Missions Leadership Team Introduction:
VM: Hey Jim! Thanks for sitting down with us on such short notice in a very tight schedule. Can you let everybody know how you serve in the Vineyard?
Jim: I have the pleasure and honor of serving in a variety of roles. My first love and primary responsibility is to pastor the Renaissance Vineyard Church in Ferndale, Michigan, a funky neighborhood church my wife and I planted. I also serve as the Regional Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa, which is a great joy. In the past I had the opportunity to act as the Regional Church Planting Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region, and I still coach a handful of church planters in various places. I really enjoy church planters. And I have the pleasure of being a member of the wonderful East Michigan Area.
VM: That’s a lot of great stuff! When did you jump into the Vineyard Movement?
Jim: I first attended the Evanston Vineyard in October 1996, when I was a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, after hearing one friend argue with another about whether or not the Vineyard was crazy. I figured anything worth arguing about was probably worth checking out. That first Sunday, without knowing I was looking for one, I discovered my spiritual home. Two months later, the first Sunday of 1997, I decided to make the Evanston Vineyard my church, introduced myself to the senior pastor, Steve Nicholson, and my life has never been the same.
VM: That statement “and life has never been the same” seems to be a theme among so many of us Vineyard folks. What is a prayer that you pray daily?
Jim: I have a few. One prayer that I pray daily is for my “enemies.” Those whom, for whatever reason, have taken some kind of oppositional posture towards me, because of hurt, offense, misunderstanding or whatever. Each day I pray that they would experience God’s blessing in their home and work life, and that God’s kindness would come to them.
VM: That is a really good prayer to get worked into our hearts! What is your highest priority for your region this year?
Jim: That’s a great question. I’m struggling with two, to decide which has priority, so I’ll share both. The first is to cultivate continued spiritual depth in the indigenous leaders of Africa. To create opportunities for more of our national leadership teams to have “soul care” opportunities where they’re nourished in lectio divina, practices of rest and reflection, silence and solitude, so that their ministries are sustained for the long-haul. And that this is done in such a way that they can train others and pass it on.
The second is to thoughtfully develop strategies for sustainable church planting that are less reliant on western funds. As one partner put it: we want to help local planters change the question from: “How can I receive funds?” to “How can I create funds?” We’re working on some ideas. So, thinking about both these ideas, I guess the common thread is sustainability: how can we help maintain our missional momentum in Africa for the long-haul, to see fruit that will last.
VM: Those are both so critical. May the Lord give you His priorities with each individual as He builds the house. How do you unwind on your Sabbath day?
Jim: Practicing Sabbath is something I continue to work on. It doesn’t always come easy, I have to admit, yet I’m committed to it for my own health, for my family, and for my long-term fruitfulness in the work I love. One of the favorite things I love to do is hike. No surprise from the “Three Mile An Hour Pastor.” :-) This isn’t always easy with the short seasons and fickle weather of Michigan and my home in an inner ring suburb of Detroit, but I try to make the most of every opportunity. In our free time, Meg and I also enjoy date nights at some of our favorite local eateries.
VM: Speaking of eateries, are you a steak, chicken or fish guy?
Jim: If you’ve traveled much internationally, you’re probably familiar with the question: “Chicken, fish or pasta?” I choose chicken just about every time. I actually really enjoy airplane food on the long flights to and from Africa. I’ll often put my headphones in, set my playlist to classical tunes, and savor the meal, really taking the time to enjoy each bite. It’s like a little culinary and auditory retreat.
VM: Wow! (*laughing*) You’re our first “chicken” MLT respondent. But that meal to music sounds like a great practice...and, I nearly always ask for chicken on the plane too, that pasta seems to swell three times its size! So, what is the Lord teaching you this week?
Jim: I’ve just recently returned from a training event with some of the other members of the Vineyard Missions Leadership Team. It was quite powerful and I was reminded afresh of the importance of leaders maintaining and carrying a non-anxious presence. Just by the quality of their presence, leaders can bring transformative change to their environments – their families, their blocks, their churches, their communities. This seems especially important to me in such anxious and uncertain times as we seem to live in today. Letting the reality of “He leads me beside still waters” to soak into our soul and overflow in our lives.
VM: I felt myself relax just hearing your words, “carrying a non-anxious presence.” It is so important as leaders. What books do you recommend to challenge leaders to the next level?
Jim: With God in Russia, by Walter Ciszek. Pastoral leadership is hard work. It’s sometimes challenging to stay faithful, to stay focused, to our calling and vocation, to the assignment God has given us. With God in Russia is the autobiographical story of one man who did stay faithful to his assignment, even under very difficult circumstances. It’s my impression the book would encourage seasoned pastors, aspiring church planters, and entrepreneurial relief & development workers alike.
VM: That’s quite a recommendation. I’ll check it out, and I hope our readers will too. I understand we’re trying to get you out the door so you can catch one of those extended Sabbath hikes with your son. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your heart and vision with us. We appreciate all you do and the genuineness of who you are that you bring to a conversation every time.