This weekend at GCC, Mark Beeson and I had the opportunity to share some exciting news with the church. In case you missed it, here’s some of what we shared:
Twelve years ago, I got an email from a guy named Corey Mann, asking me if I was interested in a youth worship leader position at a place called Granger Community Church. I was a junior in college with a waiter job at Outback Steakhouse, and I figured it was time to start thinking about a career, so maybe this was a good step.
I had no idea how my life would be changed by that invitation.
For the past 12 years, I’ve been swimming in the joy of this work. Mark Beeson and everyone else at GCC have taught me, encouraged me, challenged me, and constantly called out of me the things that God has made me to do. I’ve seen more and more of the beauty of the Church when she loves well. And every step of the way, Mark and others have cheered me on as I've taken my next steps toward Christ with them.
One of the steps in that journey came five years ago when the church provided for me to go to a life-planning retreat with a trusted friend of ours who facilitates that sort of thing. He and I sat in a room together for three days as he helped me probe my own history, passions, talents, wounds, and hopes to discern how God may be leading me into the future. When I got back from that retreat, I told Mark and the rest of the lead team that I was leaving to plant a church in an urban setting.
Obviously that didn’t happen.
I remember as clear as yesterday sitting in Mark’s office at that time, asking him if he saw a church planter in me. He spoke words of wisdom and encouragement into my life that have stuck with me ever since. But I got on a plane soon after I delivered the news and ventured to the place where I thought I would plant a church, but quickly realized that something — the time or the place or me — wasn’t ready or right.
Since then, the dream of planting a church hasn’t died; it was humming inside me, quietly but never silent. And then, about six months ago, it got louder. And the dream had a new place attached to it: South Bend.
I’ve spent the past ten years living in this city. I’ve felt its pain, like one night years ago when a fight broke out next door that ended up in my front yard, with everyone pulling out guns and shooting each other. I can still picture the police line of yellow tape around my house, the bloody footprints down the sidewalk, my roommate’s car windows shot out. I’ve seen the poverty that plagues our city. I’ve seen the disinterest of outsiders as they wonder why anyone would ever want to root their lives here.
But I’ve also seen how rich our city is, and lately others are seeing it, too. After years of economic and cultural decline, a rebirth is happening in South Bend. Old downtown buildings that were empty and due for demolition are being redeveloped. Tens of millions of dollars are being invested to create new residential options in the heart of the city. Alongside those residential developments, new hi-tech ventures are launching. The urban population has started growing again. Fresh political leadership has brought new vision. Notre Dame has turned its attention the city, creating partnerships and enticing students to stick around after graduation as new career opportunities emerge. A tribe of advocates has emerged who love the city and want to see it flourish, and I'm a part of that tribe. I’ve been watching all of that, and after a lot of prayer and reflection, I realized my dream is to plant a new church in the heart of South Bend.
So here are a few things you need to know:
- There are beautiful, faithful churches in South Bend. This is NOT predicated on some kind of ignorant belief that God is finally about to show up, as if He and His people haven't been here all along. One of my efforts in the upcoming months will be to learn from the church leaders who have been serving the city for years, so that we can add our effort to the ongoing work of God’s kingdom here.
- Wherever I go in life, I’ll always carry GCC with me. The love and faith of this church have made my who I am in so many ways. And this new church will undoubtedly carry that spirit. However, it won’t carry the GCC brand or be part of the GCC organization. This is a new, independent work.
- I’m not leaving GCC right away. Mark and I agreed that it was best thing to let everyone know what’s going on before I start working on this in earnest. It’ll be months before we’re ready to launch the new thing, and in the mean time I’ll be continuing my work on the GCC team for a season.
- Mark and the rest of the lead team have been exceptional in their generosity toward me as I’ve shared this dream with them. They’ve responded with nothing but blessing and kindness and encouragement, even as I tell them I’m leaving to start something in GCC’s backyard. If you could be a fly on the wall for every meeting we’ve had, you would be so proud of your pastor and lead team.
- If you’re wondering when our first Sunday will be, and when and where we’ll meet, and what color the carpet will be, well… it’s gonna be awhile before we sort all of that out. However, we’ll start working quickly to gather a team of people who want to dream and launch together.
So if you’d like to know what’s going on, I’ve created a new email list just for that. You can sign up right here.
This is for anyone who thinks they might want to be involved, and for anyone who wants to know how to pray for us, and for anyone who’s cheering for us, even if you live half way around the world. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop if we have your email address on this list.
Sometime soon, I’ll have to try to find words to express my gratitude for GCC and Mark Beeson. It’ll be impossible, but I’ll try. For now, just know that it would be impossible for someone to be more grateful than I am for what GCC has meant to me over these years, and I intend to spend the rest of my life paying these blessings forward. I love you like crazy, GCC, and I always will.