So let me give you the abridged version of how I ended up at the Northern Lighthouse as a pastor. I think in the next post I'll mention some of my feelings, but this will just be the "facts".
Before moving to La Crosse I interviewed twice for a pastoral church plant position in Des Moines. They decided I would not be best for the position, but highly recommended me to the guys here in Lincoln. Sam Keyser, one of the pastors at the Northern Lighthouse, (NL) gave me a call and we started talking.
So a little about the church. The NL is a church where hurting and broken people, including people currently incarcerated, find hope through Jesus Christ. (usually) The church is part of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) denomination, (which is thoroughly Evangelical). However if you know anything about the CRC, this is a pretty atypical congregation, as it is a semi-recent church plant with its own distinctives. For one thing, it is thoroughly blue-collar, with many of the people in attendance bused in from a local minimum security correctional facility. It is located outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, on a five acre plot that serves as a respite from the rigors and temptations of the city. The church’s ministries include a re-integration program for people in prison through which they are taught life skills, a charity auto program dedicated to helping people with basic transportation, and multiple life-groups through which people connect with one-another and Jesus Christ, while studying God’s word. Worship services occur twice a week on Saturday and Sunday with about 180 in attendance all told.
What is it like to attend The NL? Ask yourself this, did anyone in the front row of your church this morning pass out fast food breakfast to all their friends in the front row... in the middle of the service? Did it make for "bad church"?...sure. But more importantly, people that don't know all the "rules" for church that we all have somehow inherited have a place where they can go and just be themselves. Does chowing down on a sausage biscuit (smack smack), cross the line?...sure, but there are so many other things that are way more important. Like, would the inmate that made that mistake be comfortable enough in your church to make the mistake, and if he did, would he ever come back? (I have been in more typical churches that are great and the answer is yes.)
So what will my responsibilities be? I’ll simply be an associate pastor. The leadership structure here is pretty flat, so I’ll have a lot of latitude to get involved where the needs are as I see fit. Initially, I’ll be teaching some classes, taking care of some administrative functions, leading a small group, and preaching once or twice a month. But more importantly, it's about the relationships, just hanging out together and doing life.