As a teenager I said I would never pastor a church. I had watched my father and mother pastor. It made me respect them, but I also saw the cost of pastoring first-hand.
I pursued my education in law school, but every time I turned around there were people around me, people I was loving and leading. I felt a pull to ministry and thought that the best option was to move to Mexico and start a ministry for the marginalized.
My wife, Dania, and I made our home in Mexico City. I did not speak the language, but I started volunteering at a church in the area to get a feel for ministry in Mexico.
I dreamed the church would be a place of honor and safety, a training ground for young people, and a magnet for joy.
Every conversation we had about building a better church excited me, but they were only dreams, just discussions of people imagining what could be.
By this time, I realized that I was falling in love with the city, its rhythms, people, and food. We began to look for a church to connect to, like the one we had dreamt of, but we could not find one. We felt God was saying, “if you can’t find the church you’re looking for, start it.”
We found pastors and mentors to guide us in this process of discernment. Our time of discernment and training was 100% relational. We valued and trusted the voices of the whole team of mentors and pastors as well as our small church planting team. We tried as hard as possible to reject a one voice vision. We decided we would rather go slow together than fast alone.
We decided we would rather go slow together than fast alone
We asked a lot of questions and we did not assume we knew anything. We devoured everything we could get our hands on including lots of books recommended by pastors or mentors and Vineyard Institute classes.
Then on a Sunday of September in 2008, we held our first service. I knew just enough Spanish to order a taco, but there were 8 of us in the living room together. The dream felt closer than it had ever felt before.
The church, Vereda, is now around 1200 people and has sent out missionaries all over the world. They are active in the fight against human trafficking through advocacy training and a halfway house for underage rescued girls. It is a unique church that looks and feels like the church we dreamt of.
I like to tell people that I don’t know how I ended up being a pastor. My wife is quick to tell me that as long as she has known me, I have been a pastor. I was always loving and leading those around me. Church planting was not our plan. It was the natural result of loving and leading those I found on my journey.
If this sounds at all like you, we’d like to invite you to continue discerning your calling at the Multiply Vineyard Summit January 14-16, 2020 in Southern California. We have designed a conference track specifically for those exploring church planting. You will have space to become aware of your desires, hear from tested planters who have discerned well, and to dream about how God has formed you uniquely to partner with his vision for your city. We look forward to seeing you there!
Join us to be encouraged, inspired, and equipped at the Multiply Vineyard Summit!
January 14-16, 2020 in Southern CA
Josh Harder is the Lead Pastor of the Houston Vineyard. He and his wife, Dania, planted Vereda, a Vineyard church in Mexico City.
He studied theology and psychology at Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania and worked as an in home therapist for at-risk kids for several years before moving to Mexico City. Dania and Josh have been married 16 years and have 3 children, all born in Mexico City: David, Gabriela, and Amelia.