It’s really a simple matter of stewardship.
My intention is to maintain a blog, ok, maybe I should start it first… to communicate with those interested in what the King of the Universe is doing in this regular guy who loves God. My head has been swimming with thoughts about what should be included here. God has literally poked, and prodded, and pushed, and pulled me through the last thousand days, give or take. The transition Jill and I have been in, has been going on for more than three years and could extend for some time. I have had a thought that coming to the end of raising financial support would bring something of a conclusion to the transition. I am coming to realize there may be no end to raising financial support. Oh joy! I kinda mean that, kinda not. I love telling the story. I dislike the phone (a lot). [Suck it up Mike.]
I’m thinking I may sort this into a few segments but for now, I just need to get started. I’ll start with the “why”. Why has our life been so drastically rearranged?
On one level, the most important, life hasn’t really changed. Jill and I delight in the presence of God. We have the joy of living for His glory. That hasn’t changed and on the authority of His Word of promise, it never will. So, there’s that. But a few other pieces of life have changed significantly.
For more than twenty years I had the privilege of serving as Lead Pastor of Faith Community Church, New Richmond, WI. It was actually while I was leading a session for church planters in Moldova that God made it clear to me, we were supposed to plant a church in a small town like we grew up in. I had never heard of New Richmond. My intention in those days was to plant Faith Community, transition leadership and go plant another. Instead, God shaped a reproducing network of churches in the St Croix Valley that claimed two decades. I had revisited the transition of my role with our elders several times over the years. I kept a letter of resignation in my desk as a reminder to myself, the church belongs to Jesus not me. Only one of us is indispensable and it certainly isn’t me. About year seventeen I became convinced our twentieth birthday celebration (March 2017) would be the target to identify a next generation Lead Pastor. By God’s grace this past July, God raised up Joshua Maciel as the next Lead Pastor of Faith.
That season of our transition was super-odd for me. For the first time in my ministry life I wasn’t planning five years down the road. I couldn’t. The Lord was really quiet about what was to be next for us. I didn’t “feel” done, but I knew there weren’t many looking for the resume of a guy North of 60. But this was still God’s deal. There were things at Faith that I needed to turn over to other very capable leaders. I needed to draw my hands back from things I had done, and enjoyed for a long, long, time. Relationships began a necessary, sometimes awkward, sometimes painful shift. I needed to rest in the One who knows the future without knowing the future myself.
Along the way (a phrase I’ve spoken to others many times) God began to show me. He walked me through what I had encouraged many others to do. Look at how the Lord has gifted you. Ask others who know you well, and have the courage to tell you the truth. Then, look at the direction you need to move to put that to work building His kingdom. For a time I thought it might be as a clerk at a hardware store. I could be content. Maybe an Uber driver, but I spend way to much time sightseeing (read, lost). I considered a few roles at a few churches, but the age thing was a pretty consistent hurdle. A good friend asked me to consider working with him as a coach for pastors. I’m well aware of the value of that role, but something was missing.
Over a period of a couple weeks God’s leading took shape through several voices. A word from my daughter-in-law, a podcast from 9 Marks, a comment by one of our faithful leaders on a recorded interview with one of our pastoral candidates. “Mike, do what you can to serve pastors where they have little access to training.” God really put it in my lap. Our network of churches had come to a shared vision to train national church leaders in Northern Uganda in the hope God might raise up an indigenous church planting movement. We locked arms with an organization called Training Leaders International to access the curriculum they developed and leverage their cross-cultural expertise. As I talked with the guys at TLI it became obvious that my age was not a hurdle but an advantage. The elders at Faith had long been convinced I would be headed for some kind of international ministry. Our church family cheered the direction.
As anyone who has spent much of their life traveling can attest. Travel can sound (and even be) exotic, it can also be really hard. I had to consider if my body is up to this kind of challenge. Some may remember I had a stroke a couple years ago, which led to the discovery and repair of a brain aneurysm. God put me back together for something. Looks like this is it.
But, and this is a big BUT… there is this hurdle of raising financial support. I just about told God, no. I wanted to tell God, no. Until I came to my senses. There is great wisdom in the process (surprise) but this feels like a really long, slow, crucifixion of ego. A ministry like this takes a lot of money. Like, almost $100k between living expenses, travel, student materials, administration, etc. I have been greatly encouraged by people who have affirmed God’s kind hand on my life, whether they are in a position to join our support team or not. God is wisely sovereign over that too! I am repeatedly humbled by the beauty of generosity. I’m glad I don’t know any sugar-daddies, (I keep telling myself… most days I believe it ;o). God continues His refining work.
I do feel a sense of urgency however. I wonder if I have five years, ten? I was speaking of the season ahead as my “stretch run” until Jill corrected my thinking. “Mike, you may have a nursing home ministry ahead.” Fair enough.
So, that decision guided the steps since. We moved from New Richmond to Minneapolis. That move meant a downsizing from the three bedroom house we had been in for the last twenty years to a one bedroom condo. That was a lot of work. We had too much stuff… God bless America. Jill would say, we still do. But, it feels good. We moved for a number of reasons: Jill’s workplace is about 10 minutes from here. I wanted to be within walking distance of the TLI office. And, we wanted to be near the light-rail for runs to the airport. Jill and I both enjoy the city. But the move led to a far more significant decision.
I have encouraged everyone I could for the last several decades to be part of a church where they live. For meaningful evangelism and biblical community location becomes very important. Saying goodbye to Faith Community was inevitable, maybe even helpful for their future. We needed to make our church transition gospel-centered. Several years ago I became friends with Steve Treichler, who serves as Lead Pastor of Hope Community Church in Minneapolis. We know the theological foundation of the church, Steve’s heart, and the missional values, so that has become home. We definitely raise the average age of HCC. These are not my people, but they will be. I had intended to be the best church member at Hope, but I realized Jill was coming with me, so I have revised my aim. I will do all I can to be the second best church member at Hope.
So, here we are, adjusting to life in Minneapolis. I intend to add a piece from time to time of things we discover in Minneapolis, like the Rush Club at the Guthrie Theater, skyway adventures, and restaurant reviews.
Technically I can’t start with TLI until I have 50% of my support raised, but we have my first trip planned for November 1-11. It is my great privilege to serve as the TLI representative serving with the fine men from the St Croix Valley LEAD Team in Gulu, Uganda. Another of God’s very good gifts.
If God brings us to mind, please ask God to bring glory to His great name through these simple people He has called to be His disciples.
Keep lookin’ up.