One day in a galaxy far far away in Ohio, two pastors at two different multi-campus Methodist churches went for a car ride together. Yeah, they tell the story better than I ever could. Both of them had planted churches previously and I think wherever they were going had something to do with it. Something happened and they had the idea of their two different multi-campus Methodist churches planting a church together. Even worse, the lead pastors and the boards of both different multi-campus Methodist churches said “Okay.” Now they were committed to it. Sucks to be them, right?
As chance would have it, I am a member of one of these different multi-campus Methodist churches and had become friends with one of these trouble-making pastors. It’s totally my fault. Dude’s an Italian from New York. The last Italian I dealt with from New York – one of my father’s dearest friends – had a habit of hanging three-year-olds by their waistbands from a coat hook. I knew better. I figured since this pastor guy was maybe four feet tall, I was safe.
As we often do, we went to the movies. I don’t remember what movie it was, though I’m sure it had plenty of gratuitous violence. (Don’t give me that look. The Old Testament is far more graphic than anything we saw on the screen.) While we were waiting for the previews to begin, he turned to me and said “What would you think about having church in a movie theater?” Of course, I start thinking of things like set-up/tear down, where to put the band, and all these logistic-type things that I imagine would be a nightmare… but then start thinking about what it would be like to actually experience it. I’m not sure what my response was, but I’m pretty sure I was problem-solving out loud until the first explosion.
Yeah… Problem-solving in my head or out loud. That’s definitely a trait I picked up from Dad. I probably inherited his inability to shut up about it, too. Man, I miss him.
So… the next day, I go to serve at church behind the keyboard and see this:
That little ****** was trying to plant a seed in my head.
Despite the dedicated multi-ethnic/wide net/diverse vision these two instigators from different multi-campus Methodist churches were discussing, I hadn’t thought of anything beyond the logistics of putting it all together inside of a movie theater. I don’t know if it was morbid curiosity or the free meal, but I signed up to attend one of their information sessions. Okay… I admit that it was both. Actually, the restaurant was pretty good and right across the street from the movie theater. My stomach is rumbling just thinking about it right now.
I’m a fat guy; simple deduction says that I can be won over by appealing to my appetite with good food. Good food. Not the dollar menu. Yes, yes… I know I’m digressing again.
As the meeting unfolded and the Despicable Duo from different multi-campus Methodist churches elaborated on their plan and petitioned feedback, I pretty much sat back and just watched. First off, if you’ve been in the room with these two when they get started, the energy goes nuts even before they get excited. A church with a mission to reflect the cultural and demographic richness of the Kingdom of God is a compelling vision that only makes too much sense, especially in an area with one of the highest concentrations of immigrant families in the state. Right there in the meeting, the Sinister Sicilian turned to one of the attendees – an Egyptian who has been holding Bible studies in Arabic at his house – and told him straight out that they wanted him on board and that he was applying.
There was something about that moment. While I knew a number of people at the meeting, I hadn’t even met this guy the Terrible Two were taunting and yet some light went off in my head. I don’t know if that was when I realized how serious they were or what. At that point, I started entertaining ideas of what worship might be like. Prayers and music in foreign language with different instrumentation and feel… but balanced in such a way not to alienate the English speakers. Incorporating music and other art forms from the different ethnicities present. Perhaps an education component to explain to everyone where this comes from and what it means… and…
What the **** are you doing?! STOP!!!
If you read Part II, you know that I had already decided I was done with music ministry beyond playing the piano. Given my employment “stagnation”, the needs of my parents’ care, the possibility of burning out my references, and the experience of interviewing with a church that didn’t have the courtesy to follow up with a rejection, I believed I was professional poison.
Never mind that I am legitimately qualified. Overqualified, actually. (Yes, it’s arrogant and probably egotistical, but still true.) The church is a launch, which means no money. No infrastructure. Since it is being held in a movie theater, that also meant no building. No office. Nothing. Everything from the ground up. And oddly enough, I wasn’t thinking about any of that.
Nah… I was thinking that the Chillin’ Villain is a good friend and brother and I would be doing him a disservice by asking him to deal with me. Just because I’m going down doesn’t mean I have a desire to take everyone else for the ride.
So… There’s this classic meme that says “Controlling my tongue isn’t the problem. It’s my face that needs deliverance.” The Dastardly Dude noticed that after sitting through the session, I filled out absolutely none of the information cards. I was also pretty eager to get out of the restaurant, which isn’t completely out of character for me. (I’ve always been stressed around crowds.) Of course, he asked me what I thought, and my reaction was fairly cool and noncommittal.
The Evil Elf looked me in the eye and said “I know that look. You’ve been disturbed by the Holy Spirit.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Whatever. Like you never lied to your pastor.
I came home, wrote a cover letter with my proposal for multi-ethnic worship, matched it with my background, filled out the paperwork, placed it in an envelope, and set it in my winter coat while I decided if I was really going to do this.
And of course, the Vile Cinephile wanted to indulge his movie addiction a couple days later. I rewrote the cover letter and said to myself that I’d decide after I watched the movie whether or not I would hand it to him. Not ten minutes after I got to his place and tried in vain to win over his puppy, he asked me what I knew about an applicant and I cut him off, told him I couldn’t hear anymore, and handed him the envelope.
Yes. That’s right. Call me Cuz Bill Buzzkill. I ruined movie night. Nah… We still ended up watching the movie, but it was delayed by an hour because I had just dragged a flatulent elephant into the Italian Rapscallion’s living room that he had to address. He was expecting me to join the launch team, not apply for one of the staff positions. Silly Billy from Sicily.
Nah… For real. He was surprised.
As the interview-to-hiring process unfolded over the next few weeks with the Snarlin Marlin and the Biking Viking, the discussion of their vision for the church evolved. Like the Terrifying Twins, I have a partner-in-crime with an incredible talent and vision. We’re in the midst of carrying off concerts that were scheduled months before anyone was even interviewed! (Yeah… The Scandalous Vandal did it. He calls it an act of faith; we call it crazy. Notice that those terms aren’t mutually exclusive.) IT’S CHAOS in the prelaunch stage and I wonder at times what the **** I was thinking by signing up for this.
It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. The timing of everything is about as far from perfect as possible. I’ve got concerns I think about from time to time. That said… I feel like this is exactly where I need to be.
A broken piece that aspires to be used to create something beautiful.
We’ll see how it all goes.