I am going to tell you a story I have never told before.
Storytelling is, invariably, a one-sided affair. The story being told is shaped by the one doing the telling. The light of story is refracted through the life lens of the storyteller. This story is no different. This story is a part of the Pillar story, but it is hopelessly bound to the storyteller who – in this case – is me, her founding pastor. And, though it’s only a partial story – as all stories are – it’s an extraordinary partial story. A story in which I trust you’ll discover joy, love, faith, and hope; as have I.
In our first year of existence, I was often asked about the purpose, mission and strategy of Pillar Community Church. While I didn’t have a pat answer, my response was usually something similar to:
“We will focus on the soul (person) and the ways in which we are shaped so that we desire what Christ desires and long for His will in our life. Soulcraft is how I like to describe it. Our mission will revolve around building into those who love Christ. We will hope to provide ways for the thoughtful, perhaps discontent, believer to craft space in the hectic world of modern life. Space in which s/he might become more attentive to God, more aware of His presence and more responsive to His will.”
Assuredly people would question the central mission, even critique it. They would ask questions such as, ‘What about evangelism, isn’t that important?‘ or,
“What about reaching the lost, isn’t that why the church exists?”
To which I would say, “Yes, evangelism is important. It will not, however, become the target of our ministry. In fact, making it (evangelism) the target (and detaching it from its larger meaning) is an entirely modern phenomenon.”
All too often – in my humble opinion – such language reflects more of our insecurities and incongruities rather than echoing the call of God.
At Pillar, we are humbly attempting to practice this simple truth,
When God becomes our end (target) and shaping our soul (or aiming our desires) toward Christ becomes the goal, then the outcome is a life lived for the sake of others.
As I have said elsewhere, “The outcome of a soul well-loved is a life well lived.”
A soul well-loved, shaped by the tender mercies and ever-present grace of God, nearly always results in good and God-glorifying outcomes. Outcomes such as stronger marriages, healthier homes, relational (life as we go) evangelism, recovery from and freedom over addiction, identity formation, justice seeking, peace keeping, and widow/orphan caring believers.
In other words, the Great Commission (Mt. 20:16 – 20) is the outcome of life shaped by the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34 – 40). The fuel for the Great Commandment and The Great Commission is the Cultural Mandate found in Genesis 1:26 – 31.
Therefore Pillar’s mission centers on soul care: shaping our desires to love God and others as we cultivate the day by day moments of this ordinary adventure we call life.
We are now five years young in this effort of striving to be a Christ-centered community of soul-shaping and spiritual formation. As we move into our sixth year, I have been reflecting upon some heart-warming and heart-wrenching memories from the previous five. Pillar’s impact, over these past five years – has been profound. For this, I am eternally grateful. There was a moment when I wasn’t sure that Pillar would survive.
Back in the late summer and fall of 2012, our attendance was in steady decline. Pillar finances were so short that I, at times, paid some of my larger bills, like insurance, on credit. The funds would come in the next week, and our book-keeper would issue a check to cover the expense. So, though God did provide, it was touch and go for about three months. I had begun to consider working part-time to help the church muddle through this stage. All the while, in the back of my mind, I wasn’t entirely certain it was simply a stage.
I distinctly remember, during this difficult season, a painful breakfast conversation with a parishioner. He was worried about the ministry and thought we were pretty close to closing our doors. The vision was not captivating, and our current worship environment was simply not conducive to worship. In short, he thought Pillar was entering her last days. His words weren’t mean-spirited or divisive. They were words of care, concern, and caution. They were difficult words to hear and painful to receive. As painful as they were to hear and receive, they also served to encourage me to lean into the ministry like never before.
I shelved all the thoughts about part-time work, and I put my ‘nose to the grindstone,’ so to speak. I didn’t go out on a venture capitalism spree; attempting to rally the troops to pony up and invest. But my walk with Christ was rejuvenated. I decided to stay the course. If Pillar didn’t make it, then my family would be the last ones out; lovingly but painfully turning off the lights as we walked away. No matter what, though, there would be no regrets. We would seek to discern the Lord’s will and pray for the courage to follow as He revealed it!
Within weeks of that conversation, Pillar would move into Vero Beach Elementary, which boasted a newly constructed school building. Our attendance nearly doubled from the small but faithful 35 – 40 folks to around 70 – 80 during the first weeks of locating our new space. A few weeks after – around Thanksgiving – God delivered an enormous financial gift from someone who sensed the Lord inviting him to send us an offering. This generous contribution would ultimately provide much-needed financial relief; giving us all a sense of God’s provision during a time of great need. I learned, during that grinding season of ministry, a lesson I seem ever in need of rediscovering: God is always trustworthy and ever faithful to His people.
Looking back on the ministry of Pillar Community is a blessing of immense proportion. During the past five years, Pillar has reached into our community in small but meaningful ways week in and week out. We have witnessed men, women, and children come to know and grow in a vital relationship with God.
We have been fortunate enough to distribute tens of thousands of dollars to missionaries and relief agencies in Pillar’s back yard, as well as across the globe. We have crafted a warm and inviting environment on Sunday morning; where people genuinely experience the welcome of the Lord and the presence of His Spirit.
During these years, we have practiced a host of spiritual disciplines/rhythms designed to open us to the workings of the Lord within ourselves and throughout the community (see, https://disruptusrenovatus.wordpress.com/into-the-wood-spiritual-formation-for-the-sake-of-others/my-top-three-links-for-spiritual-formation-resources/).
Such ministry abundance has sprung from the fountains of spiritual formation – which I believe is the center of the Gospel. Fountains of refreshing, soul-shaping waters, which spring forth from the Gospel, have freed us from a past of bondage, brokenness, and despair and have refreshed us to live a life for the sake of others. Such a mission leads us into the world where God is already present.
As we go into this world, we practice the posture of dependence and surrender – learning to rely on and call out to Him. This life with God life draws us back to formation and soul care so that we might discern the Lord, His ways and respond to His will in our world.
As I describe Pillar to folks these days, my description is far simpler and delivered with far more grit. It sounds something like this:
“The story of Pillar Community Church is best framed as a journey. A journey of a community of people who care deeply about formation because we know and have experienced the beauty of a soul shaped by Christ. We have found soul formation to be a pathway to cultivation – walking with God into the places of addiction, injustice, and despair felt so keenly by others in their hearts, communities, and abroad. These life-giving rhythms of cultivation leave us ever hungry and always longing for for more of God and the presence of Christ. In other words we are embarking on an ongoing, ever-present, God with us journey into the world as His ambassadors, bringing His good for His glory.”
That’s a story I have never told. Though it’s not the story of Pillar, it is my partial but significant story of Pillar depicting a pivotal yet little-known season in which I doubted the celebration of birthday number 5 and witnessed a miracle of God’s grace in the midst of my doubt.
Perhaps you have a story of Pillar to share as well. One you’ve never shared before. If so, I invite you to join us this Sunday, February 7th. I hope there are many stories to share from our past and much more in our future yet to come!
Happy birthday, Pillar! May God’s grace grant us many more!!
Disrupting to Renew