My second year in Bellingham was buzzing to a close. A lot of stuff happened. It’s called life and some of it just wasn’t pretty. At first things looked good at the new place. We had happy staff working on an ever growing appointment book. Then all of the sudden things started to change. One of our stylists stopped coming to work. Then the income stopped coming in. Appointments were erased from the appointment book. When asked our stylist said that they had canceled. Ironically the only ones that remained were all credit card sales. The other irony is that our product was disappearing at a dramatic rate. A chance conversation with a couple of college guys who rented the upstairs space revealed that the shop was quite busy. We confronted our stylist with the information. She denied taking anything and insisted that all the erased appointments were cancellation. My wife asked her what she had in her bag. It was filled with product from our shelves. We had no choice and let our entire staff go. It hurt. It hurt that we had lost thousands of dollars that we really didn’t have. It hurt that our trust was betrayed. It hurt that we were forced to fire people who we cared about and wanted the very best for. It was a hurt that lasted a good, long time.
Now we had a five year lease on a cool building that was sitting empty with a closed sign on the front. We prayed. We felt that we should do what we knew how to do. That was barbering services for men. We reopened as Yondersea Men’s Grooming. I worked three days a week at the other barber shop and four at Yondersea. Business at Yondersea was not very good and everything we earned at the other shop was being burned up in overhead on two locations. I was getting tired. We prayed and hung on.
About two months after firing our staff and turning the salon into a barber shop I was pulled aside by the owner of the sporting goods store. He told me that he had decided to close down his business. The barber shop was doing great, but the sporting goods store was not doing so well. Since I rented my space from him I would have three weeks to shut down our shop and move everything out. At least he told me he was sorry.
It took a few moments for me to process what it seems that God was doing here. We had a successful barber shop, that we had to close down and only three weeks to let people know we had to close. Not enough time! In any other situation this would have been the finish line, game over. We would have had to find a location, negotiate terms, furnish it and then try to get the word out to our clientele. It is a good thing that this wasn’t just any other situation. God had already provided. What I had taken to considering as an anchor chain dragging us to the bottom, God had intended to be a lifeboat that we could all climb aboard to safely ride out this storm. Within a month we were out of the old shop and the new shop was buzzing. Things were happening. Things that we hadn’t read about or planned for. Good stuff. God stuff!
It was during this rocky ride from one shop to another, one expression to the next, that I began to get a little bit of a clue as to what was going on around me, even in spite of me. Angie had seen it, and even tried to point it out to me. I was clueless. God was taking the broken pieces of my life and grinding them up, molding them back together, and turning me into more of the person He had created me to be. He was taking my anger and replacing it with love, acceptance and forgiveness. He was showering me with Grace and then watching to see if I would extend it to others. I did, I have been and I am. It seems that is almost a daily process. I don’t quite have to do an inventory every day, but every month or two I have to go back and see if I am willingly giving out the same grace and mercy I received.
I was also returning to my roots in Christianity. I had become a Christ Follower through an expression of community. People living and doing what people need to do, but doing so in such a way as to welcome others into community so that they could share the love of Christ relationally. When I had first started to work as a vocational pastor I had read a book by George Hunter III called The Celtic Way of Evangelism. It had stirred my heart toward the church being a part of the community that it lived in, of helping the community live abundantly both in life and in spirit. Then there was that sentence from The Message; “the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” I came across the word, missional. I learned a new definition for the word, parish; an area large enough to live your life in but small enough to be known in. Somehow all of these things that had become a part of my spiritual DNA were beginning to form up around me. I wasn’t making them happen, but I was learning language to describe what was happening.
God was also showing me that being an effective pastor didn’t mean that you always applied your efforts inside the little box with the cross on top. Our barber shop was a church. It was part of The Church, and it was very cleverly disguised as a local community business with a cool vibe and loving people inside. You could get a good cut, some great chat, and even go deeper and learn about Jesus. Everyone got prayed for. Once in a great while they even knew it was happening.
God made a way. We began to welcome people into our space, loving them, and giving them some pretty awesome haircuts to boot. Of course a lot of life happened. Some bad things come our way as well as a lot of good things, but overall I cannot help but smile when I see that all the things that I wanted to do as a pastor were now being done and done well once I became a barber. I would have never come to this place if I had other options. It didn’t look like where I wanted to go until there was no place else to go.
This is what happens when people who are crazy in love with Jesus, who love the people who Jesus is crazy in love with, begin to live their lives and make their lives subject to what may seem like a mere whim of the Spirit. Making each and every decision subject to the vision and mission of Christ makes great stuff happen. Some people are good at seeing and then doing. I had to do this whole thing the hard way, but for me it works. Of course I am in a happy place as well. I am fulfilled on many levels and I enjoy being a part of this and watching the impact of what we do and who we are in Christ have ripple effects all around.
My goal as a traditional pastor was to influence the lost to Christ, the believer to mission, and leaders to turn their hearts toward community. I get those chances and to see those outcomes take root almost daily. Most days it feels good to be me. Now we have, like Jesus before us, moved into the neighborhood. My family recently moved into the little apartment above the barber shop. We did that because it made sense with what we believe, reduced our overall living expenses, and aligned us with our desire to be faithfully present in our community. We know the people that live around us. We go to the store or out to eat and we always run into people we get to see in our missional outpost. We hear stories of how their lives have changed as a result of our time spent together. I have many lost who listen to what I have to share because I have shown interest in them and their lives. A few have even made commitments to Christ. I have young people and young in Christ who learn from what I have gone through, and I have leaders who are faithfully serving who hear my heart as I always point them back to connection with community.
You might ask what makes a missional outpost. Since I sort of made up the term I get to define it. Ill do that next.