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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Goodbyes and new beginnings

Well, it's official now. The proverbial cat is out of the bag. Dennis, the kids and I will be leaving the church and Ponchatoula next month. If anyone has hurt feelings over not being told personally, we truly are sorry. If I'd had my way, we would be sneaking away in the dead of night without telling anyone. I hate goodbyes.

We have had a wonderful experience here these past 4 years. We've made great friends and been deeply blessed by our church family at FBC Ponchatoula. By no means are we leaving with any bad blood in regards to anyone. We simply, or more like not so simply, feel the Holy Spirit's gentle urging to pack our bags and follow his lead.

Where are we going?
Well, there's a short answer to that, and a long one. The short answer is that we will be moving to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to work with Lighthouse ministries, a homeless shelter for women and children. We will be staying in a house on the campus, leading Bible study and life skills classes and helping with the day to day operations of the ministry.

There is a long answer because we are not sure where we are ultimately headed. There is a church in Hattiesburg that has expressed an interest in sending us out as missionaries (for lack of a better word...more on that later) to unchurched people in one of a few target cities. We are praying about pursuing that, and there are several other options that we are also prayerfully considering.

What exactly are our long term plans?
Well .... that's where things get dicey. You know that guy Abraham in the Bible, the one that God asked to leave his land and his people and go to a yet to be revealed location? (Genesis 12:1) That is kind of where we are at right now. We know what we are called to do. We are called to start a missional community, a place for the unchurched and dechurched to discover God's love in an environment unlike the attractional churches that are prevalent today. America's culture is changing, and we see a strong need for a different kind of church, one that permeates our lives and our relationships even as it sends us out into the world. The truth is, most of us don't have time to "do church right" on top of all of the other obligations and necessities of life, and we feel like God is asking us to create (or join, if we find an already existing group of like minded people) a counter-culture of sorts. We have a vision of what he's asking of us, but we are fuzzy on all of the details people tend to want to know, like where we'll be and how we'll make a living.

It's hard to say those words, but in all honesty, it's where we are. For the past year and a half or so, we've felt this call becoming stronger, but it really started closer to 8 years ago, when my life was changed by the words of Shane Claiborne in The Irresistible Revolution. It wasn't until early this year that Dennis and I realized that we were not alone with our dreams. This desire in our hearts is actually a growing movement, led by folks like Frank Viola, Hugh Halter, Brandon and Jen Hatmaker, Mike Breen, and organizations like 3DM, Soma communities, CCDA, and V3. We've talked with Mike Brantley at Communitas, the people at JPUSA, and a charming farm community called Koinonia.

When we first started this journey, we knew the burden on our hearts, but we didn't have the language to verbalize it. It's taken a lot of study and prayer to be able to do so, but we still can't do it concisely. I'm going to ask Dennis to do a series that will hopefully define missional communities a little better and give some of the rich history of this movement. As it turns out,it's not such a new idea, after all.

To sum up and close out, Dennis and I recently looked around and looked at each other and realized something. We were so busy doing church that we didn't have time to minister to those we felt called to - the unchurched. Neither of us could name an unbelieving friend, nor did we have time to go anywhere that wasn't church ministry related. It just didn't match up with what we read about Christ doing in the New Testament. We have immense respect for traditional church and vocational ministers. Many needs are met there. We do not, however, feel that this is where we can best use our passions and gifts, so we are going to use this season to minister, pray, and and seek God's voice to tell us where to go next. Your prayers are coveted.

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