Starting a new thing is really hard. It will never get going unless you have your people. Perhaps the more profane way to talk about it is to say you need your inspiration, your model, the church or ministry that you absolutely adore and want to just totally copy and steal from.
This past week I had the opportunity to visit a church in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a visit to a church plant that is doing some really cool things. They have clarity of their mission. They are a multi-racial, environmental justice focused church that calls the vast cohort of activists and organizers in Minneapolis to a deeper way of living, to be shaped by a God who restores and makes new. Their name says it all, New City Church imagines a new city based on Revelation 21, "[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
New City is not my model. For one, they are planting a stand alone new church. They are working towards self sufficiency and have always seen themselves as planting campuses all over Minneapolis. Except, in a certain way, I want to be just like them:
1. They know who they are. The really funny thing is that visitors when I was there were asked how they found New City and what made them come. One really bluntly said that they were looking for a church that cared. That got them. Unsurprisingly, this was a person of color who was in a profession because they saw it as a force for good, and wanted to find a church that got her. Even the visitors understand in some innate way what New City is about. Beyond that, the leadership can spit out the core beliefs and the vision. It's ingrained.
2. They live out who they are. New City is engaged in all manner of environmental justice work. They do they kind of work that is all about people, and they don't pretend that environmental justice is about middle class white people. They bring fruit trees to anybody who wants them. They teach gardening to their neighbors. They advocate at systemic levels for a more just city. They do the work as a church.
3. They are innovative and daring in a secular world that doesn't know they need God. Everybody is part time at New City. The pastor teaches zumba and picks up other work here and there to pay the bills. Everybody has a day job. They chose the most multi-racial and politically radical neighborhood to set up shop. They are constantly improving, constantly pushing forward, and constantly working together and collaborating even as challenging as it is to work with a staff that only sees one another a couple times a week.
New City is doing some cool things, but the Gospel takes root different ways in different places. So what on earth is God doing in Houston? In the East End?
God is up to something in the East End of Houston. It's mysterious and confusing. In other words, its the work of God. Come, let us join God's work in the world and dare to dream of what could be.