Calling feels like a rumble. It moves inside you and rustles around until you pay attention to it.
In 2013, I was feeling the rumble. I knew something was on the horizon, but I had no idea what it was.
I felt like God gave me a picture of a Tennessee river. I was standing on the edge of the river with my feet in its cold water, longing to jump right into the current. I spent a year praying on the edge of the proverbial river, a rumbling in my belly.
Toward the end of that year, my husband Daniel and I met our pastor, Aaron McCarter, for tacos. We were in the process of discerning a move to New York City to go on staff with Young Life, so we were looking for counsel.
At some point the conversation turned to ideas our church leaders were bouncing around to solve our busting-out-of-the-seams building problem. The church had been growing rapidly. One of the front-running ideas was to send out a multisite. Aaron shared ideas about how other Vineyard churches were creating thriving neighborhood congregations.
I still laugh at what I told him. I said, “I think that is the worst idea I’ve ever heard. It will never work. But if you do it, you should try it in our neighborhood.”
A few weeks later, the McCarters invited us over to their house to talk. On the way there, Daniel and I tried to guess the topic. We never imagined they would ask us and to pray about me becoming the pastor of our church’s first multisite location. I wish I could tell you I responded in a holy, leader-like way. The truth is, I spit out my drink, choked on it, and said a word that would make my momma blush.
We left the McCarter’s house promising to pray, but got in our car assuring each other that we only said it because they were our friends, not because we would ever actually do it.
I was not a pastor! I’d just said a bad word in front of my pastor. My only real church leadership experience was keeping children alive in the nursery, leading a few exhausting small groups, and inviting people to church. I didn’t go to seminary. I’d only preached once, and I had to do breathing exercises in the bathroom just to walk on stage. On top of it all, we live in the South and I am a woman! I did not feel like a pastor.
I’ve learned that what God is up to has very little to do with how equipped we feel. For the next couple of weeks the Holy Spirit disrupted my life in the most unexpected ways. As we bounced the idea of pastoring off of our friends and family, no one thought it was crazy; they were incredibly supportive and even excited. They spoke so much encouragement over me about the gifts they had been watching God draw out of me. It wasn’t just the people I knew. We had a guest preacher come and give me a really clear prophetic word.
In my own time with the Lord, the current of that river I’d been praying into for so long started to take a very clear shape. I began to understand the calling that God had been drawing out of me for decades. I started to believe what I’d heard all of my life; God doesn’t just call the equipped, but he will equip the called.
I jumped in. Four years ago, I led the team that planted our first multisite called Vineyard Springbrook in my neighborhood.
I did what so many church planters do; I learned on the job. I worked closely with my sending pastors and I met with Aaron weekly to learn how to preach. I leaned heavily on the resources available from Multiply Vineyard. I talked with gracious Vineyard pastors who told me their stories and pointed me to their favorite resources.
I still feel like the least-likely pastor. The job is hard, but I feel alive. Our church is growing and thriving, and so am I, swimming deeply in the unexpected current.
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Lindsay Mizell is the pastor at Vineyard Springbrook in Alcoa, TN. She spent her summers running around Young Life camps and believing she could change the world. She is married to the bravest man she knows. She and her husband have 3 sons who are reminders that God is deeply and intentionally involved in their world.