Since the news of what God has been doing in our hearts over the last year is now public knowledge, I thought I would share some of his fingerprints that have shown up along the way.
First, a year ago, I was deeply discouraged (Vanessa would use the word "depressed") about my life and ministry. Part of it was staring 30 in the face and part of it was some vague sense that I was not doing what I was meant to be doing. One day I finally cracked open a book I had owned for nearly a year, A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. It tells the story of a pastor on the brink of depression and resignation who finds new hope in the thought of doing ministry in the emerging postmodern culture. Along with Dan in the book, I found my hope, for McLaren modeled for me what a postmodern theology and ministry might look like. I remember the night I laid on the bed next to Vanessa and tearfully told her that I had to start a new church. She too read A New Kind of Christian, and the dream was born in her.
Second, we went in May to the Purpose Driven Church conference at Saddleback Church. While we learned much in the main sessions, the attraction for us was the application seminar on Launching a Purpose Driven Church. Nelson Searcy and Ron Sylva felt like old friends, and everything they said made the process clear and attainable. We now had a sense that this dream could become a reality if we took the right steps. As a result of the conference, we finally knew what those steps were.
Third, we have been joined in this journey by the best friends a person could ask for. They have laughed with us and prayed with us and asked hard questions and invested themselves in this dream. We could not be at this point without Aaron and Jaye T ... and others.
Fourth, the timing has been a total God-thing. Though we have been chomping at the bit to do Vintage, we knew that we couldn't yet. But then things began falling into place. We got an adoption date for Charleigh that was months sooner than we had expected. Then, we got a job opportunity in Arkansas. This almost didn't happen. My plan was to share this all with the deacons in Ithaca last Sunday and then for us to stay in Ithaca until Thanksgiving. But that meeting got cancelled. This week, I found a school looking for teachers. When they didn't return my calls, I called Aaron, and (can you say, "providence") he knew some people on the board of directors very well. A few phone calls later, and two of our biggest concerns about moving - where am I going to work and where is Mattie going to go to school - have been answered.
The Deacon Board at Ithaca have been so gracious and kind, and appreciate their words and support. We have some big things on the horizon - selling the house, moving, finding a place to live down there, and then fundraising so that we have the resources to launch Vintage in September of 2006.
The story of Vintage is not over. There will be more details from previous chapters that I will fill in, and there are many chapters yet unwritten. I can't wait to see how it unfolds!