Huntsville, Alabama is an interesting place. It was best known as the Watercress Capital of the World until Werner Von Braun and his peers landed there in 1950. They were the original Rocket Boys, and you’ve seen their handiwork. Their Saturn V boosted Apollo into orbit and ultimately got us to the moon.
Huntsville is unique. It’s consistently rated as one of the best places in America to live. It boasts more PhD’s (per capita) than any city in the US. You can’t swing a dead cat (they say) without hitting eight or ten aerospace or bio-tech engineers. You can’t use the phrase “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist…” because in Huntsville, it does. The county surrounding Huntsville also boasts the highest divorce rate in the country. Apparently, brains and marital bliss do not always go together.
Just across I-65 from Huntsville is the small town of Athens. About 20 years ago, a young pastor moved there and took over a small church that averaged about 80 worshipers on a good week. Today they are running 1,000.* They have a great staff, awesome members, and unlimited potential to grow disciples. They want to lean into small groups as a method and strategy, and that’s where the story gets personal.
The pastor called me a couple of months ago and asked if I would be willing to come to Athens to help them disciple people in small groups. “Sure,” I said (with my Yankee accent), “Vicki and I will go wherever God wants us” (knowing in my heart that it wouldn’t be Ala-freaking-bama). Turns out that God’s sense of humor is still intact. Long story short, Yankee Boy is the new Discipleship Pastor of Friendship United Methodist Church in Athens, Alabama. I start July 1, 2010.
One of the coolest things about Friendship is that it reminds Vicki and me of our early days at Granger Community Church. Small team, big potential, high passion and creativity, and huge reliance on God for “whatever is next.” We wept during worship. We laughed with brand-new friends. We feel at home there. We are humbled that God is letting us be a part of what he is doing there.
A couple of things: I’m moving to Alabama while Vicki stays in Illinois to try and sell our house in one of the worst housing markets in the country. Your prayers would be appreciated. On the positive side… if you know any small group or spiritual formation point leaders, pastors, or directors between Nashville and Birmingham, let me know (email@example.com); I’d love to do some networking. This blog, my consulting and training, and “Thinking Small” will continue, but my primary efforts will be directed at growing disciples at Friendship.
After a brief countdown, the relationship-building, vision casting, and volunteer recruiting starts this morning with a week-long visit to Athens. I guess you could call it a launch. I can’t wait to see what God does.
* (Revised 10/11: This turned out to be incorrect. It was closer to 700).