Here’s the introduction to “MainStreet Beginnings” book as we mark our 7th anniversary. Read more about the project here. Contact me if you’re interested in getting a copy.
INTRODUCTION: A Hometown Apostle
I was an unlikely choice—but then that sort of makes me a more likely choice in God’s eyes. He loves surprises and unlikely heroes. But let’s be clear about one thing from the beginning: I’m not the hero of this epic adventure. Christ is. Just as the fifth book of the New Testament should have been named the Acts of the Holy Spirit instead of the Acts of the Apostles, so this story isn’t primarily about a hometown apostle but the Holy Spirit who inspired him, and all the people who came to put flesh and blood on a big idea.
I was an unlikely choice to plant a new church in my hometown of Mound because I had no real desire to ever pastor a church. The entire time we were launching the church I would joke under my breath, “Boy, if we actually pull this off, then somebody is going to have to pastor this new church!”
Here we are eight years later. A handful of people have been foolish or desperate enough to come along and share in this experiment in church mission and fellowship. Like many church planters, I had a vision or dream of what a particular church could be and pursued it with reckless abandon and faithful obedience. Like many before me, the vision for MainStreet was to born out of the Spirit-filled, dynamic communal experience described in Acts 2 and 4.
How did Keri and I end up gathering people together to plant a church in my hometown? Answer: I prayed a dangerous prayer and trusted a powerful God. I told God I was willing to be a servant to this city if he wanted, and I said ‘yes’ when His call came. As I often say (and probably say several times below), I was not initially called to be a pastor; I was called to be an apostle to my hometown community. I don’t mean capital “A” Apostle, but small “a” apostle—someone sent or summoned by God to a particular place to break new ground for the gospel. I have often resonated with Moses whom God sent back to the Egypt of his childhood with a terrifying task. Like Moses, I have often argued and protested that I don’t have the skills to accomplish the task. God’s answer has always been the same as the one he gave Moses: “I will be with you” (Exod. 3:12). And He has.
Jesus warned that “Prophets are never welcome in their hometown” (Luke 4:24) and was nearly thrown off a cliff in Nazareth after preaching a hum-zinger sermon. For the most part, my hometown has been a welcoming place. In fact, some of my most rewarding ministry experiences have come because of my “rootedness,” long history and connections here. Far from being tossed off a cliff, I have been invited to preach at six or seven local churches over the years. I’ve coached high school basketball, given driving instruction to hundreds of students, and spent years as a substitute teacher. I spearheaded a youth ministry out of another local church a dozen years ago. During my time at MainStreet, I’ve now married and buried old classmates. I’ve baptized new believers into the waters at the beach I swam at as a kid. I have preached the gospel on the same high school theater stage I walked across with my prom date for our Grand March. My boyhood chiropractor who kept me healthy as a high school athlete installed the tile floor in our church building. My 7th grade confirmation leaders church helped us launch the church. On and on and on.
Awhile back I brought my boys to a high school basketball game and went to show them my “1000 Point Ball” in the trophy case. In a former life I was the All Time Leading Scorer for Mound Westonka Basketball. I was surprised and disappointed to find out that the black permanent marker on the ball had faded so that you could not even make out my name. Fame is fleeting indeed! I came face to face with my fading glory—literally.
This made me think about legacy and what I hope this hometown boy will be remembered for when I’m gone. Here is what I want my kids to know about trophy cases: While it feels good to have your name displayed in the high school trophy case, its infinitely more glorious to know that we ourselves are called to be God’s trophies—divine image- bearers—put on display in his cosmic trophy case (i.e., the world) with the infinitely greater purpose of proclaiming His glory and making His name great!
I will turn 40 years old next summer. I spent roughly the first half of my life making a name for myself as a standout basketball player displaying my three-point glory. I have now spent the second 20 years learning how to make God’s name great and pointing people to His unfading glory. The arena for both these pursuits has been this small suburban community perched on the western edge of Lake Minnetonka called Mound, Minnesota. But enough about me.
The following pages attempt to document the beginnings of MainStreet. While a neat and orderly account would be ideal, that is not in the cards right now. This is more of a haphazard pulling together of bits and pieces written along the way from roughly 2010 to 2016. Much of it is autobiographical. This is not an objective account, but an unfiltered glimpse into the experience as it was unfolding in real time. You will find pieces from my blog, personal journal entries, things written for church newsletters, congregational reports, impact stories and testimonies from MainStreeters, statistics and photos, highlights and remembrances, newspaper articles and more.
….Shining through each part of the book, I pray, will be ordinary people caught up in a story of an extraordinary God “who calls into existence things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). In this case: MainStreet Covenant Church.
A final word of introduction is needed, and pertains to the “magic sauce” or “secret ingredient” of MainStreet. I speak of my co- dreamer, co-planter, my better half, amazing mother of my children and matchless wife of my youth, Keri. She has been a steady rock, a tireless servant, a woman of a thousand gifts, the beauty beside my brains, the relational warmth balancing my intellectual intensity. She has played every conceivable role at MainStreet—upfront and behind the scenes. Her smile, laughter and tears have drawn people in. Her hospitality and big heart has made our home a refuge. Her creativity and commitment to our children’s ministry has outlasted scores of other volunteers who have come and gone. Her roles have included: Leadership Team, Children’s Director, Nursery Recruiter, Connections Coordinator, Hospitality, Lifegroup Host, Huddle Leader, Holy Yoga Instructor, chalkboard artist, Welcome & Announcement person—in some seasons doing most of these at the same time! She does all of this (and more!) while juggling a full time career and raising three energetic children. As exhausting as all of this sounds, the heaviest weight she has borne these years has probably been supporting me as I have learned to navigate the emotional ups and downs of being a pastor. I somehow married the mythical virtuous and capable wife of Proverbs 31, and I dedicate this book to her.
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life…
She gets up before dawn…
She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
Her hands are busy…
She extends a helping hand to the poor
and opens her arms to the needy.
She is clothed with strength and dignity…
When she speaks, her words are wise…
There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!