If you tried to canoe the Mississippi River today from source to mouth you could find detailed maps describing every turn, obstruction, and current you’ll encounter on your route. You could research water depths, current speeds, and weather conditions with a simple google search. If we were to rewind to the 1680s when the Frenchman Sieur de La Salle was exploring the river from its confluence with the Illinois River to the Gulf of Mexico, the experience would be far different. He depended greatly on their Native American guides’ ability to read the course and current of the river ahead, while leading a group with even less experience than his own- not to mention the unexpected battles with illness and indigenous tribes along the way. In many ways, La Salle’s responsibility was to map out a course through unknown territory for French settlers that would follow him.
This parallels the weight of responsibility that many of our Gospel Community leaders sense as they launch and lead groups to live out the mission of Jesus in Burlington’s neighborhoods. Many times they are the first or first in a long time to attempt what they are doing. No established road map exists. There is a limited history of successes and failures to learn from. They have to read and react to the current while overcoming unexpected struggles. Some of the challenges these young leaders face include…
A first attempt at neighborhood centric ministry. We live in a culture where independence and individuality is prized, most have embraced a home to work to home to work cycle of life, and therefore we normally have limited personal interaction with those who live in close proximity to us.
Limited gospel influence in their neighborhoods. They may not be the first followers of Jesus to live on their street, but they are often some of the first to live there with gospel intentionality. For many of their neighbors they will be the first followers of Jesus with whom they’ve had a real conversation about who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him.
Little history of ministry successes in their context. There is no road map to success because that success rarely exists. Their own successes, failures, and lessons learned will become the beginning of a map for others to learn from in the future.
Leading a relatively inexperienced team. Few people in any of our Gospel Communities have done ministry this way- whether it’s prioritizing the neighborhood centric approach, being on mission together as a team, or meeting primarily in homes. Even those of us with some experience are doing it here in Burlington for the first time.
Recognizing that unexpected challenges and failures will occur. It will be impossible to plan for everything, so being spiritually prepared to persevere and be a persistent presence (no matter what) is a must. This requires an “all in” attitude that does not retreat during the tough times.
Seeing and responding to the activity of the Holy Spirit. With no map, they must constantly be in a place where they can listen to what the Spirit is saying, see what He is doing, and respond. They must be able to read and react to the current of God’s activity in people’s lives in their Gospel Community and the surrounding neighborhood.
This may sound overwhelming and even a little crazy, but we’re in good company: the church-planting teams of the New Testament era faced similar challenges in places like Corinth, Philippi, and Galatia. May we also remember that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Please take some time to pray for Burlington City Church’s Gospel Community leaders and the groups they lead:
- Phil Corriveau- West Lane in West Winooski
- Brian Cuseo- North Champlain Street in Burlington’s Old North End
- Ryan Bell- Main St. to Burlington’s South End
- Kevin Pounds- Nepali-American group in Old North End
- Michael Ly- Burlington’s New North End (coming soon)