Music always serves as a great source of encouragement for me. Here’s a new, fun and challenging song that has encouraged me recently.

Life as a parachuting church planter has, at times, been an isolating experience. That’s not all that bad though.

Last month, my family squished into our van and spent time in Drayton, Ontario. The connections, networks, and relationships were sudden and wonderful. We stopped by Hamilton and spent an afternoon with friends. We spent quality time with family. We all went to church together on Sunday and capped things off with a Blue Jays game with old friends. The depth and ease of connectivity felt so natural and normal.

Now that I am back in North Carolina, the sense of connectivity is different. Being geographically distant from older relationships requires one to be more intentional with them. At least it does for me. Email, Facebook, Skype, Google Hangout, blogging, and the good old telephone are tools to help out. However, at this stage of the game of church planting, a growing awareness of isolation from that which is so familiar remains. Fortunately Heather’s parents are nearby. I have been visiting North Carolina for 11 years now, so their home feels like home. Fortunately local relationships are blossoming, but blossoming is associated with springtime and new beginnings. As excited as I am about nurturing these new relationships, I still feel like a bit like an island. I am not at the point where I feel lonely, but the distance between isolation and loneliness is short.

When we moved into Hamilton in 2006, Christian Reformed Church pastors and churches were a dime a dozen. The moment we stepped inside the doors of Immanuel Christian Reformed Church was the moment we were plugged into a network of literally thousands of people. We were thrown into immediate community with its own culture, expectations, obligations, networks, and reputations. All these things fed my extroverted soul (and my ego a bit too...).

A personality test this past week confirmed how much I do value deep and wide connections. My church planting coach asked me to participate in a test that discovers what my core values are. The test took about 10-15 minutes to complete, and the results contained some of the most insightful reflections about how I am wired. Some of what it revealed I already knew about myself. I make decisions by talking and need to explore all options before I make them. I like working with a team. Here’s a quote to give you a sense of who I am when I am at my best:

Your cornerstone core value is love. Building and sustaining relationships is central to your life's strategy. You are constantly working to know and understand the truth about yourself and others. You like to have a good sense of connection between what you are doing today and what you see in your future. You like discovering new possibilities, and you consistently watch for them. Nothing feels right when the people you value are distant or are in conflict. You have a natural enthusiasm and like to be in situations that are fully engaging and energized. No potential plan, idea or possibility gets by you. A core strategy for you is to work effectively with others. Share your knowledge and information with others; you enjoy it and others appreciate it. You are good at getting others to work for and with you. Choosing your words carefully works well for you. Feeling a sense of togetherness with people gives you confidence. You like a new charge in your life and you like to be the charge in the lives of others. You like to trust people and to share yourself with them freely. You enjoy lots of different people and activities. Charm and enthusiasm are part of your arsenal for success.

The report is extensive and it reveals the positive ways in which your core values facilitate success. At the same time, it also reveals how your dark side rears its ugly head if your core values are not regularly nurtured. Because a geographical distance exists between me and older relationships and networks, and because my core values thrive within relationships and networks, I have to be extra intentional to maintain them and at the same time ensure that deep common journeys exist with people locally. Church planting requires new relationships to be pursued in order to create new community. This work still feels new, and it always feels vulnerable. Part of me feels like a child asking others in a playground, “Do you want to be my friend?” Church planting is also like the dating process because you wonder, “Is this person interested in me?” It’s like marriage too, because these relationships are covenantal. The community we seek to grow will include vows, baptisms, Lord’s Suppers, and God’s Word.
So rather than spill more about who I am, let me ask you this. What are your core values? What type of presence do you add to a room full of people? In what ways has God wired you to connect with your neighbors? Do you want to know or not (and what does that say about your core values)?
A professor in seminary always challenged us: Know Thyself. Knowing oneself is an important part of one’s spiritual journey, and I want to encourage you to keep learning in order to love.
Love God.
Love neighbor.
As thyself.