Tonight I’m going to do something crazy – I’m going to discuss with the steering team of my church the possibility of planting another church in Pittsburgh. Presbyterian new-church-developments (NCDs) have taken off in Pittsburgh over the past couple years and thankfully the Presbytery, and many other denominations are looking toward church-planting as a way to reach new people and break out of old, ineffective models of ministry. And though I never would have guessed this three years ago when I started seminary, it looks like God’s calling me to be a part of this movement.
Background story: Last October, I went to a PC(USA) NCD Training Event at Riverside Presbyterian Church, near Washington, DC. Around that same time, one of my best friends at the seminary also began to express interest in church-planting. Michael and I began praying with each other once a week for discernment regarding whether either one of us may be called into new church development. A month later, that turned into praying about whether we were called to plant a church together. After that, we began prayerwalking neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.
Since January, the doors have opened wide for us to pursue this call. Our professors have been encouraging us, the Presbytery’s NCD Director encouraged us and even suggested a couple neighborhoods. Now our respective churches are showing interest. Michael works for a Korean Presbyterian church in the north hills of Pittsburgh. As they’re growing older, they’ve realized that they need to begin a new ministry for second-generation Koreans who speak primarily English. This would need to be in the city near the universities, given that most are college-aged and that there is a large Asian population at Carnegie Mellon University. Because they don’t necessarily hold to a specifically Korean identity, the new ministry would also need to be intentionally multicultural. A few weeks ago, one more piece of the puzzle feel into place when Michael and I were given the chance for both of us to attend the PC(USA) Multicultural Conference in April. Michael and I have both been in conversation with Vera White, Pittsburgh’s NCD Director, and we’ve met with Doug Portz, the Interim Executive Presbyter of Pittsburgh Presbytery, and he’s expressed interest. It looks like we’re getting encouragement to go ahead and take the next steps. Logistically, this will mean starting regular gatherings of a core group of leaders for the church-plant sometime soon. Work will also be a question – I’m content to be a part-time tentmaker while this gets off the ground, perhaps doing pulpit supply on Sunday mornings while working a regular job in the neighborhood of the church-plant.
The more immediate step we need to take next is happening tonight, as I’m going to invite the steering team to partner with us in planting this new church. Because our church is so missionally-minded, the idea of being a church which gives birth to other churches is a part of Open Door’s vision. The timing of this – right as Open Door is starting to get established – is much earlier than anticipated. For lack of a better phrase, it’s an unexpected pregnancy. Thankfully, when BJ and I talked about that metaphor, he responded that it’s unexpected, but not unwanted. I have no idea how they’ll respond, or what God is going with the future of this. The Lord may continue to open doors for us to move forward, or he may close them, or he may redirect us. Either way, this is a journey we’re moving forward on, and I’m excited to see where it leads. Pray for us. This post is also the first truly public announcement I’ve made about this. Various friends at the seminary have heard, people on my CPM (committee on preparation for ministry) know, but the fact that I’m posting this right now is driving home the reality of it for me. This is something we’re seriously pursuing. Yikes! Wow! Praise God and Lord Have Mercy.