Joseph Taylor is a church planter in Chicago, IL. As he is finishing up his residency at Missio Dei Chicago, we asked him to share about his residency.
Why and how did you and your family choose to do a church planting residency?
I was familiar with church planting residencies from previous ministry contexts and had come to believe in residency’s singular value as a context for hands-on learning and growth, as opposed to the more theoretical and detached environments of seminary. Having previously served almost exclusively in worship ministries, I knew I needed additional ministry experience to prepare me for church planting, and a residency in a church-planting church context made a lot more sense than going back to school to get another degree. The recommendation from Converge assessors and the invitation from leaders at Missio Dei to do a residency sealed the deal for us!
What were your thoughts/feelings going into the residency? How did these evolve over time?
I was pretty excited about the residency going in, and super grateful for the opportunity. My wife Maria and I had been on what felt like a winding road through a spiritual wilderness as we pursued the call to church planting, with several points at which the next steps were not clear AT ALL. 5 months living with my folks in rural Wisconsin made us question whether we were on the right path at all, so the opportunity to continue pursuing that calling at a church planting church in the city that we loved was amazing! I knew residency was something I needed for my own leadership development, and what we knew about Missio Dei made it seem like an amazing place to continue exploring church planting. Plus, we had previously thought we were going to be leaving Chicago for California to pursue a different residency opportunity, so when the invitation came to do a residency AND get back to Chicago, we were elated!
For the most part, those feelings of excitement and gratitude never subsided, though they were certainly tempered as we got into the nitty-gritty of church life and ministry in a difficult, secular urban environment, and as our residency experience turned out quite different than what we had expected. Significant leadership turnover and organizational transition right in the middle of my residency meant that we were now learning in a destabilized environment. It was very confusing at times, and fear darkened our path as we walked with the church we had grown to love through significant challenges. Honestly, it caused us to question whether we had made mistakes or whether we were on the right path.
But when we went back and recalled the ways that Jesus had led us in bringing us there, it restored our confidence and hope – He had brought us to this place, and He was going to see us through! Plus, the circumstances we walked through with the church gave us a unique window into the challenges and joys of that kind of unique season in a church’s life. From that vantage point, we have learned invaluable lessons that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
During your residency, what did a typical work week look like?
My “typical work week” has definitely evolved over the last 10 months. Early on, it was pretty much all support raising, all the time! Tons of communication with would-be supporters, traveling all over the city, the region, and even the country in order to make face-to-face asks, and constant follow-ups and updates. The schedule was nuts. As my support base stabilized, my work schedule shifted to a mix of staff meetings, one-on-ones with fellow staff members, coaching sessions, music rehearsals, strategic planning, and TONS of reading. In the last third of the year, it has been a lot more one-on-ones with potential launch team members, and networking and developing relationships with other pastors and non-profit leaders.
How did you grow during your residency? What did God teach you?
I bet that I won’t really be able to ascertain with clarity what I’ve learned or how I’ve grown during my residency until I have more of the benefit of hindsight. But there are a few thoughts that have settled deeply into my soul over the last 10+ months, including:
- “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.” -Leo Tolstoy
- “We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!” -Thomas Merton
- “There are two ways of being a prophet, one is to tell the enslaved that they can be free. It is the difficult path of Moses. The second is to tell those who think they are free that they are in fact enslaved. This is the even more difficult path of Jesus.” -Richard Rohr
- The church…is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. -Eph 1.23 (msg)
A bit more personally, God has been reminding me again and again to lighten up, have fun, and pursue joy!
After the residency, what’s next for you and your family?
After residency, our plan is to move into our planting neighborhood in Chicago, get our family settled there, and devote 10-12 months to doing the hard work of “cultural exegesis” of the neighborhood, in order to learn the major opportunities, needs, and driving narratives, questions and strongholds for the people there. Trusting that Jesus has already been there doing his good work, our hope will be to discern where and how he has been working, and join with him in that work. And we’ll begin down the runway towards launch by pursuing conversations, relationships, and open doors, sowing “kingdom seeds” wherever possible!