I never thought of myself as a church planter…that is until I started thinking about planting a church.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I was standing in the sound booth at the Vineyard in Urbana, Illinois during ministry time at a conference we were hosting. At that moment I felt the strongest sense that I was supposed to plant a Vineyard church.
I’d been attending the Vineyard for about 4 years and I was really starting to love it. But as an African-American man, I was complaining to God constantly about the lack of diversity at the church. In a powerful moment of clarity, I heard the Lord saying, “when you start your church just make sure it’s not that way.” The Lord had given me permission to start a multi-ethnic Vineyard church. That moment was the first in a string of events and conversations that would slowly progress toward a full-blown church plant.
This period of discernment was significant because so much of my life finally made sense. When we talk about discovering your calling, we’re talking about figuring out what you’re here on earth for. The moment you discover your true calling can be both glorious and terrifying. It is glorious because life can seem random until you can see how all of the God-given puzzle pieces, gifts, talents, relationships, and experiences, have been divinely released to prepare you for your mission. It is terrifying because our true calling can appear before us as a God-sized mountain that we can’t possibly engage without God’s help.
When we talk about discovering your calling, we’re talking about figuring out what you’re here on earth for.
The process of discernment is one of the most important aspects of discovering and walking in your calling. Discernment is necessary because it is the means through which we figure out God’s plan and his strategic leading. Discernment deals with nuance and signs and information that lie beneath the surface. Discernment requires an ear toward heaven and a keen attentiveness to things less than obvious. Needless to say, it’s easy to get discernment wrong.
One of the great things about healthy Christian community is that so much of life is shared. Even as we figure out and walk out our individual callings, there is a corporate dynamic to life together that helps us figure out what we’re supposed to do. I’m grateful for the opportunities that I had to co-discern God’s plan with others. Whether it was with my wife, my parents, our sending pastors, our church plant team, Multiply Vineyard, or the various sages along the way, I was blessed to be able to co-discern things large and small.
I learned that God was eager to show us our path. He was opening doors and pointing the way through conversations and relationship. It was hard to walk out, but it wasn’t a complicated and mysterious process. The Lord would speak and lead clearly as we co-listened with others. We were so inexperienced. All we knew was what we wanted our church to look and feel like. We had no real clue how to get there, but with the help of the folks we were in community with and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we were able to discern the way forward.
Geno Olison (Pastor, South Suburban Vineyard)
Geno Olison is the lead pastor of the South Suburban Vineyard, a multiethnic church in the south suburbs of Chicago. He is a gifted leader and communicator who has devoted his life to church planting and cross-cultural ministry. He currently serves on the National Executive Team for Vineyard USA and is helping to lead key diversity initiatives within the Vineyard. He is passionate about helping people build cross-cultural relationships through the local church.