It Was a Good Friday – The Genius of the AND
This Good Friday found me out way past my normal bedtime. We were with friends we don’t see often enough. Our reminiscing and laughter was life giving. The glow of the fire pit and hospitality of good wine enchanting. The stories of life and God were intoxicating. A valued gift in a busy world. For a few hours it seemed as if time stood still.
In the mid to late nineties we lived in Atlanta, GA. I served as part of a pastoral team in a large and notable church in the much sought after community of Dunwoody. Our church and young and talented staff team was led by my friend Dr. Jim Johnson. At the time his wife Robin worked as a news anchor on CNN Headline News. We each had three young kids that we raised in the church pews and ball fields. Our lofty professional hopes and dreams of developing a church with regional impact was never quite realized. How could that have been 25 years ago!
And so on Friday evening together we attended the Good Friday service at Preston Trail Community Church. The church was founded by Jim and Robin and another couple Paul and Denise Basden in 2001. The church’s mission is clear and succinct in helping people find and follow Jesus Christ.
As we arrived at the church’s beautiful 50 acre campus in Frisco, Texas I was in awe. As we entered the state of the art facilities I was impressed. As the greeters warmly welcomed us I was encouraged. As the talented worship team and speakers led us I was inspired. Today and on this Easter weekend they will welcome some 8,000 people from the community to one of their SIX services!
In Texas where we say everything is BIGGER, Preston Trail would epitomize BIG! They are a regional church soon to launch multi-site campuses. For fifteen years they have prayed and worked and God has, and is birthing a place of hope for many. And for Jim J. and his God given gifts and skill set, Preston Trail makes perfect sense. Doing anything less would be leaving something on the table.
And that’s where our God stories — however not our friendship, have taken a fork in the road.
You see three years ago Sharon and I sensed God leading us to begin something as well. And that something most often places us outside the walls of wonderful churches like Preston Trail. My role is that of a Community Pastor, my “flock” those not identifying with any church. In founding Loving Community, our neighborhood based public charity, we live out our mission by being good neighbors, connecting people into relationships, and serving the needs of our community.
In comparison our gig is small. We operate out of our 1,900 square foot town home in Lewisville, Texas. Our context of ministry to our community/zip code of 12 square miles and 61K people is primarily via our neighborhoods, schools, senior adult homes, apartment complexes, and budget hotels. For us our gospel conversations happen on our front lawn, and in our neighborhood coffee shops, and brew pubs. For me and my God given gifts and skill set Loving Community makes perfect sense. Anything more would be putting my elbows on the table!
And in my experience, this is how God works. In both big and small ways, in both mega churches and neighborhood missional communities and everywhere in between. One things for sure, God won’t be put in a box!
Leadership author Jim Collins has popularized the concept of “the genius of the and”, meaning that two seemingly diverse ideas or practices can not only coexist but actually thrive within a single organization. A God crafted gospel message can equally take root in both large and small contexts. In God’s creative genius we as gospel story tellers come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
My friend Jim J. is most energized and effective in a BIG context. I consider him a visionary, great leader, and gifted communicator. And yet for me, it’s in smaller groups, and training settings, and mentoring, or one-on-one conversations. Often in some inglorious surroundings while listening or serving or helping someone in need.
And so here’s the thing. Both work and both are needed!
Jesus modeled this “genius of the and”. He preached the Sermon on the Mount to the multitudes. (Matthew 5-7) He performed his first miracle at a family wedding in Cana of Galilee. (John 2) He shared intimate meals with his disciples. (Mark 14) And he singularly identified with a hurting Samaritan woman (John 4) and an outcast tax collector name Zacchaeus (Luke 19).
You see Jesus moved seamlessly in varied contexts, with diverse people, and yet always proclaimed the kingdom. And I believe that to be our challenge and calling. Gospel story telling doesn’t come in a one size fits all packaging.
So on this Easter Sunday, in large and small places all throughout our world, may we embrace the beauty of the body of Christ. Each of us has a role. Each of us has a gift.
And mostly, ALL of us are story tellers of the Great Commission, called to be good neighbors, called to connect with people in relationships, called to serve the needs of our community — and yes, called to help people find and follow Jesus Christ!
He is Risen!
Jim Mustain, Community Pastor