The Land of Hope, Dreams and Misfit Toys.

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.

What we look like:

  • 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
This train
Carries losers and winners
This train
Carries whores and gamblers
This train
Carries lost souls
This train
Dreams will not be thwarted
This train
Faith will be rewarded
This train
Hear the steel wheels singing
This train
Bells of freedom ringing

If we are who God made us, Novitas will look like that; The Land of Hope, Dreams and Misfit Toys.