjoy life and the blessings it brings, and fold others into a world where doing life together is more than a church tagline.
As a lifelong student of Jesus and people, I’m joining a cohort of folks who are doing the same thing around the US. Led by a friend and mentor, Rob Yackley, this 18-month cohort is the start of a new season for me. Our first gathering is this weekend, and I’m excited to be surrounded by like-minded people. I can’t wait to take these learnings back and share them with a brand new missional community in Point Loma.
I don’t have all the answers, and I never will. I don’t think that ‘missional communities’ and the like are the ‘only’ way to do ‘church’. I am surely not the perfect example of living a life for Jesus, and I won’t claim to be. I do think it’s important to start somewhere, and I’m excited to help lead the charge toward the humble beginnings of a community in Point Loma.
There is so much more to this story. I would love to share it with you. I’ll share it on my blog in the next few months, but I would also love to share with you personally. Let’s grab a cold brew of coffee or beer and share about life.
If you’re interested in supporting this next season of life, I’d like to give you a couple ways to support:
• If you know anyone in the SD/Point Loma areas who might be interested in participating/leading/joining a missional community concept, please connect us! Magic happens when people gather around a common idea.
• If the missional community concept is interesting to you, and you’d like to see if there are communities in your area, please contact me!
• Spend a minute praying for this season, the folks in my cohort, and the future of this community in Point Loma.
• Give toward my missional fund. I transitioned out of a crazy intense job at a marketing firm downtown, into a less time consuming job in Point Loma in order to make time to focus on and grow the missional community. I also took an epic pay cut, which has been a huge blessing and is causing me to continually assess priorities. Every dollar you might give toward my missional fund helps to fund the 18-month cohort and will then go directly toward initial missional community efforts in Point Loma. Please contact me directly if you are interested in giving, or give here (select Missional Community Cohort from the dropdown). Your donation is tax deductible and is managed through Thresholds Communities, the non-profit that runs my cohort.
• Ask how I’m doing. I’m horrible at asking for help, but I know that the most important thing going into this season is the support and love of the folks who believe in this mission. Calls, txts, emails, social medias. I’m not a superhero; your love and support means the world to me and is the form of currency I value above anything.
If you feel like there are missing pieces and unconnected dots in this story, that’s because there are. I promise I’ll start to fill in the gaps over the next few weeks through the blog.
If you’re interested in what missional community living looks like, check out this 15m video put together by Soma communities in Tacoma, Washington:
In the meantime, grace and peace <3