October marks a year since we transitioned out from our position in Martinez.
Needless to say we have been through a lot of change; some of it being very difficult, some of it being unexpected and all of it working out for our good.
It was clear in our minds and in the minds of our team that we were heading to Oakland to do one thing... plant a church. We said it, taught it, shared it, prayed for it and worked towards it. We were moving to Oakland to start something. (Even though our idea of what that something looked like had always been a bit abstract and re-arranged from the majority of churches.)
Having the mindset of starting something always carries some distinct assumptions and pressures. It assumes (maybe more in our minds than on our tongues) that what you are heading out to start isn't already happening in that context. In the vein of church life, it brings the pressure of gathering people together, whether that be in small groups or a program/event. It creates the assumption that what you have to offer is what people will naturally receive. It is fair to say that there is a lot that comes with the idea of planting a church.
Fast forward to nine months of living life in Oakland.
We have had countless people ask us what we were doing in this city. People we knew, people we ran into; neighbors, strangers, business leaders, artists, waitresses, etc. To be honest, I don't think we really, truly knew what we were suppose to be doing. Yet, interestingly enough, the one answer that continued to bubble up was that we were missionaries. (This may not sound super spiritual but one of the reasons why I think it popped up so often was because we didn't really know what else to say.) One of the main reasons why I think it came up so often was because it was the only thing that made sense of what we were passionate about and what we were doing, not to mention what we saw over and over again in the Bible.
We are not planting/starting a church in Oakland.
We are the Church, being planted by God in Oakland.
Don't freak out.
We are not forsaking the faith. We aren't leaving the Church. We aren't joining a cult. And we aren't voting for Bernie Sanders. (Okay, that was a joke.. relax, breathe, smile)
In all honesty, this perspective shift has been one of the most encouraging, eye-opening and affirming things for us. Yes, we want to see people come to know the love and life of Jesus and live their lives for His Glory! Yes, we want to see people gathered to hear the Word of God preached. Yes, we want to see people gather in homes across the city to eat, pray, encourage, challenge and support one another. We want to see the Church grow and we want to see Jesus worshiped!. That will never change. What has changed is how we approach it all.
We are not expected to start something. God does that.
We are not expected to grow something. God does that.
We are not even expected to gather people. God does that.
What we are expected to do is to live as missionaries - immersing ourselves in the culture as much as possible. We aren't the driving force behind the Church - Jesus is, the Spirit is, God's Word is. We fool ourselves when we think our strategies, plans, timelines, bank accounts and flashy attractions will be the thing that gets the job done. We look for methods. God looks for men and women. We simply want to be used by God to spread the good news of Jesus in Oakland - we are trusting Him to plant us in this city as He sees fit for His glory and Oakland's good.
We were never called to plant a church.
We are called to plant the Gospel through words and good works and gather and reap whatever fruit God wills and grows. I guess you can say we are holding onto our plans and expectations with a lighter grip. We are more at ease with whatever happens because we trust God to be at work as we work with all we have.