"I’ve never done this before"
I find this phrase in my head regularly these days. In fact, I’d say I’ve had this phrase ringing in my head for the last 4 years but I'm finally settling into it being more fun than frustrating.
At times it has caused anxieties, other times excitement and it has provided the opportunities of greatest learning. It has become my teacher, educating me about myself, the church, organizational leadership and life. I’d prefer to do the things I’ve done, that which I am comfortable with and that which I know I’m good at. Instead, I get a chance to test the waters I’ve never known. As Franklin D. Roosevelt put it "A smooth sea never made a skilled savior."
Here's 3 things that have happened recently that I've never done before
Transitioning without the Future Planned
I've made a number of career transitions including moving from engineering into pastoral ministry in NYC. All of these changes had the next steps lined up with easy means of transition.
This transition was nothing like the past. It was quick, emotional and the future was uncertain. I knew it was right and would eventually be good, but I didn't know what would happen next. I don't naturally like that. I'm a planner with an engineer's brain that likes to map out the strategy, plan the next steps and then execute.
The truth is the future is always unplanned and the idea that we have control, security and ease in our current situations is often a myth. Each day comes with its own challenges and potential plot twists in our story. It has taught me to fix my eyes on Jesus, to trust God's character of goodness, and to focus on what I can control.
Fundraising for that future
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Christ Crucified Fellowship during this season as the next step that I didn't know would come. I don't know the long-term future, but fundraising for our current needs is new and so rewarding.
I have never raised funds for my personal ministry activities and now I am learning to trust the provision of God through individual people and not just through an institution. You could say it was always the case when I was a pastor relying on the generous tithes and offerings of a faithful congregation. That would be true, but personal fundraising is so different and in many ways more rewarding.
It is transforming my fears of rejection and longing for approval as I ask friends and loved ones for money for my family needs and our future ministry. I also suck at asking and haven't even sent out that many personal letters. It has taken me too long to make this website and too many of our friends have asked why it has taken me so long to share. That's on me and this is one step out as a means to overcome my fears.
It is also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There are few instances outside of your wedding rehearsal and your funeral where people will share about the impact you have had on their lives and fundraising has been one of them.
For Amber and I, we have always thought it was a gift to be invited into the lives of college students, young professionals, marriages, and families to share God's love and truth. It has been humbling and encouraging to see how that gift has helped others and in turn has caused them to want to help us.
Church in a minority context
Lastly, and potentially the most rewarding has been being a part of church in a minority context.
I have always attended a church that was majority white, but it has been a privilege to be in the minority at Christ Crucified Fellowship. It has opened my eyes and taught me much about following Christ.
This is a sensitive conversation right now in our society and it even feels awkward writing about it, which helps me to understand what it was like for others who have been the minority in the white churches I attended and even had the privilege to pastor. I'm amazed that people of color stuck it out, served faithfully, and endured countless experiences of being left out, ignored, or misunderstood at the churches I've been a part of.
It has also helped me understand the diversity of faith in America at a time where race in evangelicalism seems to be an indicator of how you feel about our current government and society. It is teaching me empathy, patience and to listen before I speak.
In so many ways, Christ Crucified is teaching and helping me follow Christ simply by faithfully being the culturally, ethnically and spiritually diverse community that God has made it.
"I've never done this before" and I having a lot more fun than I thought I would.