[This is a guest post from Paul McMullen, a new co-worker in the Storyline Community. Paul is a pastor with a missionary’s heart.]
Over a year ago, my family visited a Storyline worship gathering at the beginning of a three-month period of travel and discernment. We’d left our belongings in a 10X15 storage unit sitting a few hundred feet off of Vancouver Harbour. That harbour sits in the shadows of the North Vancouver mountains. As we pulled into the parking lot where Storyline met that Sunday, it was hard not to notice the contrasts between our previous home and our new setting. No mountains in Dallas, for one. No one saying, “Eh,” but plenty of “y’alls!” Returning to the south, part of me felt back home and part of me felt completely disoriented.
We learned at least three lessons in our transition from Vancouver to Dallas.
Lesson 1: Don’t be so sure of your assumptions about places or people. Our good buddy Charles took us to White Rock Lake on a Sunday and I was surprised to see all the joggers and bikers (hey, doesn’t everyone in Dallas go to church?!?) as well as the variety of ethnicities and languages – all noticeable in this little subsection of the park. It’s hard to come from a setting which had blown my previous experiences of diversity and secularism out of the water, and to not have a skeptical view about what I might find in a city I was “familiar” with.
Lesson 2: A good number of people still follow Jesus in this world. On one occasion we visited a church in Fort Worth. As we walked up to the building, Julie (my wife) and I both noticed quite a few people that looked to be in their 30’s heading into the service. Both of us thought the same thing, “Why are they here?” It had been so long since we’d seen a large number of people in our generation attending a church service that we felt shocked. “All these people actually believe?” was our second thought. As odd as it sounds, it was easy to forget after almost 7 years in our previous setting. And while church-going can certainly be a cultural practice in the Bible-belt, the people we met at this Fort Worth church felt like the real thing.
Lesson 3: Be aware of your baggage, but don’t write off your experience either. Fast-forward to January of this year. Our family moves to Dallas and we begin to acculturate to life here and with Storyline. Early on and even to some extent now, when things feel a bit chaotic or on shaky ground, doubts quickly spring up in our hearts. Our experiences make us a bit jumpy when confronted with the unknown and the underdog. We have to put a check on ourselves to remember that our present situation is not equivalent to our past. We can’t let our fears define us or our reactions.
At the same time, we have learned a thing or two the hard way. And even if our experiences don’t translate exactly into new settings, they can provide us with some wisdom when it comes to starting new churches/groups/missional communities, forming people spiritually, doing cross-cultural ministry, practicing prayer ministry, and being adaptable when we hit walls. We’re certainly not experts, but we can’t sell ourselves short either.
These are just a few things I’ve noticed in our recent transition. One of our convictions is that God speaks, especially through transition [kairos] moments.
If you’re going through a transition right now, what are some things God may be saying to you?