Wednesday, November 4, 2015


"When I was a child, my grandfather was a preacher....
he was a million miles from a million dollars 
but you could never spend his wealth." 
-OneRepublic, Preacher

A few years ago I took the Strengthfinders test and discovered one of my top strengths is Input.

Upon reading more about my results, I found out that Input is a common strength among journalists and writers. We read or see random facts and then “input” them into our psyche until the appropriate time to extract that detail out into a conversation or an article. (Similar to what I’m doing here right now.)

I have decided to blame this strength for the reason I read a lot. Okay, I don’t need anything or anyone to blame for my propensity to read. It’s just who am and what I do. Now I have another way of understanding why I read so much and why I choose the topics I do.

When I find an interest, I will read everything I can get my hands on to understand and dissect that particular topic. For instance, a few years ago I discovered the concepts of soul care and spiritual formation. I have been devouring books on them for a while now. Same with writing. When I became an editor, I wanted to know more about the creative process and the best ways to structure writing and how to improve my grammar so I read and read and read on writing.

One of the most recent things I’ve stepped into is church planting. However, I have not been reading about this idea. It has been FULL STOP on that. Sure, I see articles about it on my feeds but I rarely click.

Why? Well, for a couple reasons.

First is that I find articles on church planting to be largely formulaic. In our time the church has adopted many marketing and business principles. I think some can be helpful but I see a lot. In my opinion too many focused on these ideas. Plus, a lot of people say or imply that their experience or situation is the only way for growth to happen in church. I want to be free to hear from God about what He has for our church, for me as a leader in my particular context, and reading “how to” articles on church planting impedes on my ability to see what God has for me in my community.

Secondly, much of what I learned about ministry came from my experiences as a child watching my grandparents minister in the San Luis Valley where they lived and my participating in church services. I’ve thought about those days and weeks in The Valley a lot since we started church planting a couple years ago. After decades of those times sitting in my heart and in my psyche, it’s now time to pull out what was Input decades ago, I believe by God, in order to give me hope and vision for today.

My brother and I grew up in Colorado Springs. The San Luis Valley is four hours south of our hometown, on the border of Colorado and New Mexico. This valley is the land of my ancestors. My grandfather was raised in this largely Hispanic community. There is much beauty that surrounds the San Luis Valley. It is home to the Sand Dunes and the Sangre De Cristo mountains border on the east. I spent so many days hiking, picnicking, and fishing there. Many good memories of running wild on grandma and grandpa’s land, riding go-carts with the neighbors, making snickerdoodles in the kitchen with grandma, and tending the garden with grandpa.

But for as much beauty that exists and surrounds the San Luis Valley, there is also much despair. In recalling one of the quaint local towns there, I remember seeing as many bars and liquor stores as restaurants and grocery stores. Actually, make that one grocery store. There is darkness and hopelessness there. My grandparents were a light in that place. Well, more accurately, they shone The Light of the World there.

Grandpa is a preacher and he has a “fire” in him to share the gospel with everyone he meets. Really. Everyone. My grandfather also literally takes care of “widows and orphans”. He took their trash to the dump and picked up kids after school for single parents. Grandpa also has a passion for sports and he was the caretaker of the baseball field. I can remember riding in grandpa’s rusted baby blue pick up with the metal grate hooked up to the back. We went back and forth at the Centauri High School field while chewing sticks of Big Red gum.

Grandma had her fair share of ministry too. She led Sunday School and VBS. She baked cookies and casseroles for potlucks and played the piano and the accordion. Yes, the accordion! We would load up the accordion to go to the campgrounds to lead church services and some homes to sing hymns with the individuals there. Grandma also took David and I to the nursing home to sing for the residents. David and I sang hymns like The Old Rugged Cross, In The Garden, and What a Friend We Have in Jesus. We also sang Patch the Pirate songs. If you don’t know what that is (don’t) Google it.

Together we went all over the Valley. Different churches, different campgrounds, different VBS sometimes. But we also had one particular church were Grandpa and Grandma ministered—the Presbyterian church in Antonito. If you don’t know where Antonito is, look it up on the map. It’s the home of the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad, along with the oldest (Catholic) church in Colorado.

The Presbyterian church there was a place where I belonged. I knew all of the elderly people there by heart—Eloisa and Margie and Angie and Mr. Martinez. They all loved me and I waved to them when I got out of the car on Sunday and then again midweek for Bible study. I didn’t mind much that there weren’t many other kids around to play with, though there were a few at times. And I didn’t mind that Sunday School didn’t happen every Sunday. I spent many Sundays listening in church to my Grandpa preach. He always ended a strong statement in his sermon with “See?” He wanted you to “see” what the passage said, although I wonder sometimes if he didn’t mean “Si?” as in “Yes!” in his native Spanish language.

There I did see! I saw God at work in people’s lives in a little town in a little white church with a steeple and velvet covers on the pews. I heard Him in the voices that greeted me and the creaking of the wood floor in the small annex connected to the sanctuary. I tasted Him in the casseroles lovingly baked and the pies too. I saw Him in the faces that smiled at me wherever we went.

These are the things I think about each Sunday now.

These are the memories that surround me when I see my own children greeted by the older adults, as they sing in church and dance to the final song of celebration each week. I am not afraid of not having Sunday School or Children’s Church at our church yet as we pray for God to make us a light, and be our Light, where we worship and minister each Sunday. I know God is there whether we have 10, 20, or 40 in our auditorium that week. This is what gives me hope. This is church. We don’t need programs or fancy buildings, though God has seen fit to gift us a pretty nice one to worship in each week.

I remember the days of my youth. I recall the ministry I able to do as a young child in a small town.

In these days of church planting, I’m grateful for Input. I’m grateful for “see” (or “si”—yes!) as my Grandpa preached. God is with us. He is in the details that may seem insignificant to some. Sometimes being a small church feels that way. But He is there in the small and quiet. He sees. I know. Because I see Him there each week.

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