It's the time of year where it's quite natural to look back at the last year and everything that God has been up to in the middle of it. As I've been doing some of that this year, I realized that the last life update I wrote was about five months ago. I thought it was definitely time to write another post about what God has been doing with me for the last few months. (Website analytics have revealed to me that these posts get a fair amount of attention, so I figure it's worth writing them periodically.)
As we draw this year to a close, I see in hindsight that God has been doing things in me at lots of different levels at the same time. Here are some of my categorical observations:
(1) Rebuilding a Church
As I mentioned in my last update, a significant part of my attention and energy in this season is going to helping a church turn around in this weird and hard COVID season. I've been the interim campus pastor at the Hinsdale Campus of The Chapel, a multisite church of ten campuses spread throughout the Chicago area and spilling over into Wisconsin.
As I've begun to get underneath the hood, I was surprised to see how dismal the present was for this church here. It had been gutted by COVID and there really wasn't much left. The staff was essentially all gone, any sense of community had been shattered, many of the people had moved out of state, and there was pretty severely broken trust between many of the attendees and The Chapel's executive and senior leadership. I had my work cut out for me a lot more than I knew coming in!
It's been a lot of time and energy over the last few months, but we've made some significant traction on many of these fronts. The Lord brought together the people to form a great staff team and we've invested a tremendous amount into rebuilding relationships and rebooting the church. I'm in the process of finalizing a replanting team and there is a sense of vision, energy, and forward momentum that is really exciting. We've begun to connect with some new families, and new ministries are beginning to emerge as the Lord leads us into a new season. There is a lot of work yet to be done, but the trajectory right now is about 100% different than it was a number of months ago.
(2) Ministry with Other Churches
Because I didn't quite realize how much work rebuilding the church here at Hinsdale would take, I had booked a rather full fall in terms of traveling ministry. During the Fall 2021 travel season, I spoke at 6 ministry events. As I did, I was struck by how profoundly the Church is struggling during this COVID season. There are many leaders who are searching for answers right now and wrestling with profound senses of loss and grief, to say nothing of the deep needs of the people.
Alongside of this runs the online ministry I do through this website and my YouTube channel. (Btw, if you haven't subscribed to my YouTube channel, would you take a second and do that? Every bit helps get the word out there!)
Some of the fun highlights there are:
6,734users visited pages 16,940 times for more than 261 hours from July 1st through December 22nd on puttyputman.com
Videos were viewed 1906 times for more than 511 hours from July 1st through December 22nd on my YouTube channel.
If ever I get discouraged and think that ministry through the internet isn't fruitful, these numbers convince me otherwise. The way I can multiply my time out through technology and impact more people is really exciting! Also, seeing the extent to which this ministry is bearing fruit in people's lives is really humbling.
(3) Lots of Deep Self-Work
So by no means have I been lax in my ministry efforts over the last few months. I've been out there doing the work of the kingdom in lots of contexts, and I'm excited about that. At the same time, the thing that has been the biggest focus for me these last few months is that God is churning things inside of me, bringing about yet another pass of molding me into who he's made me to be.
Many people aren't aware of the specifics, but "Putty" is a prophetic nickname that speaks to God's formational process. When I was in early high school our youth pastor Jason Chenoweth pulled me aside one day and told me:
"I'm going to call you Putty, because I see that you are like putty in God's hands; wherever God needs you, he takes you, molds you, and sticks you somewhere...then eventually he takes you from that, molds you again and sticks you somewhere else."
At the time I didn't know what prophecy was, but this was the first major prophetic word I can point to: I count myself renamed according to the purposes of the Lord.
I've given this prophetic naming quite a bit of reflection, especially in this last season, because Jason passed away on Thanksgiving. I’ve been grieving the loss of a profoundly influential mentor and friend. I think beyond that though, it is because I see that this is precisely what God is doing with me right now. For a decade, he stuck me in Urbana with the team at the Vineyard down there. I had a role in developing the School of Kingdom Ministry and being a part of a number of other things, but now the Lord has plucked me off that position and he's molding me again for the next assignment.
To that end, I've been doing what I can to be very intentional to partner with God's molding process. I've had a lot of profound times of connection with the presence of the Lord personally. I've journaled more than perhaps I ever have, and prayer has become a place of engagement deeper in my being than I think I previously knew. I've been working with a wonderful counselor, a great ministry coach, and I'm part of a fantastic theological mentoring program.
As time has gone on, I sense a deep thing happening inside of me. All of these layers are simmering together and combining to create something new that is deeper etched in me than ever before. I feel a passion for the kingdom burning in new ways, and I see the Lord making me into a more authentic version of myself than I knew how to be before. I wouldn't have said I wasn't fully alive months ago, but in some way, I am coming alive now in a way that transcends what was earlier. Needless to say, I'm excited about that.
Where does that lead? That's slowly coming towards clarity, but it's definitely in process. For as much as I've seen and been able to be a part of "lightning-bolt" moments for others, that's not how this is unfolding for me. Rather I think this process is coming slowly because it's coming from the inside. It isn't an assignment from the outside, I believe it is going to be the assignment that is the natural overflow of the things God is forging inside of me right now.
In times like this, there is always a temptation to try and check out from the process. God is working in deep ways and we find it disruptive and uncomfortable. It doesn't seem like things are moving outside the way we'd like to see. It's hard to welcome the continued work of God as he puts his finger on things he wants us to let go of and trust in him in new ways. I have found times like this to enrich me in ways that no other way can. In a strange way, the greatest gifts are formed in us through processes that look so opposite to what we would expect. The crucible may not be comfortable, but it is critical if we want to be everything God would have us be. It is through many trials and tribulations we enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
And so I will wait. I will embrace the process; surrendering myself to the work God is doing inside me now, yielding to the potter as he shapes his clay, forming me into everything he would have me to be. Wait, trust, rest. Believe. These are the motions that stretch and deepen our souls.
Putty Putman's Spirit-inspired innovative insights come from his wild journey with Jesus from physicist to pastor to entrepreneur to author and speaker. His three main passions are the Holy Spirit, effective communication, and journeying toward the future God has for the church and the world.
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