When people ask me about what it was like to join Acts 29, I often think back to my assessment process, which wasn’t all sunshine and roses. There are times I’m surprised that I made it — that I didn’t walk away at some point throughout my assessment journey. I’m still waiting for someone to come and revoke my ID card. But now I am able to see not only how beneficial my assessment process was, but also how much I’ve benefitted from being a part of Acts 29. I’m so glad I didn’t walk away when things got uncomfortable. My wife is glad. My church is glad. And there are many reasons I feel that way, as you’ll read in the list below.
- Assessment. Every potential member of Acts 29 has to go through what is called assessment. Much has changed since I was assessed, but the principle is the same. In this process, I was asked questions that forced me to examine things I may not have otherwise. I felt safe and loved to know that someone cared enough to ask me difficult questions. It felt very Monsters, Inc., in the sense of “We scare, because we care.” My wife loved that there were other people finally willing to engage my heart with difficult questions. In fact, one of the greatest gifts of humility God gave me that day was for every question I struggled to answer, my wife Natalie nailed. It was awesome and awful all at once. I’m still convinced Natalie helped me get into Acts29. I knew that the in-person interview would be tough and challenging, but I walked in as someone who was convinced I interviewed well, and walked out feeling a bit defeated and inadequate. I honestly left wondering if I even loved Jesus as much as I thought I did. But then again, I can be a bit dramatic at times. Nevertheless, I worked on the conditions that they left me with, and ended up becoming a member not long afterward. Looking back, I’m grateful for my assessment process and what was said to me in that interview. I knew they pushed, because they cared. Much of it, although hard to hear, was true and necessary for me to grapple with, and I’m a better pastor and planter as a result. I’m also grateful that globally, the assessment process has continually been tweaked and revisited, for the good of those going through it. Candidates still may (and likely WILL) be asked difficult questions and even receive difficult feedback, but I know that Acts 29 has worked hard to make the process as gentle and loving as possible over the last few years.
- Local Connections. I regularly gathered with some Acts 29 members in the LA and Orange County areas for quite a long time before I ever planted Mere Church. This was so helpful to me. I wasn’t studying mission or community from a textbook- I was a part of it in real life. Now, there is a growing Acts 29 presence in the Inland Empire area of CA, and I’m now able to gather with other local pastors for prayer, and some training events that we’ve done together.
- Trainings and Events. The local events and trainings I mentioned above have been so beneficial to both our church and my heart, and I’ve also been greatly impacted by the Acts 29 US West Annual Conference the two years that I’ve attended. I come home each time with a refreshed heart and sharpened mind (plus a million things added to my to-do list!).
- Coaching. Most of my coaching has been informal and infrequent until this past year when I met Chris Gillespie, who would later become our Acts 29 US West Area Lead. He’s been intentional in giving me practical direction and steps regarding not only the church, but also my personal life, schedule, and things that my priestly-type heart needs help with. I feel having guys like Chris and Brian Howard and other local A29 pastors around me conveys to our church that team ministry both inside and outside the church is crucial for effective gospel ministry.
- Support. A few years ago, one of the things offered to us as members of Acts 29 US West was attendance at what was called ‘Pastor’s School,’ which I was blessed to be a part of. This was crucial for me in planting Mere Church organizationally at the church level. On a more personal note, of all the denominations and networks that I’m a part of, Acts 29 has created most of the relational currency and support that I previously lacked. Even if it’s just a few brothers and relationships (like those local to my area that I mentioned above), they have helped contribute to my emotional, mental, and spiritual good greatly.
- Funding. Mere Church was funded by Acts 29 US West in 2017, which was hugely beneficial to our gospel ministry in the suburbs. There have been really practical ways we have utilized these funds to both continue maturing disciples in our family (like paying rent at the local elementary school which isn’t cheap!), as well as making disciples outside of the church by sending teams to Ecuador, loving the staff and teachers at the school where we meet, and loving local non-profits and resource centers with tangible gospel love.
- Multiplying. The Pastor’s School I mentioned earlier gave me a special front-row seat to some solid content on church planting reproduction, and I’ve received excellent help in the area of becoming a church-planting church from other Acts 29 pastors and resources as well. The Acts 29 relationship has helped foster a culture of people excited about church planting, and to steal from J.D. Greear, “gaining by losing.” Our wins include people being saved, disciples making other disciples, and by God’s grace, sending our best people to go out and help plant the gospel throughout the Inland Empire.
- Friendships. As I’ve mentioned, Acts 29 has been a gift to me in the provision of friendships, but it has also been a gift to my wife. Multiple local Acts 29 pastor’s wives have gone out of their way to reach out to my wife with no agenda except to be her friend. I feel my wife is loved by other women outside of our own church, which is a huge gift…in fact, one of the greatest Acts 29 could ever give.