So, honestly, we are WAY overdue for an update around here, especially with our mysterious vanishing act several weeks ago. For some of you, this will largely be a repeat of what you already know. Even then, though, I’m hoping to address in this update some of the questions we keep getting, so hopefully it won’t be totally redundant. But for others, this will all come as a pretty big surprise. And it’s certainly a big shift for our family. Here goes…
Summary: we are currently in the midst of selling our house in New Albany and I am actively looking for new jobs so that we can relocate to Indianapolis.
What the–? Yeah, I know.
Where in the world did this come from? Surprisingly, this plan is a few years old and is now finally coming to fruition. Back when we were still at Sojourn, I found myself resonating with the home ministry aspect of small groups over and beyond the Sunday morning gathering. Now, that didn’t mean that I hated or despised Sunday services, but simply that I felt like more disciple-making and mutual encouragement was occurring in living rooms than in church buildings. I also witnessed in several venues how large churches with large buildings and large staffs required a large amount of resources to fund and maintain. Seeing this, my heart began to be drawn to the simplicity of meeting in homes as a church, not simply as one ministry of a church. Hey, it worked for the first century church. And I even found out about some movements (like Crowded House) that were doing this like crazy without being crazy.
But as these convictions grew, we also felt our explorer’s spirits stirred within us. We wanted to move out of the comfortable. We wanted to move beyond the bible belt to less “churchy” places. We wanted to go more metropolitan. And, selfishly, we wanted to go to a city we really loved. Our sights centered on Indianapolis. While we were still at Sojourn, we started talking about a 2-3 year plan that would eventually get us to Indy.
Not too long after, the Lord providentially moved us from Sojourn to Oak Park (that story has been told elsewhere). Interestingly, I thought Oak Park was God’s way of saying our plans to move to Indy were off the books. Seems I was wrong. Definitely not the first time. Now, God is providentially angling us once again to Indy and our sights are set squarely on it.
Why Indy? I have incorrectly stated in some contexts that “there’s no reason we picked Indy. It was just cuz.” But that’s not entirely true. We picked Indy because we have a heart for it. We have a heart for urban areas. We have a heart for US cities that don’t identify heavily with a cultural expectation of Christianity. We love the unique things that Indy has to offer. We really like it there. And we really like exploring and finding new places.
But there’s actually more. When I had my first sit-down with the man I’d asked to go alongside us (more about them below), I had actually taken my eyes of Indy and was ready to go to a number of large cities. But very early in that initial discussion, John looks at me and tells me a story ending with, “I think God’s calling us to Indy. Have you ever thought about Indy?” After picking my jaw up off the floor, I just laughed. Apparently I have that as a common reaction to things that surprise me.
Why now? My time at Oak Park (along with simply developing my understanding of the Christian life) has helped me to see a few things. First, I’m an incredibly informal person. Like I go to a church where several people wear suits and I wear jeans with an untucked shirt most Sundays. That’s just me. Thus, I find that I “fit” better in the infomality of homes. I didn’t know that as much before. Second, being a pastor at Oak Park has helped me to see that I don’t thrive at all in much of the administrative and planning aspects of “normal” church life. So much so, in fact, that I barely manage to get anything planned, including the service order each week. I enjoy simpler and more fluid ways of living out the Christian life. And I think the Bible leaves lots of freedom to do just that. Third, these convictions have grown steadily stronger and I feel compelled to put them to use in a context that they’ll work well in–namely, homes.
Is someone going with you? Yes, there’s a family we met at Oak Park who we share much in common with and who have decided to come with us. In fact, they are so serious about this commitment that they just moved out of their rental home and up to Indy this week. I asked them to go along with us and now they’re waiting on us! They’re names are John and Viki Coveney (along with their kids and extended family living with them). They are super humble, super loving, Jesus-centered people who are going to be amazing anchors in the Lord as we venture out into lonely territory.
Why churches in homes? Okay, so I really already answered a lot of this, but the main thrust comes from seeing the importance of the “one another” passages in the New Testament. Frankly, many of these are difficult to do in a typical Sunday service (not impossible, mind you). Most churches handle this by having additional ministries (Sunday school, small groups, prayer meetings, Bible studies, accountability, etc.) to fill in some of these “gaps”. I say, “Why not change the venue altogether so that all of these things can be done together?” And truly, it was good enough for the first century church. And for several home church movements currently at work. And meeting in homes is par for the course in persecuted countries–and I don’t think that makes them less of a church for doing so.
Invariably, the follow-up question we get is What are you going to do if/when you get big? Some actually ask the unstated question, which is are we going to eventually get a building of some kind. As things stand right now, the answer is no. If the Lord grows us, we hope to grow from one home church to two home churches. And hopefully more than two home churches. Does this mean each church will be somewhat small? Sure it does. Again, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. And besides, if we keep making churches that meet in homes, that gives the opportunity for different homes in different neighborhoods to become churches and lights in the darkness. And I think that’s darn cool.
Is Bill going to be paid by the church or a Christian organization? No, I won’t be. There are a few reasons for this. First, I’m not totally closed to the idea of getting support. But, for instance, my research into funding from NAMB (the Southern Baptist domestic missions arm) shows that this direction isn’t something they currently have funding apparatuses for. And that’s okay. Second, I like working a “normal” job, especially since it allows me to have constant contact with people who don’t love Jesus. Third, inasmuch as there’s not overhead for facilities when you meet in homes, I’d like that to be the same for pastors/staff, too. I have this dream of people giving money directly to those in need, whether inside or outside the church. Hopefully, no building costs and no salaries will help with that goal.
How can we pray for and/or help you? Here are the things you can pray for. First, that God would bring us a buyer soon. This mortgage is a difficult chain and it would be a joy to be released from it. Second, that God would provide for us, especially financially, during this transition. When we decided to sell the house, our realtor asked us to take any money we had set aside and put it toward fixing the most glaring things about the house. Problem is, that took all the money we had set aside and more. We drained all of our money to get the house as ready to sell as possible and we know there will be more expense down the road with moving and deposits and all that. Third, that God would give me a job that would meet our needs. I’ve been actively applying for jobs over the last few weeks and haven’t had a whole lot of bites. As of this writing, I do have a really good prospect and will be interviewing Friday for that. Fourth, that we would trust in God and not fear. I gotta admit–up and moving to a new city when nothing is in place beforehand feels pretty scary. But we neither want to worry nor fear. God has enough to say about both. We want to trust him fully, especially that if he’s really calling us to this work, he’ll give us what we need to make it happen.
And on that final note, I want to wrap up. This post is titled “If It’s the Lord’s Will” based on James’ warning against pride and arrogance. The fact is that I’ve detailed our plans, but they will only succeed if they are from the Lord and they are his will. So, I tell them to you in full faith that this is what God is moving us toward, but trusting completely in him since it’s totally possible that I’ve got this all wrong. We want to love Jesus and serve him with our very lives. We’re planning for this to be the way that happens at this stage in our lives. May God bless it and make it happen in his good and perfect plan laid before the foundation of the world.