Ministry in Isolation
Recently I got an email from a good friend who left Denver and our New Denver Church community to relocate to Atlanta. He emailed to let us know that he and his new wife were getting settled in Atlanta and had begun looking for a church home. This friend knew that I worked on staff at North Point Community Church so he quickly mentioned that they had already been attending Buckhead Church and were looking to get connected in a group there in the short term. But he indicated that he was hoping to find a church that more closely resembled New Denver and asked if I had any suggestions. I immediately clicked reply and started to list the churches that I recommended. The problem was, I couldn’t think of any.
As I sat there thinking I was stunned to realized that after living in Atlanta for twelve years and doing ministry there for over seven years of that time, I knew very little about churches in the Atlanta area outside of the church I worked for and its associated campuses. Oh, I could recall some big churches I knew of and had even listened to a few radio broadcasts or watched some messages on local TV. But I didn’t know any pastors or churches well enough to make any recommendations to my friend.
This struck me as especially odd, because our experience in Denver has been so vastly different. Thinking back on our first three years in Denver, one of the things I am most grateful for are the good friendships I have made with pastors around the city of Denver. Maybe our experience has been so different because we’re a church plant and went looking for anyone and everyone who could teach us about our new city when we first arrived. Maybe our experience has been different because when we went to them, the pastors of Denver welcomed us with open arms without a hint of territorialism or competitive spirit. Maybe it’s different, because in a city as spiritually apathetic as Denver, there’s no need to be territorial. Like-minded church leaders who desire to reach those who don’t know God realize there’s more than enough work for all of us. Maybe it’s different here simply because we made the time and put the effort into making connections.
Whatever the reason, I am grateful for our experience here. I’m not just grateful for what New Denver Church is doing but for what is happening in this city through the combined efforts of the Church of Denver – the Body of Christ, living and active, advancing the kingdom of God. I’m grateful for our friends who pastor churches here in Denver and for the friends we have who are part of their congregations. Great churches here in the city like Denver Community Church, TNL, Bloom, Fellowship Denver, Adullam, and many more around the metro area (I probably shouldn’t have started listing…too many more to type…I’m sure I’ll be hearing from the guys I left out…apologies!). We regularly send people who don’t feel like they fit at New Denver to these other churches in town, and they do likewise for us. I’m grateful for this bigger vision. I’m grateful that I get to be a small part of a much bigger story.
My only regret is that I didn’t do ministry like this sooner. I regret that there’s not a list of pastors in the Atlanta area (outside the North Point network) that I pray for. That I cheer for. That I consider friends. If you are in ministry and you are reading this post, ask yourself this question:
Who are the pastors or ministry leaders in my city who I consider friends?
I know we’re all busy, and I know there is more to do in your church/ministry every day than you have time to do. This is not something that will ever be urgent. But I believe it is vitally important. So make the time. I don’t think it’s something you’ll regret.
**Images from Flickr user Ali Smiles, used under Creative Commons license