After what we hope was the last round of sizzling summer weather this week, temperatures and humidity have fallen dramatically here in DC. The crispness in the air and distinctive clarity of daylight tells us that fall has arrived. Faith and I have been excited to put on an extra layer, open the windows and embrace the new season.
This seasonal change is invigorating, and not only in terms of the weather. As we move into fall, the Friends of Jesus community also enters into an exciting new phase of its life. Last week marked the beginning of our first-ever fall cycle. From now until early December, we’re coming together to explore the scriptural focus, “Look, I am making everything new!” We’ll be gathering around good food and deepening friendships, and through Spirit-led worship and exploration of Scripture we’ll seek to open ourselves to the ways that God wants to remake and renew us – and use us as agents of positive change in our city.
This fall cycle is special in many ways. Not only is it our first fall cycle, it is the first time we have organized a cycle around an entire season, rather than just a six-week period. It also marks the first time that we will be holding a cycle in multiple small groups. We have one group meeting out in suburban Maryland, with another gathering in the homes of participants in the District.
Now that we have more than one small group, we’re experimenting with how to be one body with many parts. One way way to accomplish this is having more than one kind of meeting. Starting this month, in addition to our weekly small groups we will also gather monthly to share worship and strengthen connections across our whole community. Our first monthly gathering will be on Sunday, September 29th. Through this rhythm of local weekly small groups and city-wide monthly gatherings, we are developing a model for growing a community that lives out the gospel across the physical geography and human diversity of our city.
Just as this is a time of growth and experimentation for Friends of Jesus as a whole, so it is for me, on a personal level. I have spent a lot of my time this month exploring what it means to be a full-time minister who also raises his own financial support. As a bi-vocational minister, it can be quite a balancing act to feel out how much of my time and energy God is calling me to put into unpaid ministry, and how much focus I should place on work that is paid.
This summer, I have begun apprenticing with a local carpenter named Scott. He’s been doing an amazing job of teaching me the basics of the trade. In the past couple of months, he’s taken me from a state of almost complete ignorance and developed me into a fairly serviceable helper. We’ve done a lot of different projects together, and we are currently in the middle of doing the biggest one so far: gutting and completely remodeling a basement bedroom. Together, we are turning a space that used to be a health hazard into a safe, pleasant living area. And we’re having a blast while we’re at it.
I’ve learned so much working with Scott, and not just about carpentry. He’s helping me to see how much time and effort goes into every room I walk into, every street I drive down, every skyline I observe. As human beings, we are made in the image of God – and I am seeing more clearly than ever that one of those marks is the care and hard work we can put into the world that surrounds us. This new awareness helps me to appreciate how precious our world is, especially when I recognize the work of a craftsman who took the extra time, sweat and energy to make things beautiful.
Working with Scott is also providing a helpful reminder about my own limitations. I have enjoyed this work so much that I have sought out as much of it as I could get. As the summer has gone on, I’ve spent more and more time on the job with Scott, to the point that recently I have effectively been working full time as an apprentice carpenter. This is in addition to my two other paid jobs, unpaid ministry and life with my family and friends. I’ve loved the work – all of it – but it’s been a lot.
I knew it already, but I am experiencing with greater clarity than ever that I am a finite being with very real limits on my time, energy, attention and strength. How can I best steward these resources to strengthen the body of Christ and bless the world? What is the best balance of paid activity, unpaid service, and time spent off the clock with family, friends and neighbors?
I’ve learned one thing for sure this month: It is not sustainable for me to work full time as a carpenter, part time as a web developer, part time as a writer, be responsive to the work God has for me with Friends of Jesus, and be present to my family and friends. As much as I want to do every good thing full time, my human limitations just won’t allow it. Though this can be deeply frustrating for me, I am also learning to see the blessing in it. In my own weakness, I get to witness God’s strength. My frailties and limitations help to focus me on the work that God is most especially calling me to right now.
It takes a lot of humility to let God set my priorities in this way – the kind of humility that is closely related to humiliation! I have to confess, I still find it challenging to trust God to provide for our material needs, but it is absolutely essential if I am to avoid choosing paid work over unpaid work by default. I know that I don’t have this kind of courage or wisdom on my own, but I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the grounding and guidance I need to live joyfully into whatever labor God has for me.
I am deeply grateful for everyone who holds me, our family and Friends of Jesus up in prayer. I ask that you continue to pray for us, and in particular ask prayers for:
- The Spirit’s blessing on this new season of Friends of Jesus in the DC Metro Area. May we fully embrace our scriptural focus, finding that God is indeed making everything new – in our lives, and in the life of our city.
- Courage and guidance for me as I seek a faithful balance of different kinds of work – paid and unpaid.
- Openings for me, and for all of us in the Friends of Jesus Fellowship, to demonstrate the new and abundant life that we have found in Christ Jesus. May God give us strength, wisdom and courage to invite others into the exhilarating and deeply challenging way of Jesus.
Your friend and brother,