One of the best experiences I had while working at Heritage happened the weekend before Lent, 2010. We usually brought in a big-time guest speaker the weekend before Lent, and this year was no different, because we invited Scot McKnight to come speak to us about Mary. The responsibility fell to me to pick Scot and his wife Kris up from the airport, escort them to the hotel, and to and from church for the weekend. They could not have been nicer, more down-to-earth people; and Breena and I got to share lunch and dinner with them! (Thanks, Heritage!)
Scot has a very popular blog called the Jesus Creed, on which he (and others) makes many thought provoking posts every day. There is usually good, civil discussion in the comment threads. I enjoyed taking part in the discussions for the better part of 2010, and Scot was even gracious enough to post several of my book reviews there.
|American Baptist Church - Westerville|
Mark Farmer, Pastor
Later that day I got a comment on my own blog from someone going by the handle Pastor Mark. My first thought was, "Is Mark Driscoll commenting on my blog? Does he want to fight me?" As it turns out, it was Mark Farmer, a pastor in Columbus and fellow frequenter of the Jesus Creed blog. He contacted me because he had read my mention of Scot's trip to Columbus, and thought it would be great to get together to chat. I happily agreed, thinking this was a great chance to meet another pastor in the area. I am, after all, the world's worst networker, so whenever I get an opportunity to network with other pastors, I jump at it.
This is where things get God-level interesting. Mark and I both live in Westerville. In fact, we live in the same neighborhood. What is more, he pastors the church that is about a 2 minute drive from my house! We met up at Panera and had a wonderful conversation. He was a missionary and church-planter in France for a long time, and I was eager to hear his stories of ministry in what I perceived to be a difficult environment.
|Our first Sunday evening at Ember|
So we turned our attention to renting space at a local church. But who would let us rent part of their building to hold a church service while they were having their own church service? It seemed like we would have to look into the possibility of meeting on Sunday nights.
|The beautiful stained glass at ABC.|
But it didn't seem like we had many options. As we brainstormed the various churches we could contact, Mark popped into my head. I said to the team, "I just met the pastor of a church right down the road. I don't think they have anything in their building on Sunday nights. I'll talk to him." The following Monday I spoke with Mark, and he presented it to his deacons that night, and they approved it! So we drew up a rental agreement, and we found a home! And it's so much better than an elementary school gymnasium. The building is beautiful. We get to store our stuff on site. They even gave me an office! All for much less than it would have cost us to rent a public school facility.
God is full of surprises. You never know how he's going to provide for you, or make his mission possible. For Ember Church, it was a popular author, his blog, and a local pastor with a wide vision of the kingdom of God.