Backtracking -The Early Days
In the remaining weeks of 2008 I thought I would share some thoughts and stories about my time at New City East Lake. I hope you enjoy them. And if I get some details wrong along the way, those of you with clearer memories than I have please forgive me, or, in extreme cases of error, send them into the editor (Scott Schindler) to be posted as corrections.
When our core group formed at Glenwood, which would begin to lay the foundations of a new church, it felt like we were on a track relay team who heard the shot go off and our race began. Our discussions were like watching each other run our leg of the race--fiercely supportive and attentive. We passed the baton to each other with the respect and deference that one runner has for another. Meaning, that we yielded the floor to each other in discussion, eagerly listening to one another as a team. Before we knew it, we were at the finish line--our first worship service. This service took place in early November 2008, in the cafeteria of East Lake Academy of Fine Arts.
The first core group to develop the vision and goals of the church was made up of me, Caleb Long, Eunice Mendoza, Bryan Holland, Greg Davick, Pat Rolleston, and Scott Collier. As a part of our responsibilities in those early days of planning, we were to go to Orlando to the PCA church planting conference to receive further training and help in church planting. Only four of us went on that first trip: me, Eunice, Scott C., and Caleb.
This was an important trip and we had done our research. We were ready. The first thing we did when we landed, was drive directly to Trader Joe’s where Scott, Eunice, and I all bought a case of wine to take home with us. I mean, if you know Trader Joe’s, it is decent wine at a very reasonable price. Of course, the wine wasn’t for us, it was for some, uh, friends. They made us do it. We had no choice.
If we weren’t already full of ideas about the church we were planting, this conference revved up our motors even higher. The speakers at these conferences would speak for approximately twenty minutes on a subject like, “Your Community’s Demographics.” Then, they would send you to a roundtable where you would talk about the topic. In our case, we already knew the demographics of East Lake. We reviewed these statistics together. The speaker then interrupted us. He said,“now what are the demographics of the people in the core of your congregation--what is the makeup of the people who are with you to plant the church?” We looked at each other surprised. We had never even considered this. It didn’t take us long to figure it out. We were forty to fifty people who were all pretty much the same--ethnically, socio-economically, and educationally.
Then he asked us, “So, do you fit in the community you are reaching? Do you belong there? Or do you know how to reach the community you have located in?” This was the question that grabbed us by the throat and sobered us right up from the very beginning of the conference. Did we belong in East Lake? Were we going to be able to reach out and relate to the people of our community? Were we certain that this was where God wanted us to be?
Our answer to those questions was unanimous: “Yes!” But we had to answer those questions honestly and carefully. And, I think we still do. It is the only way to keep the vision and ministry of East Lake before us. Are we committed to being cross-cultural? Do we want to be cross-cultural? For there is no getting around it--God has put us in a community where either we will learn to be cross cultural and our church will grow and look like our community, or we will become an island of strangers in someone else’s backyard.