During the portion of my life when I experienced the opportunity to travel the country extensively to conduct lectures and roundtable discussions for my medical colleagues, one of the added benefits was the opportunity to meet people with whom I formed an almost immediate connection as a result of the faith we shared in Jesus Christ. I enjoyed the experience of being part of a large, extended family with half-brothers, half-sisters and cousins everywhere, all of us related through our connection with Jesus.
While I’d like to think that there’s some formula we could bottle for creating that sense of community with our fellow Christians whenever we need it, my experience says it’s not so simple. I could probably do a detailed Bible study and come up with a list of essential conditions for Christian community but the two necessary ingredients that immediately come to mind are authenticity and a willingness to put Jesus first.
In recent weeks, I’ve become acutely aware of how much I need and enjoy the company of other Christians who care about the same things I do. It’s hard to go back into the world and deal with messy stuff without it once you’ve experienced it.
This past week, I was out of town for two days for a Key Ministry team meeting and in-person meetings with two ministry leaders I’d become familiar with through websites and Facebook. I felt as if a weight was being lifted from me pulling into the entrance of the Cincinnati Vineyard campus for the team meeting with our colleague, Harmony Hensley. We always have fun with Harmony in developing plans to (in her words) “achieve total world domination on behalf of Jesus.” We laughed, we worked, we planned, we ate and one team member cried, presumably in honor of Cincinnati native and new Speaker of the House John Boehner.
The next day, our team had the privilege of meeting Michael Chanley, the visionary family ministry leader who developed CMconnect.org, a social networking site designed to facilitate the exchange of wisdom and strategy among pastors and leaders passionate about sharing the Gospel with kids and families. Michael has also authored the book Collaborate, a compilation of perspectives on the growing family ministry movement within the church.
In my world, many of the “thought leaders” wouldn’t think about spending a morning with a group of junior colleagues for brainstorming, but that certainly wasn’t the case with Michael. You couldn’t ask to meet a servant leader more dedicated to the concept of Christ-followers coming together and sharing their gifts and talents for the benefit of God’s kingdom. We’re very much looking forward to contributing to the resources he’s assembling through CMconnect.org and tapping into his wisdom on an ongoing basis.
Later on Thursday, I met Jeremy Collins, a visionary young ministry leader who is the developer of Pajama Conference, a resource to enable ministry staff and volunteers to receive cutting edge training at low or no cost through streaming video from the comfort of their homes. Jeremy has created Pajama Conference while serving full-time as the Children’s Ministry pastor at Bethel Harvest Church in Lexington, KY and spending lots of time with his wife and two boys. We’re privileged to be participating in the inaugural Children’s Ministry Telesummit organized by Jeremy and scheduled for this coming April.
I had a great time for two days hanging out with my team and two authentic leaders with common ministry interests and passions. On my way back home, I couldn’t help but think of the families Key Ministry hopes to see connect with local churches. I can’t imagine what it would be like to struggle with the burdens and challenges presented to parents of kids with disabilities without the ability to connect with other people with similar interests, passions and faith in Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t want to think about what it must be like to have been given gifts and talents for the purpose of expanding God’s Kingdom but have no church in which to use those gifts together with other believers.
I appreciate how blessed I am to have had churches where I’ve been able to learn about God and enjoy the company of other Christians, the opportunity to help others to experience the same through Key Ministry, and teammates and colleagues with whom to share the adventure.