Come to Our Table (Luke and I are Starting a “Church”)

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God has implanted a vision in my heart, that I want you to take on as your own, if you feel your bones shaking as you read this post. My husband, Luke, and I have decided to pack up our belongings, leave the suburbs behind, and move into the city of Pittsburgh.

Of course, you do not have to move at all, to take hold of this vision; you simply have to have a heart to open your home and minister to whomever God would send your way. And, if opening your home is not a reality for you at this season of your life, then open your heart, and ask the Spirit how you can become a minister to the “down and out.”

If you follow my ministry, you know that I have been like a lost puppy when it comes to finding a church to call home. Luke and I have not known where we belong. We still consider ourselves evangelical, but we lean left in our politics, and are more moderate to somewhat progressive when it comes to our theology.

We tend to lean towards inclusion, acceptance, and unconditional love in mostly everything; even when we take a more conservative stand in our personal beliefs. We believe in giving the most marginalized people the space they need not only to exist, but to voice their views, even if we end up not agreeing with them.

In other words, Luke and I are dedicated to listening to the stories of the powerless, in a world that silences and oppresses those who are poor, voiceless, marginalized, excluded, and loveless.

Our hearts burn for social justice in both the Church and in society. I have dedicated my life to ministry and theological academia, while Luke has dedicated his life to working with local governments and political academia.

We have always searched for ways to combine our passions, but we have struggled to find a church home in which we feel our unique combination of gifts are seen and appreciated.

Often times, we feel like we are too conservative for liberals and too liberal for conservatives.

And so we have struggled for years to know where we fit in the world of Christianity. Even if we were to leave evangelicalism, we have wondered where we would go.

Perhaps that is why we have such a heart for those who feel left out: because we know what it is like to have much to offer the Church and world, but to go unnoticed by those with influence and power.

I have often been overlooked in church jobs, and Luke has often been overlooked in local government jobs. We understand what it is like not to have a seat at the table.

Last year, Luke and I got involved with planting a church that seemed like it was going to be a great fit, but it turned out that their vision took a turn that was simply different from ours.

We still love the folks we started this church with, and honor their vision. In fact, we will still send folks their way, because we believe in their vision; but after a year of soul-searching and prayer, Luke and I strongly sensed that our place was not with this church either.

Several weeks ago, I went to church with my parents at a local Assembles of God Church. I grew up AG, and I thought I would try returning to my roots, but when I opened the bulletin and saw that all of the elders were men, my heart sank and I knew that I could never again return to any church that claims to empower women in ministry, but does not actually do it.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the AG church. I gave my life to Christ in the AG church, and have fond memories of growing up in this denomination; but how I pray they would have an awakening and begin to empower women in church leadership.

I realize that some local AG churches are already doing this, but I think that the denomination as a whole needs to recognize that they are not “putting their money where their mouth is,” so to speak.

As a female “church ministry” graduate of an Assemblies of God university, I am very disappointed, and I know many of my female peers that I graduated with are also disappointed.

Women ministers are tired of being overlooked in the conservative evangelical church. Often, women ministers end up marrying male ministers who have the same exact training and education as they do; yet, the women stay as “children’s pastors” or “youth pastors,” while they watch their husbands climb the church-ministry career ladder.

This is not only hurtful and unloving towards female ministers; it is disrespectful and demeaning.

If situations like this do not change in the AG church, women who are called to be ministers will stop attending their universities and churches.  That would be sad, because women who are AG, often grew up AG, and love the AG church with all of their hearts.

This unfortunate scenario is not only happening in the AG church, but in many conservative evangelical churches that claim to empower women at all levels of church leadership, including (but not limited to) the Nazarene Church and the Free Methodist Church.

Here is the bottom line: Why should women continue to pay thousands of dollars to be trained in conservative evangelical colleges and seminaries that are not going to offer them equal job opportunities after they graduate?

As for me, I am no longer willing to wait around for these types of churches to start practicing what they preach. God called me to be a minister when I was 13 years old; I am now 33; so it’s time for me to move forward, and start my own church, with my husband by my side, as my partner.

This past month, Luke and I found ourselves in a cigar lounge in Pittsburgh, sipping on lattes and smoking cigars with a group of men we randomly met there at the lounge. As we sat in a circle relaxing, Luke spent most of his time chatting with two older guys about politics, and I found myself chatting with a guy my age about religion and spirituality.

I asked him if he was religious and he gave me a typical millennial answer.  “Oh you know, I grew up Catholic, but I don’t really believe in the whole institutional religion thing. I am spiritual though; I think we all should just love each other and be tolerant of each other’s faiths. I don’t really believe there are really any absolutes and don’t really go to church; but yes, I believe in God.”

I replied, “Well, I don’t really go to church that much either, and I am a minister.” We both laughed a little. I told him, “My husband and I are thinking about moving out here to Pittsburgh and starting a church in our home, though. Something really chill. Like, something like what we are doing right now. Maybe just smoking cigars and talking about faith and politics. Maybe sharing a meal too.”

He said, “I like it, but you shouldn’t even call it church.”

He had a good point.

If Luke and I wanted to attract people to our ministry who were burnt out from church as usual, as Luke and I have been for years, maybe we should not even call it church. We went home that night, and God started speaking to my heart about this church that Luke and I would start, that would not be called church, and that we would start in our home.

God gave me the name, “The Table.” It will be a ministry that will start in our small apartment somewhere in the heart of the city, and we will invite whoever God sends our way. Luke and I feel that Jesus calls Christians to reach out especially to the marginalized, broken, left out, poor, and oppressed of society.

So practically speaking, Luke and I look forward to inviting minorities, homeless people, college students away from their homes, lgbtq people who have been abandoned by their families, immigrants, single moms, widows, refugees, and really anyone who is hungry for food, conversation, and love, to our table once a week.

We will invite Jesus each week to be our host. We think He will show up. We think this is exactly the sort of “church” Jesus hangs out in. Anyone and everyone is invited to Jesus’ table. The worst of the worst sinners are invited to sit among those who seem to understand how to walk out a holy life better than others. No one has to repent to sit at Jesus’ table. Everyone can come, sit, eat, drink, belong, and be loved, just as they are.

You see, it is at Jesus’ table that each of us is transformed. As we sit with Him, and one another, love changes us from the inside out, and something happens. We find freedom. We find renewal. We find redemption. We find resurrection. We find God.

This will be our church. This will be our ministry. This will be our community. This will be our home.

Take a few minutes to allow the Spirit to inspire you with this song, which fits perfectly with this vison:

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45 Comments

  • Best Wishes, Jory. There are many people who feel the tensions that you feel. My wife and I were ordained together in a conservative denomination in 1997 and have had the opportunity to be part of church plants and established churches. The tensions never go away, but you have before you the beautiful chance to show the depth of God’s greatness and love in the tangible realities a community founded on Christ’s best.
    Brenton

    • Thank you so very much, Brenton. Yes, I agree that the tensions will stay, but I believe that Christ lived in the “middle” of the tension so to speak. It seems that is where the truth is found. Blessings to you and your wife, as well.

      • I think you are precisely right about living in the tension, though I suspect that not all are called there at all points in their lives. Sometimes we need to heal in peace!
        PS., I love that your mom is a fan of your ministry!

  • I am sitting at my breakfast table reading this. I want to strongly support you as you begin this new church. Don’t ever lose bringing people around the table. I certainly have experienced your struggle. I went back to seminary at age 45. Graduated with the “preaching” award yet didn’t get called to preach. Don’t ever let people put you down. I have had a good life as a hospice chaplain and have spent my retirement years as a preaching to street children in Accra, Ghana. But there are still times when my heart aches to stand up and preach. Elaine

    • Oh Elaine, what a beautiful soul you are to work with those who are dying and street children. I believe you will have a special reward in Heaven. Thank you for your support and prayers. Blessings to you, sister.

    • Thank you mom. It has been fun to not only follow in Jesus’ footsteps, but also in you & dad’s footsteps. I always remember you both reaching out to “the least of these” growing up. You both implanted this in my heart from a very young age. I love you, and I am grateful for you and dad’s Christian example.

  • Jory, I so applaud this. I just saw a note in Meetups: Seattle where someone was doing something similar. I really resonated with your statement about being too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals…have actuall been told that from both sides…that is the tension we live in when we love both Truth and Grace…It’s a knife edge. I read something the other day in preparation for a spiritual formation study in the scripture where Jesus heals the man with the withered hand and angers the Pharisees and Saducees. The one thing I missed was that Jesus himself was angry at their behavior. When it states they plotted how to destroy Him after He showed an act of mercy I thought to myself that this is where we must live. If we are doing what He desires of us as we follow Him, then modern day religious leaders locked in legalism will plot our destruction. It is hard for some to see that it is because of our deep belief in and love of the Word(our conservatism) that we are called to minister to the world (which becomes perceived liberalism). Please keep us posted on this journey…

    • Yes Char, there is certainly tension between truth and grace. I am learning that I don’t know it all when it comes to God’s Word, and that I have to heavily rely on Jesus, who is “God’s Word” in the flesh, to lead me.

      He is my example of living admit that tension. Thanks for the love and support. Blessings, sister. Xo

    • Hi Faithe. I do not have details to give yet. I don’t know if you already follow my blog, but please insert your email to get updates, if you don’t already. I will be keeping everyone posted on this journey. “The Table” will begin this summer. We would love to have you be part! Xo

  • Hi Jory
    Blessings! I hope that you find a way to include expository teaching through scripture and release as podcasts. There is a real dearth of egalitarian expository teaching-as in I find none that goes through scripture in theologically sound way. I was looking because I play such podcasts while exercising/doing yoga like stretches and like you find a gap. I would call you to maintain a mother church connection as you plant your fresh expression. You don’t have to agree 100% to be family in Christ. Teresa

    • That is a great Idea, Teresa. I would love to do a podcast, when time allows. You are right; we do not all have to agree on everything. We are a family, no matter what. Much love to you, sister. Xo

  • I wish you success and God’s blessing on this! Actually I really love this vision. For me I also don’t identify as conservative or liberal, though I still have the Evangelical label and am critical of a lot of aspects of the culture, including the behavior of many leaders. Right now I am taking things one by one, and looking for another church (going to different churches each week).

    • Hey Kevin, I know how this goes. I have been there. I pray that you find a place to call home, with a community that loves you and that you love back. Blessings, my friend.

  • You are welcome in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)! Our national bishop is a women; our regional bishop is a gay man. You may be familiar with Nadia Bolz-Weber , an ELCA pastor and author who has realized a vision similar to yours.

  • Check out The Salvation Army. We have ordained and assigned more women than men every year since our inception, more than 150 years ago…

  • Interesting that the poor are your focus…which poor? You live in a socialist country that “solves poverty” according to its philosophy and takes the wealth of the middle class, by force of law, to give that to the poor and in the process gain PRAISE and immense wealth for themselves. Yet there are still more and more poor? Maybe Jesus was right “The poor you will always have with you.” Evidently there is no cure for poverty…there is no solution. But at least you might consider that these poor would have more sense of worth if they were able to get a job…or not…maybe they just do what our poor do and refuse to work, to learn or to accomplish anything. Yes I taught a child whose mother told him NOT TO BOTHER LEARNING MATH but just to do what she does…live off the government…and so I could NOT motivate him to explore his TALENT as a mathematician…he refused to learn…Thank you socialism! This is not a one off experience for teachers…we know that socialism destroys incentive and frankly, those who encourage socialism are much like the Taliban in that they destroy any progress and create lethargy, laziness and apathy… Likewise those who encourage a return to living in tents TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT are also purists like that Taliban who want no progress, but to regress into a puritanical life of medieval regression.

    Furthermore, the number of poor seem to be increasing exponentially as socialism and bureaucracy grow even larger and larger. Seems handouts are considered an entitlement to some who are not poor…while the numbers FROM whom your socialist government takes are growing smaller and smaller. In Canada, health care has become the millstone around our necks because so many use health care for reasons that are psychological rather than medical…that is, it is an invitation to grow hypochondria…but I digress. In fact, health care here does not include much health care like dentistry and medicine, our doctors, now on a FIXED INCOMES, take holidays so frequently that you have to become sick in THEIR schedule, and if you think MD’s are like this, specialists are even worse because they cannot charge fees commensurate with their costs, and so they just take more and more time off and just try to get an MRI, CT scan within less than 9 months…you better not be too sick or sayonara… Privatization is forbidden here, so the wealthy go to YOUR country to get health care…for now.

    If you are looking for the poor you will find them everywhere, but socialism is dying…the proof is in Trump’s election…You see the poor WORKERS are getting to the end of their ropes…as they try to support the entitled and THEY HAVE HAD IT…That is the sign that your socialism is dying and you can be sure that if Trump loses, the ENGINE that drives your country…these workers…will just stop and begin to become parasites like the rest…you just can’t make a decreasing workforce support a growing scrounging populace…Once the real losers, the poor workers are awakened, as they are now, they won’t go back…it is either return to American exceptionalism or sail into the sea of mediocrity…but the real poor are the suckers who are losing their futures for the sake of a country full of freeloaders…and the government workers who USE them to create the false notion that the leftist politicians actually care about anyone but themselves.

    If Trump succeeds you will have poor still…but they will have less excuse for their poverty…those who will not work…too bad…”If a man will not work neither should he eat”…remember your Bible said that too! Socialism has not respect for the Bible and what it says…the real benefit for poor is to create jobs for them, educate them without pandering to their apathy and making people who are able bodied work to support themselves…what a novel idea, eh? Yours from the Canadian swamp.

      • I agree, George…it is unbelievable that the people of America are so insensitive to the needs of those whose hard and often debilitating work is hijacked by an unfeeling government that progressively steals from them, not to feed the poor but to gain a name for themselves as so-called, caring politicians…while it is really those workers whose loss feeds and cares for most of the poor in your country. Yet they receive no credit, and are furthermore vilified for their values, as if it is wrong to be Christians. I feel for those whose work has been demeaned and even discarded for the last 8 years, some whose jobs have been given to imported workers and who have been forced to train these cheaper, foreign, legally, but unfairly, imported laborers before they are given the pink slip and left without work. These people, whose sacrifices are ignored, are called names that are terrible lies, while illegal aliens who have broken into your country, despising your laws and mocking your courts, are treated like royalty and have the gall to USE churches as sanctuaries for their crimes against the law of your country…surely America has lost its way. Many Canadians have gone through the hoops of immigration over many years, struggling to get all the paperwork in order and waiting in line to enter your great country, they watch as millions mock their attempts by just walking in. I wonder how many haven’t had a chance because of the glut of illegals who don’t respect you enough to do what is right. And then, why is it that for the last 15 years as illegal drugs have destroyed thousands, your governments have been silent until now? Again the “caring”, sensitive? politicians have ignored this and the thousands murdered in Chicago…so don’t tell me about the ‘SENSITIVE” Democratic party whose platform is largely name calling, gossiping, and evidently spying. It is a sham…and the same can be said of some Republicans as well. It is all talk and no action.

        As for your decision about the AG church…it is the same in almost all evangelical churches today…I have left many when only men seem to be in charge, and women are treated like pariahs…that is why, after years of struggle, I have found no need to meet God in such places anymore when He is “not far from any one of us” anyway. It is very grating and difficult to worship God when you know the men are obsessed with their own superiority…and when you find a church where this is not the case, it seems the doctrine is so watered down that you can’t find God there either. This is so sad as the men are really THE POOR in these places…perhaps you might consider this fact…they are poor in attitude and rich in pride, for they refuse to share God with the women, choosing rather to pontificate OVER them instead.

        Christians view poverty in many ways. One thing is sure, better to teach a man to work than to give him handouts…on this we differ greatly, I see this from the deceiving cartoon of Trump below. It is the story of the fish…better teach him to fish than to give him a fish…better to find him a job so you don’t have to shelter him. Unfortunately socialists NEED people to be helpless to keep themselves in business. Trump believes in giving people self respect and a job to lift them up to help themselves…This to me is true Christian care for the poor. As for Mary Magdalene…it is considered by most historians that she was a friend of Mary the mother of Jesus…and likely of her age…not this seductress of men’s imagination…if more women were preachers we would never have had this ridiculous idea in the first place.

  • I love the name (The Table)! God bless you & your husband & the work you put your hands to. May He give you grace to sustain, an ever enlarging heart for those you serve (especially through hurt & hard times), & fruit that remains for His Kingdom.

    At the end of the blog post you mentioned a song? I didn’t see a link or song there- did I miss it?

  • This is great. I love how you are following his leading. Will be interested in hearing stories as you invite the least to your Table. 🙂 I am graduating seminary in June. Can’t wait to see where the Lord leads me as well.

  • Hi Jory,

    I will be praying for you and husband as you follow God’s voice this season. My husband and I pastor a church and the struggle is real out there. I’m thankful for my husband’s understanding and support through out the years when challenged with membership because his wife served equally with him in ministry. He would boldly say, well I guess this isn’t the church for you. Sometimes frowned upon in sunny South Carolina. We don’t care… praying for you sister!

    • Thank you, Marcia. I imagine we will run into some struggles, but Jesus will guide us on how to handle them. God bless, friend.

  • Jory, I remember well the night the pastor of the ag church in Springfield we were attending blasted the southern baptists for their statement abut women in ministry, suggesting that they should listen to his sermon abut the subject. My response was to suggest to him that he should congratulate the southern baptist for being bold enough to put in writing the principles the ag practice. Yes, he was embarrassed.

  • Congratulations Jory and Luke! I live in Cooperstown NY and attend Christ Church (Episcopal). I graduated from Central Bible College in Springfield MO. Assemblies of God! Thank God I saw the light! I can’t wait to visit your church! You and Luke inspire so many! As the phrase goes, “You go Girl!!!” I will pray for all the “walls to come down”! Why? “Because He Himself is our peace who has broken down every wall…”. You, Jory and Luke, like Jesus, are “wall breakers”, not “wall builders”!

  • May God bless your worship and leadership! I have been leading a similar home based worship gathering for almost a year. Our experiences mirror each other in quite a few ways–not surprising given how common they sadly are. If I can support you as a like minded other doing ministry in another part of the country, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

  • I wish you God’s blessings. It’s a hard road to differ from any group with traditions which elevate men in certain roles. The teaching of God is radical because He always accepted women on an equal basis – it’s people who haven’t understood the patriarchal bias of the Ezra’s who included men only genealogies. I have written much about this on my blog if you are interested – “Last Events of the Old Testament – Right or Wrong?” http://www.alsowritten.wordpress.com I guess there is no group with perfect teachings – only as individuals can we follow Jesus – yet we are united by our love for one another because we follow Jesus

  • It’s interesting that you will dismiss a church immediately simply because they have no female elders. Aren’t you being just as sexist as you imagine them to be?

    • I have much knowledge on the AG church, since I grew up in this denomination. This denomination as a whole has not been practicing what they preach for many years, so “dismissing” the church was not a decision made in a vacuum – on one situational or one circumstance.

      The sexism in this denomination, and really the entire evangelical church as a whole, runs deep, and is a deep systemic problem. Actually, it is a deep systemic problem in the entire Christian Church and the entire world, in almost every society.

      As for the question below, I would find it strange if all elders were females, as well. I believe that a church functions at its best when men and women equally work together as partners. I believe God intended that men and women lead together – bringing our unique gifts and voices to the table.

  • Congrats on finding what Papa has for you guys. My wife and I are on the same mission. We’ve been walking the streets since 2012, rented a theater for two months, ya know, bringing the church downtown, didn’t work out, naturally. Thinking about an empty storefront, sort of coffee shopish, no stage, no public speaker model, just come, hang out, be who Papa created you to be, and be loved. Can’t wait to see your journey evolve

  • Jory, I really relate to your comment: “Often times, we feel like we are too conservative for liberals and too liberal for conservatives. ”

    That is for sure on area on which we agree…it is a quandary for many Christians, I think!

  • Love this! I’m an ordained female AG minister, doing something similar in Texas and actually considered naming it The Table at one point too. Blessings to you!

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