Have you ever had something you were working on that simply seemed to repeatedly get away from you?
I have had this over the past 15 months with the Underground. It has been a process of beginning, being halted or derailed, figuring out what caused said derailment, and then attempting to fix it for the next iterations of issues.
It has happened 3 or 4 times now, and is incredibly frustrating. The goal of the Underground is an online entity to support those who can’t or won’t go to a brick and mortar church.
Not everyone has Sunday open, or has transportation, and some possibly have an aversion across the board. I know a guy who uses McDonald’s wifi with a junk phone someone threw away to access things. I know many homeless people who blog and use Facebook.
We have a target demographic that is largely ignored, because the shiny church ideal is that “if you build it, they will come”. I know this from experience as one church startup we tried to work with had a member that was excessively annoyed because I kept inviting poor and homeless people to our church. He directly challenged me and literally stated that I was chasing the wrong demographic for the church plan.
They were specifically seeking wealthy members from the new upscale housing communities being built in San Antonio. They didn’t have time to deal with my demographic because they don’t bring the money in. (His words, not mine.)
And no, the executive and senior pastors knew nothing of this conversation, and I doubt they do now. But the church shuttered right after a year from what I understand.
We left permanently (and actually dusted our feet off on the way out) that January day when the same person blurted at me in outright hostility, “Exactly how long do you plan on hanging around here?”
He was offended that I prayed over the seats before service. He didn’t like the numbering of the chairs. When he berated an enthusiastic new Christ-follower over the specifics of a charitable act the young man had done, he finished by telling him to buy a Bible. I gave the young man my own. (No big thing, I have several and can replace them. The young man was excited, I was humbled.)
He didn’t like my school, my former church was too large, the fact was, he just didn’t like me. Our takeaway from all of it was that we were welcome to the senior pastor who desperately wanted this church plant to succeed, but not really anyone else. They all connected with each other on social media, but every single member without exception denied our friend requests that they had supposedly wanted us to send.
We had felt so led to be there. The Lord had high goals, and we felt sure it could grow, but what they were saying didn’t stack up against what they were doing.
That interaction demolished us, and we let it sink us and disconnect us from the Church for some time. When God told us to quit messing around and get off the bench, the Underground was born.
And I don’t ever want to be that guy.
I don’t want to disenfranchise anyone God may be placing in our path. I also don’t want to put out less than our very best to those who check us out.
When I was a kid, I was raised in old school Baptist churches, where they had those hand fans on a stick courtesy of the local funeral home and no running water.
The preacher would spit, stomp, and yell while a few old men in the front would produce moaned and oddly timed amens as the casual unfamiliar listener attempted to ascertain what language was being spoken.
There were no three point sermons. They were three points in this sense only:
- I threw a dart and hit this passage of scripture I will now read to you.
- I will mention the characters liberally and without any logical correlation while informing you that you are going to Hell. You are. It’s hot. If you’re Catholic or Methodist, you’re going twice.
- Did I mention that you are going to burn in Hell? Come to Jesus. I mean it. Come down here right now and tell Jesus you love him. Do it now. The sooner you come get Jesus, the sooner we can all go pee. But nobody’s going potty till I see somebody getting Jesus.
In short, knowing what you are saying and who you are saying it to are two things not to take lightly. Having your technical ducks in a row so the message can go out in time is important. Having an idea of how things are going together is paramount.
But none of it, I repeat, none of it is worth a dime without a prayer team behind you, and a communicator (did I actually use that word?) that is living a Godly life of checks and balances.
So I am holding the Underground back a year, in the kiddie pool. I am of the realization that while I planned a full year of sermons, the sermons are not actually written, and I work from 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week with the railroad. We live in a van and don’t have constant access to WiFi.
I have few if any friends, no accountability partners, no prayer team, and I need to build up my time with God and in properly preparing what the Underground will offer a nomadic community and faith family.
I’m drowning over here.
What I am good at is writing. I was published before I ever thought about coming to faith, and why would I not use the primary talent God gave me in order to glorify Him?
So instead of taking someone else’s sermons and reworking them (I know Craig wouldn’t mind), I am now working to come up with fresh, new discussions that work for my community, things I wanted answers to the and direction on when I went through the various catastrophes in past years.
We begin by writing the book, then the sermon series is based from the book. Electronic copies of the book are free. Free to have, distribute, so forth. Hard copies cost. From there, we have a small group study package on the series.
This way we have much more time to put things together that are timeless and useful. I have a saying at the Underground, “we preach hard because we live hard”.
While many others live a lifestyle in which they mostly have first world problems, most of us have third world issues. Jesus had these issues, too. The more closely we can live to his standard, then the closer we are to being truly useful to our community, and the Underground becoming the light on a hill that it is meant to be.