We moved with ten people from Columbus to plant a church. Our call was really clear, and it was repeated over a number of years for a very specific place called Arvada, Colorado.
As we were moving, we had an opportunity to sit with Carol Wimber and talk about our story. When we finished, she said, “Wow, what an amazing, clear story of calling!” Then she said, “Well, you know what that means, right? It means when you plant, it’s going to be really, really hard.”
She was right. Jobs and living situations fell through. Cars broke down and people got sick. We experienced tons of difficulty and resistance. Eventually, I hit a breaking point.
I was driving along on I-70, which splits through the northern part of Denver, and I had a soy sauce stain on my shirt from the Chinese restaurant where I’d been waiting tables, and I’d had somebody yell at me earlier. I’d discovered someone on our team was having affairs with people we were discipling. I was praying—or maybe just complaining—to God “This isn’t working!”
At that moment it occurred to me that I’m headed east—I could just drive 17 hours and be home in Ohio. I thought, “Would anybody really complain?” As I’m contemplating this, I glanced over to my right, and I see the skyline of Denver. As I look at the city, I hear a question in my mind, which I knew was the Holy Spirit: “How many do you want?”
The first thing I thought was, “None. I don’t want the ones I have. I’m trying to give them back. I don’t want any.”
But as that came out of my heart, it was appalling to me. Then the Holy Spirit encountered me and I had to pull over because I started to weep, and I said, “I want them all!”
As I wept there on the side of the freeway, something started to happen to me. The next question I heard as I looked back at the city was, “What’s your dream for this city?” And it occurred to me I didn’t have one.”
This experience of God challenging me to dream for the city exposed some crucial gaps in my theology. It led me to parse out a much more robust understanding of how God views communities of people. I began to see a bigger picture of what God wanted to do in and through the life of our church.
This excerpt comes from Engaging A Culture: Finding God’s Vision For Your City. In it, Jay Pathak shares how to develop a vision for engaging your city by learning to understand its history, its systems of authority, and its spheres of work.
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Jay Pathak is the Founding Pastor of the Mile High Vineyard. Prior to planting the church in 2001, he served as a leader in the Columbus Vineyard’s young-adult ministry, Joshua House, and as an intern to the senior pastor, Rich Nathan, in Columbus, Ohio. He co-wrote the book, The Art of Neighboring, with Dave Runyon. He and his wife, Danielle, were married in 1998 and have two daughters, Jasmine and Sofia.