Lately my husband and I have been feeling overwhelmed and frankly a little burnt out. We believe very much in what we are doing at Novitas and know that there are people out there like us (even down here, or maybe especially down here in the heart of the Bible belt). People who desperately want church to be different. The question is, how do we find each other? That is a question we just don’t know the answer to. The good news, I suppose, is that several of us have managed to find one another on “The Island of Misfit Toys” as we affectionately call ourselves.
Several weeks ago, Kathy Escobar wrote a post entitled, Plant New Trees. I wrote a response piece that you can find here. I like to think that Novitas is the kind of “tree” she was talking about when she said,
plant new trees.
trees that have the roots of equality from the very beginning.
trees that gain nourishment from a free-er gospel and soil that is enriched with freedom and hope instead of fear and absolute certainty.
trees that have men and women and rich and poor and educated and uneducated and black and white and gay and straight all tangled up together from the beginning.
trees that are tended to gently and naturally instead of pumped with unnatural growth agents & pesticides that try to advance the progression of development to “catch up faster” to other churches that will always have the advantage of time and power on their side.
trees that get their strength from the beatitudes not the latest and greatest how-to-grow books and conferences.
trees that are well-watered by people who are tired of talk and are ready for action.
trees that over time will flourish and bring shade and fruit and all kinds of other goodness for generations to come in the communities & cultures where they are planted.
a diverse ecosystem of trees that more accurately reflect the fullness of God’s image.
- There is no paid pastoral staff. Every one has a regular job. We plan to keep it that way. We pay our rent and then give the rest away. No one gets paid except Linda, our fantastic nursery worker and the people who babysit at our life groups.
- We don’t own a building and we don’t plan to.
- We don’t do programs and we don’t plan to.
- We don’t feel like we need to control where people give their money. We ask that people give as they are moved to help us keep going and to help the people of our community, but we set them free to give to their neighbors and their friends who have needs as well as ministries and non profits that move them.
- We don’t feel like we need to control people’s time. We gather Sunday mornings and in life groups once a week. We release people to give their time to organizations that need volunteers and to live their lives which is a sacred endeavor.
- We do life together. Our youth comes to the main gathering and adult life group. We do not have gender specific groups or ministries.
- To borrow from John Wimber, everyone gets to play. We believe that a person’s gifts make room for them. So we let people use the gifts God gave them and make every effort to help them develop those gifts.
- We have a very flat leadership model. Our directional team consists currently of 4 men and 4 women and we make decisions together.
- We believe in equality. Our speaking team is currently 2 women and 1 man (our amazing friend Eric just moved to FL or there would be 2 men). We believe that there is no function in the church reserved for males only. (check out CBE and the Willow Creek statement on men and women in ministry).
- We welcome and value everyone; men and women, rich and poor, democrat and republican, gay and straight. (Our friends at RISE church have graciously allowed us to use this video from their AND campaign).
- We have no problem with people asking hard questions and wrestling with their faith. We embrace discussion and debate.
- We believe that God and science are like peanut butter and jelly; They belong together.
- We affirm that all beauty is God’s beauty and all truth is God’s truth.
- We reject the notion of sacred and secular and embrace the idea that all of life is a sacred pursuit. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
- We affirm that humanity is beautiful and part of God’s design. We all bear his image and will be fully human for eternity in a new heavens and a new earth where everything will finally be right.
We like to say that we are a movement of people dedicated to loving God and caring for people, all people.
Bottom line, Kent and I love our Novitas family. We keep going because of them. We give all we are because of them. They are worth it. You are worth it.
Truth? I wish we had more people. Because we all need to know…
- God came for us. He did not stay away, he came near. Not to condemn us, but to save us.
- We are loved with no unless.
- Our sins are forgiven. All of them.
- There are people who want to know you, to be your family. There is a place where you don’t have to pretend anymore.
I love the new Bruce Springsteen album Wrecking Ball, especially the song Land of Hope and Dreams. It says in part,
Well this train
Carries saints and sinners
Carries losers and winners
Carries whores and gamblers
Carries lost souls
Dreams will not be thwarted
Faith will be rewarded
Hear the steel wheels singing
Bells of freedom ringing
If we are who God made us, Novitas will look like that; The Land of Hope, Dreams and Misfit Toys.
9 thoughts on “The Land of Hope, Dreams and Misfit Toys.”
Wish we lived closer to y’all… 🙂
What a blessing and inspiration this is.
Thanks Eric and Ty. You guys inspire me to keep writing.
thank you for sharing!! very excited about getting together this weekend to talk more and re-energize one another!!
Well, I just ordered a CD/DVD for you from Antioch. The DVD is a sermon from the World Mandate conference by the pastor there Jimmy. He is kind of his usual all over the place self, but peppered in there are lots of mentions of all the stuff they believe that matches up with what y’all believe. Hopefully you find it encouraging – stories of a female leader at Antioch that led their entire project to rebuild an entire village in Sri Lanka, stories about crazy things happening in the mission field, etc. Also some favorite Jimmy-isms like “I don’t care how right your theology is, if it doesn’t start with love you. are. still. off.” Yep – he was doing the period after every other word thing back in 2005.
The encouraging thing is that there were hundreds of churches from around the country at this, who had been in the past and heard all of this before and still came back, because they were all on board. We were at this conference and this particular session. The DVD doesn’t capture it, but a lot of what he says got loud applause and amens frequently.
Katie and I have kind of been burnt out on church from the other side for a while, as members/attenders. We find it easy to find people like us, but they never seem to have time to be part of our lives outside of church activities. I mean, everyone is nice and cool to you on Sunday mornings and game nights and what not… but how do you know that they really like you and aren’t just tolerating you because you showed up and they have to be nice or risk invalidating the Novitas mission to love all? Everyone says “we should hang out sometime”… but as a new person, that is 30-40 people. You can’t hang out with that many people, so who do you pick? Well, you usually wait to see who takes interest and initiates with you for a specific time to hang out. But this is Dallas, so lets face it – no one initiates with anyone. They all just take the passive route. “Let me know if you want to hang out sometime.” Well, I keep showing up every Sunday, so obviously I want to hang out. Otherwise, I just wouldn’t come. I think we have just kind of given up on figuring out how people make friends up here in the Metroplex. It was so much easier in the smaller town we used to live in.
So, for me, I’m never really interested in more people. I’m interested in more time with the people that are already there. I’m still looking to actually feel like part of the core family, and not just the weird distant third cousin that everyone allows at the family events but pretty much avoids outside of that. But what I see more often in churches today is entire buildings filed with weird distant third cousins and not core family.
But, from what I understand from talking to people about this is that this is just a symptom of the city we live in, and not some specific attempt by any church to actively alienate members.
thanks so much for sharing today, love what you guys are doing….so many common threads!! lots of love and prayers for courage & strength & peace in the midst of the hard & beautiful journey you are on together. you are definitely not alone.
If you have been /are lost and looking for a home that loves God and love you have (their neighbour ) without an unless. Come see us at Novitas at the Summit in Grand Prairie, Tx
So beautiful, Michelle. I am certain you are an oasis for people in a thirsty land and that if more knew about you all, more would be there in a heartbeat. I pray your community grows and you receive the support and kinship you need to feel reinvigorated. Novitas sounds like a true reflection of who I know Christ to be and my heart surged with hope and gratitude reading about your church. Awesome!