There is no typical pioneer story.
No prototype. No firm, absolute model. No rules.
So I don’t tell the following story to say this is what a pioneer looks like. I just think you’ll enjoy meeting Shawn.
Shawn Mickschl had sensed a call to ministry, was a seminary student at Asbury, and was pursuing a vocation in the local church. But his call was still rather vague.
He told me, “I’d stand in worship, look toward those preaching and leading worship and think, ‘I know I’m called. I’m not sure what I’m called to. But I know it’s not that .”
It’s not that he doesn’t honor pastors and the existing church. To the contrary, he is still involved in, and loves, his longstanding congregation. He loves pastors. He simply knew that service in an existing congregation was not that to which God’s Spirit was leading him.
Then his church, Nicholasville (Kentucky) United Methodist, began to talk about planting a church. But they had a sense that they shouldn’t go about it the traditional way. They sensed they should do something… different.
They came to Shawn, knowing that he already was intentionally, naturally, and with a missionary purpose, developing relationships in his neighborhood.
Shawn’s call to what we call a fresh expression of church was born.
Shawn Is a Restaurant Waiter
Shawn intentionally works as a restaurant waiter to develop relationships. It took him many months to be trusted enough for people to accept even invitations to his home for dinner. But he persevered, and people began to trust him.
An invitation to a coworker to hang out after hours and talk about life from God’s perspective turned into House Church After Dark, meeting at a craft beer pub, a new form of church for people who almost certainly would never have walked into Nicholasville UMC. They meet on a weeknight after the restaurant closes. (This is just one of the fresh expressions of church that Shawn has started.)
Through Shawn, House After Dark has a tether to Nicholasville UMC. Shawn meets with their strategic leadership group every Wednesday. He processes issues with them and they support him. His reports and stories expand their vision.
Shawn’s salary as a waiter is supplemented by some support from the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and from Nicholasville UMC. He considers himself a layperson. He hit “pause” on the ordination track, and is now heading toward what his tradition calls a “licensed local pastor.”
Shawn is a Pioneer.
Travis Collins is Pastor of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, and Director of Mission Advancement for Fresh Expressions US. He holds a PhD in Christian Mission and is the author of From the Steeple to the Street and Fresh Expressions of Church.