The Long Strange Trip Continues (We’re Planting Another Church!)

church_planting-400x300In 2008, my family and I moved from TX where I was pastoring back to AZ to plant Church of the Cross (which has since become Missio Dei Peoria).

In January 2015, a year after adopting four kids at once (putting us at 8 kids), I resigned from ministry in general and specifically from the church we planted in 2008.

2015 has been a whirlwind with a consistent theme from Psalm 46:

Be still and know that He is God.

When I resigned, it was important for Kristi and I that “vocational ministry” not be a career option for an unspecified period of time. With over ten years of lead pastor experience, I probably could have been hired at an existing church. But that just wasn’t right. Throughout 2015, I applied to more than 153 jobs (I stopped counting at 153). Most of those were jobs for which I was well qualified (at least on paper). But nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Bupkiss. A big goose-egg.

That’s not to say that I haven’t worked hard during this time, just that God has not provided full-time employment. Kristi and I both have worked part time for our friends Mark and Jill at Twigs and Twine. This has been a great experience. We’ve learned a lot but we’ve always known that this was not a long-term solution to our situation. It has felt like God was arranging our circumstances so that we would rest in Him even without knowing what was next. To be still. And know that He is God. And we are not.

This is a difficult lesson. It is often uncomfortable but it gets to the very heart of faith itself. Following Jesus means submitting our wills to His and trusting. God has been teaching me this tough lesson over the past year or so.

As I stated, it was important for us to have an unspecified period of time during which full-time ministry (at least in the pastoral sense) was not an option. Not only did we want to see what else God might have for us, we knew that one of two things would happen:

  1. The “indefinitely” would simply progress and we would not ever return to vocational ministry and we would be OK with that, or
  2. God would change our hearts and the “call” to ministry on our lives would return.

As 2015 wore on, the latter happened.

Before I explain what this means, I want to pause for a couple of side-notes.

First, my wife Kristi and I have been remarkably on the same page for every major decision throughout our relationship. This has helped serve as a natural form of discernment for both of us. Believe me, Kristi is not afraid to tell me when she thinks I’m wrong. It is important to me that my wife is on the same page. And she is.

Second, the idea of a “call to ministry” is fuzzy and nebulous at best. But I can say is that our decision to once again consider full-time ministry was not motivated by the fact that I had trouble finding employment. I hope that this goes without saying but I wanted to say it regardless. I have a healthy respect for ministry which requires that it be more than just a job.

In late 2015, not only did I start to miss vocational ministry but Kristi confirmed that I was once again being called to return and that we as a family wanted to give our lives in this way. As we wondered what this might mean for our family, we began talking with my friend Steve about planting a church together in Gilbert.

Steve planted a church called Ekklesia in 2009. Through mutual involvement with the local Surge Network, Acts 29 and Soma Communities, Steve and I became good friends. Around the same time I resigned, Steve shut down his church plant. However, because he’s so awesome, Steve has maintained great relationships with the people of that church, retaining a core group ready to plant another church.

After nearly eight months of prayer and consideration, Steve and I believe that the time is right to move forward with planting a church made up of Gospel Communities on Mission. We are humbled to announce that we are in the initial stages of planting Mosaic Church.

The Thomas Ten is in the process of moving to the Gilbert area so that we can devote ourselves to this exciting new gospel work. Since our ministry conviction is based on relationships and everyday life, it is important for us to be where we minister. We are currently raising the necessary funds to launch this new church and we appreciate anything you can give towards this goal.

Once we can get to that side of town, we will move forward with forming Gospel Communities and launching a Sunday gathering. Our goal is to move as soon as possible so that the kids can transition schools smoothly.

There’s still a lot to figure out and I’m sure you have questions. Feel free to ask them. And please pray for us. Please pray for wisdom, for discernment, for joy, for clarity and conviction. Please pray that God would provide the necessary resources and prepare hearts.

  • Visit the Mosaic Church website.
  • Visit the Mosaic Church Facebook page.

A New Year, A New Me (?)

1388095921000-new-yearsNew Year’s.
Birthdays.

New Year’s.
Birthdays.

New Year’s.
Birthdays.

New Year’s.
Birthdays.

New Year’s.
Birthdays.

New Year’s.

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New Year’s.

New Year’s. Well, here we are once again. The oddest holiday of all. A one-second holiday. The one where we all pretend we’re ecstatic that the calendar has turned in on itself once again and here we are to repeat the whole thing yet once again. And again. And (hopefully?) agai.

One second we’re old. The next we’re new again. We’ve shed our psychological skin and embraced a new beginning. Or the monkey on our back has added a few pounds and feels just a bit heavier as we face the prospect of carrying it around for another trip around the sun.

We celebrate the passing of time because we’ve survived. Some of it felt like it was in our control (even though most of it didn’t). There’s no reason we should have survived this year’s lap of a giant 1,000/hour spinning marble around a flaming ball of explosive gases, held in place by a rock finding its identity in spinning around us as we spin around the ball of fire.

As the years swallow themselves, we remember those who didn’t survive this year’s cruise around the sun. We know that one day, maybe soon, most definitely sooner than we’d like, we will join them in jettisoning this spinning ball.

As we lap the sun once again, we are torn. Should we celebrate our survival or mourn those whose time ended? Can you do both? Can you do both without guilt?  Isn’t curious that so many of our celebrations are about nothing more than the fact that we survived another year?

And yet with each Birthday. With each trip around the sun. With each New Year, we instinctively cling to the hope that things will can get better. Things will get better.Things have to get better. They just have to because I can’t keep on like this. Not another year.

I don’t know how you understand these annual rites of passage but I can’t help but interpret them through the Biblical Story. We celebrate the passing of each year with resolutions for the same reason we mythologize the Phoenix rising from the ashes: we believe in redemption. We long for restoration. Something deep inside us, un/happy as we might be, feels like we were created for more. So much more. This just quite doesn’t seem like all of this creation business has lived up to its potential. Things just aren’t quite as they should be.

We celebrate the passing of another year with hopes to do better knowing that we won’t. Believing that maybe we can’t. Maybe the set of chemicals injected into us by our parents and theirs before have simply determined how each year, each month, each day will play itself out. But I don’t think so.

Because God Himself entered in to human history. The Eternal stepped in to time. The Perfect into the imperfect. Trusting God fully; wholly; completely, in every way. In ways I could never. In ways I would never. Even to the end. Unto the end. Through it all. Even to death. Death on a cross. Through the grave and into Intercession.

My faith in Jesus reminds me that, left to myself, relying on my own devices, I won’t do any better with this coming year than I did the last. I can make all of the resolutions I want and more but I won’t keep them unless I want to and I won’t want to unless my heart itself changes and I won’t ever want to unless something (SomeOne) outside of me acts on my behalf.

My faith in Jesus provides each year, each moment, with purpose. The passing of each year throws me to the floor with gratefulness. I know I cannot do it without Jesus because I’ve had more than enough chances to prove otherwise and each time I end up with nowhere to go but to Him.

I know that some of you have views on Jesus than I do. I’m not here to argue with you. I just want you to know that, in spite of the way many Christians express themselves politically or culturally, or artistically, or in-person, our story is one of death and renewal. Our God died in our place so that we might live.

The passing of each year brings us to the end of ourselves once again. As we optimistically bear weights we’re not sure we can bear, we are reminded that God bears our burdens so that following Him (this year and the next, and the next, etc.) might bring relief to our souls. Could this be the year we’re anxious for nothing? Could this be when we finally learn to be calm in the storm? The Foundation is there, but will we stand on it or lose our grip?

The passing of this year and every year reminds the Christian that we cannot face what’s next on our own. And thankfully, we don’t have to.

What does the new year mean to you?