2nd Site – Birth Is Messy

Birth is messy. Death is clean and birth is messy.  If we think of a natural birth and a natural death…then death is clean. Birth is messy.

This is a metaphor my mentor uses often. I like it. It makes a lot of sense to me. Sure, you can push the metaphor and find situations where it isn’t necessarily descriptive or even true. But at least in a natural way, death is neat, clean, quiet, peaceful. And birth, in a natural way, is chaotic, messy, loud, and painful.

* * * * * * *

Isaiah 43 says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and the rivers in the desert.

For the last year or so your leadership team, including myself, has been discerning the Spirit’s nudge in our midst. In prayer, we have been trying to ‘perceive’ if God is calling us into yet another ‘new thing’. Talk about messy! When the Spirit moves, works, nudges…things always seem to get a bit messy!

The ministry is the possibility of God calling Hope Lutheran Church to embark on a second site, an additional location through which additional and expanded ministry and worship can happen. Again, this is in addition to our long time home on 12 Mile in Farmington Hills.

Roughly 15 years ago we as a church family were a part of starting what is now called Shepherd’s Way in South Lyon. That ministry is possibly coming full circle. As Shepherd’s Way discerns God’s intent for its future, we are discerning our call and role in that future.

Why: Well, before any logic comes to the table, we have to discern if God is calling us to be a multi-site congregation. This isn’t a question of finances. This isn’t a question of energy. This isn’t a question of what makes sense. To be honest, it may not even be a question of what ‘we want’. It is a question of God’s call. Much of the time we tend to blend the two as if God’s call must always make sense to us in order for it to truly be “God’s Call”. But that simply isn’t true. The reality is that God’s call rarely ‘makes sense’. It rarely fits into our schedule. It rarely feels good to our bank account. It rarely fits into any strategic plan that we can put together. If we feel that God is calling us to do this, to share what we experience at Hope in additional places in order to do ministry and be in community with a broader group of people…then we follow the Spirit’s lead and figure it out. That is where our logic, reason, strategic planning will come in. We will together, as a community answer the question of ‘HOW’.

Who: Before we go any further, I want to make sure we are aware that this is not just a ‘Hope Lutheran Church” conversation, but also a conversation that involves the current worshipping community of Shepherd’s Way. Multiple communities are praying and discerning including: Shepherd’s Way, ELCA National, the SEMI Synod, and Hope Lutheran Church.

Conversation: Over the next 4 weeks, we will discuss this as a congregation, culminating at the Congregational Meeting on May 15th. During those 4 weeks, we will have videos from our church leaders introducing the idea. In addition, these church leaders will be in the Narthex between and during worship services to have conversations with the broader congregation about the possibility of birthing this ‘new thing’.

Opportunities: Just a few of the opportunities are as follows: There is not an ELCA presence in the South Lyon area other than Shepherd’s Way and South Lyon is one of the faster growing areas of the state. It will allow Hope to build and grow our community for ministry beyond the limitations of location. It will allow Hope to offer worship services in more diverse venues, meeting the hopes, needs and desires of a more diverse body of people.

Partnerships: ELCA headquarters in Chicago will be enthusiastically supporting the ministry with prayer and finances over a three year period. SEMI Synod will also be supporting the ministry with prayer and finances. The current congregation of Shepherd’s Way, who would become a part of our family and we would become a part of theirs as well, will also be supporting the ministry through prayer, hard work, and finances.

Challenges: Again, just a few of the challenges are as follows: Dreaming what ministry looks like in more than one location and living into that ministry will be a challenge. We will need to be careful not to over extend our staff, being good stewards of our time, energy and creativity is important. Financial resources will also be a significant challenge; however our partnerships should make this ministry a ‘no financial cost’ to us. We will still need to keep a very close eye on our finances.

What might this look like?: The best way to think about this is in scenarios. There are many moving pieces at this point and many scenarios could be birthed into life based on how those pieces move. But in general, we see something like this:

  • Worship: One or two worship services in the South Lyon area. Very likely, one of those options would be an evening and/or midweek worship option. That would be good for both South Lyon and the current members of Hope. As things are, if you can’t be available on a Sunday morning, then Hope Lutheran is not the worshipping community for you.
  • Ministry: Resources are limited. It may not make sense to do lots of ministries that are barely supported. It may make far more sense to find something that is deep in the DNA of both Shepherd’s Way and Hope and involves the broadest group of people possible and focus  on that. It turns out that some sort of hands on “Service Ministry” may be that focus. It isn’t that other ministries aren’t important, but we may need to focus on only one, and allowing other ‘needs’ to merge into the existing opportunities at Hope.

* * * * * * *

Birth is messy. Death is clean. Death is neat, clean, quiet, and peaceful. Birth, however, is chaotic, messy, loud, and painful.

I, for one, believe that God is always creating something new. After all, that is what Easter is all about!…God doing a new thing! God granting new life! God defeating death and God birthing something new!…and ‘new’ things are always messy…

This letter is not intended to answer all of your questions…not even close. It is intended to get the conversation going, to get the prayers started, to get us all looking for the Spirit moving and working in our midst.

Please be in conversation with us over the next few weeks about what God might be birthing.

Please pray and discern God’s work among all of us as a community.


Pastor Rob Zahn

3 thoughts on “2nd Site – Birth Is Messy

  1. Pastor Rob, thanks for the detailed “birthing” email. As you know, Rebecca and I moved to Michigan last year from Madison, WI and have settled in at Hope. In Madison, our Lutheran Church “birthed” a second location in a growing suburb, similar to the scenario you have described. For a while, it did stretch the staff and resources thin, but the neat thing about any birth, is that what is birthed grows. Granted it took a while, but we were able to enter the hearts and the lives of so many more people in that community who were enriched by God’s grace and the blessings of the Holy Spirit, who might not have otherwise had that opportunity. Today, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Madison is “one congregation with two campuses”, each connected and growing together to do God’s work and it’s turned out to be a beautiful thing. It seems God has left a baby at our doorstep–it’s now up to us to decide how we respond.

    Liked by 1 person

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