I grew up a non-practicing Catholic. In 1994, I was drawn to the fancy lights and “rock n roll” glitz of the Protestant expression of Christianity. I’d never seen a live band in my experience of church before and, since I was heavily involved with the music scene, I was immediately hooked. It was a fun transition that, at the time, was just that…fun. Christianity became a fun environment that kept a teenaged kid out of trouble amid the Carson (California) landscape that was saturated by gang violence.
It wasn’t, however, until the turn of the 21st Century that I took my faith in Jesus seriously and dove into pastoral ministry.
Pastoral ministry, incidentally, has been fun. And, as my transition from Catholicism to being Protestant, I was immediately hooked to the idea of shepherding folks toward a more godly life inspired and driven by Jesus. I embraced the Christian culture, including the T-shirts, the Bible covers, the Christian-ese language, and the cheesy movies. I put a fish emblem on my car. I stood by the NIV translation for a long time. I put The Fish on all the presets of my car radio. I also embraced the “bubble” that has plagued the movement for so long. I, as I said, was hooked.
(Man, what was I thinking!)
The one thing, however, I always found peculiar that seems to be common place within the Christian church culture is the unspoken sense of competition between churches. One of the most difficult things I’ve experienced in pastoral ministry is the ability to work with other churches to reach the city in which we all call home. The idea of “sheep stealing” has become so common place within the church that many have looked past the fact that we’re one collective church on mission to bring the Light of Jesus to our cities. And, instead of worrying about Pastor XYZ “stealing” people from our “flock”, we should be willing to share resources (human and financial) in order to move the Kingdom forward.
But maybe it’s just me.
I’ve had the humbling privilege, as we gear toward beginning a new work in Long Beach, to be connected with an organization that intertwines multiple churches and pastors within the city to work together for the overall vision of the Kingdom. We collectively meet once a month to share stories about our churches and our efforts to love the people we’re neighbors to. We pray for one another. We learn from one another. We embrace one another. And, out of this network, I’ve been able to develop amazing friendships with other pastors that I can additionally pray with, learn from, and grow together with.
The amazing part to all this is I’m experiencing this fascinating camaraderie even before we’ve officially planted our church. I have a strong suspicion that, because of this connectedness we’re experiencing, that we’d be more inclined to share with one another…even if it meant sending one or two of our leaders to a church that desperately needed help.
It’s a beautiful picture of community.
It’s a beautiful picture of the Church.
It’s a beautiful picture of the Kingdom.