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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