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The Story of X Church
Pastor Tim shared about how he started the church and what working in ministry looks like.
To hear the full conversation, you can listen to Episode Five of the X Church Podcast by clicking the button below!
What did you do before you became a pastor?
“I worked in information technology for the state of Ohio for about seven years before going into ministry full time. I worked specifically in network operations centers. We had three hundred sites across the state for the Department of Job and Family Services whose networks we would monitor, and if they went down, we would go out and fix it.”
When was the first time you ever had a conversation about starting this church?
“It was actually in 1999 when my mother and father-in-law felt like their time as missionaries in Russia was coming to an end. He wanted me to read Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren and start thinking and praying about starting a church with them. Then in 2001 they moved back, and we began to meet and pray about where God wanted us to start a church. We prayed about if we would need to move to a different part of the country. We originally thought there was a good chance we would move to New England, possibly Boston, to start the church, but as we continued to pray, we realized we should just plant it right here. There was a confirmation in our spirit; we all just had a sense. It’d be easier to establish a church and get it off the ground where we already had income and jobs. There was a need for a church like we wanted to start.”
What was your inspiration for this church?
“My calling into ministry was lead by John 15:16 that says, “you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” I felt that verse strike a chord in me. “Fruit that will last” – it was the inspiration and heart behind my vision for a church because to me it signified the eternities that will be changed. We set out to do church differently than what we had known, but we didn’t necessarily know how. We didn’t really have a picture or model; we just wanted a church that was intentional about reaching people who were far from God rather than just being for a community that already believed. It took an evolution: seeing other churches that were doing it well and learning from other people. We were able to visually see what we had in our hearts. The passion and vision behind the church and why we do what we do has not changed, and it is because of this that we are able to get through difficult times; the newness of whatever method you use goes away and fades, and if that’s what a church is built on, it will crumble.
Nobody gets to see the foundation of these large ministries. All we see are the sixty-second social media clips of preaching or of a worship experience, and it’s glorified. We don’t get to see the hard work or what it takes to get there. Ministries are built over time. God really does something on the backs of people who will serve, put in time, and love people, and sometimes what we see is the edited, finished product and we think, “oh I am called to do that.” But what I tell people is that until you are ready to prepare and preach to ten people, you’re not ready to preach to a thousand. I started off preaching to one family, but I spent just as much time working and preparing a message to preach to a small audience as a large audience. I think sometimes we want to shortcut the process because we see the end product, and that’s not going to be given to you; we have to grow and develop along the way.”
What would you say to someone that is called to be a pastor? What would you say to that person knowing what you know now about the process?
“It’s important to discern what God is really calling you to do in ministry. When I first got started, I had this very small model of what ministry looked like. I sensed God calling me into ministry, but I wrestled with it for a while. At the time, I was in a smaller church where the lead pastor would do everything. They may have a secretary or bookkeeper to help out, but when I looked at the senior pastor I thought, ‘I’m not that person. I don’t have those kinds of giftings. I’m not designed like that.‘
One thing I have come to love about being a larger church is seeing that there are so many roles in ministry than just the prototypical, single pastor of a church. We can have people who are called into ministry and can shepherd in certain areas. They don’t have to carry the burden or weight of a lead pastor role.
I always push back on people that say they feel called to be a pastor. Recognize if you feel called into ministry, but beyond that, approach that calling with an open hand and ask God to show you how you are gifted and wired and how you can best be used for His kingdom and church. It’s one thing to feel called into ministry, and it’s another to know what that calling is specifically in ministry.”
Why do you push back on people?
“It’s not that I want them to second-guess their calling; I push back on what their picture of that calling is. Our mindset of what ministry is is not necessarily reality. Your view on Sunday is a finished product; there is a lot of preparation that goes into what people experience. Your whole picture of ministry changes the moment you realize that once you step into full time ministry, you don’t really do ministry; you become more administrative. You might love engaging with people and teaching youth, but you don’t necessarily realize that if we hire you, you’ll be doing a lot of administrative work: things like work flows, credit card receipts, and training other people to do the ministry. When you go into the ministry, you are there to lead the ministry. I push back not to push them away from their calling but to make sure they understand what they feel called to and what that looks like for them. I do it so they can approach God open handed with how He wants to use them.”
What will it cost you to join ministry full time?
“It’s not just a financial cost, but it’s the difficult conversations you’ll have to do as a leader. It’s the decision you’ll have to make that is going to be unpopular with a group of people. It’s knowing that no matter what you say, people will get angry and upset and leave. And you don’t just get to go home and shut it off. There’s a personal and emotional toll that it takes on you, your marriage, and your family.
It’s a different type of sacrifice. Is your spouse on board? Do your kids understand? Are you okay with being a public figure because you are held to a standard that is far beyond what society holds people to. It goes beyond the rules of the land, and people have perspectives of what you should and shouldn’t do. You have to choose to give up certain things that you don’t have to or shouldn’t have to because your witness matter, and people are watching your life. What other job or career are you disqualified from if you have a problem in your home life? Your personal life, marriage, and personal struggles can disqualify you from leading in ministry that would never even be questioned if you worked in the marketplace.
There’s something unique about ministry. It’s different and hard to explain to somebody that hasn’t been in it. There’s a difference between being called to the marketplace to do ministry and being called to full time ministry where you do less ministry and more organizing, planning, and calling. It’s not as much engaging with people. The hardest part is not being in the marketplace and being near people that don’t know Jesus. People are our purpose, and it takes administrative oversight to do that, but there are so many unique ways that you can impact people for God’s kingdom more than just as a traditional lead pastor, and sometimes you can be called to ministry in the marketplace.”