2018 has been a good year in many regards. I have a great job and I throughly enjoy the work I get to do. I have a wonderful family and our home life is probably the best it has been in years. I am learning new hobbies and enjoy taking care of my home, yard, and flowers. I even had a book published! But, I have struggled with one nagging thought throughout the year: you sold out!
As far back as college I had a passion to reach people who struggled to connect with the church. I have often wanted to build a bridge to the church for those who didn’t feel comfort in church, both believers who felt like “misfits” and unbelievers who didn’t think they’d be welcomed. Fresh out of seminary I got a chance to be part of an amazing ministry that aimed to do just that. Revolution was an ambitious, if not always healthy, experiment to reach the dechurched and unchurched in the drug/rehab culture in small town rural Ohio. I have wonderful memories of my time and experiences there, and in many ways they were a chance to realize long-held dreams of “bridge building” for misfits like myself.
A variety of reasons prompted us to end up leaving Rev. and Ohio all together. I can look back and recognize God’s hand in all those decisions and His gracious provisions in Cornerstone Baptist Church. Yet, Satan has used my own insecurities to tempt me to buy into the thought that I sold out in coming to Cornerstone. That thought took several forms: “You chose job security over caring for misfits;” “You gave up on your passion;” “You’ve settled into a comfortable job instead of frontlines ministry.” Now, I am grateful for the godly people in my life who have counseled me this year out of those thoughts and away from their simplistic tendencies. The truth is that all ministry matters, and God has brought me to Cornerstone for a purpose. The truth is I am pursuing my passion of serving God and His local church. The truth is that I cannot alter God’s plan for me, I am doing exactly what He wants me to do. Good friends are important precisely because they keep us from believing our own lies, and our own grandiose thinking about ourselves.
But that nagging thought has been good for me. It is reminding me afresh of ways that I want to serve and burdens that I believe God has given me. This brings me to the point of this blog post: next year’s study project.
Every year I study one subject for 12 months. I follow a general rotation of subjects: Biblical, doctrinal, historical, practical, and cultural. I am moving on to the “practical” subject next year and have decided to dedicate my year to the subject of Misfit Ministry. I have written some on this subject in years past, but for my own sake I want to clarify what I mean by these terms, what this type of ministry looks like, and how exactly to offer both gracious critique to the church, and a plan for caring for those who don’t feel like they belong. I want to pursue building that bridge into the church for those believers who feel like misfits, and those unbelievers who don’t feel welcomed.
There are a number of books I plan to read to fuel my thought on this subject, though I am always open to other suggestions, and I intend to write extensively on my vision for Misfit Ministry throughout the year. Several key themes are immediately evident to me as relevant for this study: community/fellowship; compassion ministry; evangelism; and contextualization. I want to explore churches that are doing this sort of work well and seek to learn from both their mistakes and successes. I want to balance careful theology with contextualized methodology and seek to understand that balance in a more meaningful way. I also want to have meaningful conversation with self-identified misfits, and learn from both their concerns and lived experience. I intend to maximize this study for my own growth, and for careful thinking about the type of ministries we can develop. I hope you will join me for a thought-provoking and unique study next year.