We failed. We launched a church, and we failed. The vision was of a large church, of a thriving congregation out to show people how “church” could be done. A year and half into it, we realized our expenses and revenue remained way of out kilter so we made the painful decision to reduce our budget dramatically and reboot. Restated, we failed and started over.
As that was occurring, I was listening to a Podcast that featured a pastor of another failed “start up.” He made many important points. Among them was one where he said it was so easy to simply look at the “big boys” and try to replicate their model but that real growth came from somewhere else. It came from a God centered vision grounded in humility, one that was willing to look for models but only those models where it felt “right”, where it felt in integrity with one’s call. Shortly thereafter, I stumbled on an article in Neue magazine recommending Woodland Hills’ Podcast.
Since then I have joined your congregation as a “Podrishioner”, listening in on Monday mornings during my day-off walk. The Podcasts have definitely shaped our message and approach at NewChurch LIVE, as we seek to live into our mission, “A Monday Morning Church…Caring, Accepting, Relevant.”
Woodland Hills has felt like home. I hear the sermon topics, the Q and A, the response of the congregation, and it just feels in integrity with how the Gospel shapes our lives in these changing times. I remember one moment where a question was posed about homosexuality, and Greg went right into an insightful line about how even asking the question meant that everyone was now tuned into what the “right” would be – a mine field for a pastor -but one that Christ can help us navigate. The question was met with appropriate levity, and I know, as a preacher, Greg could not answer that way unless the congregation was ready for that answer. Woodland Hills appears comfortable with answers that cut through the cluttered rhetoric of people staking out “either – or” positions, and addressing the deepest calls of God’s Word so simply put in the two Great Commandments – to love God and the neighbor.
Church is changing. Woodland Hills has been an inspiration to my leadership of NewChurch LIVE through these Podcasts. As we build towards the future, knowing the shifts are dramatic and maybe our job is to live into a solution as best we can, we want to become bridge builders into the wider project of the Kingdom. I love the words of Oscar Romero that we are “prophets of a future not our own.” So maybe it’s ok that we failed on our first church, because it brought us closer to God, His future, and His vision for our church.