It's been a while since I wrote an update on what the Putmans are up to and I think it's time to remedy that. The last five months since the end of 2021 update have been jam packed with lots of activity and lots of growth! God has been up to a lot on a lot of different sides - here are some of the highlights.
(1) An Unexpected Journey with my Interim Assignment
Starting in June 2021, I stepped into the role of interim campus pastor at a church in Hinsdale, IL. This church had been hit especially hard by COVID (including a full staff turn over and a significant percentage of the population moving out of state). After a few months of getting the lay of the land, I jumped in and began rebuilding the staff team, investing in the church culture and more. We catalyzed a replanting team and began to rebuild the church. Attendance began to climb and things were headed in a great direction.
At the beginning of 2022, the senior pastor Scott Chapman and I charted out the course for the next few months. We would line up the next campus pastor and transition over a few months so that I would exit the church at Easter. I had pushed hard to prepare the church for the next season and I knew this was about the limit of what I had in the tank in terms of pouring energy into a replanting effort. The plan looked good and I was excited to execute it.
As the Winter and Spring months rolled by, we only had one problem: we couldn't find the next campus pastor. The great pastoral resignation was interfering with our searching: there simply aren't many people out there looking to get ministry jobs and after six total months of searching and interviewing, we still had nothing...and I was running out of gas in the tank - as well as feeling urgency to begin to focus more fully on my next assignment (see below). As we passed Easter with no candidate in sight, Scott and I began to ask deeper questions: was it possible we had misunderstood what God was doing here? Might it be that God wasn't bringing this church into a new season but was closing it down instead?
After a year's worth of work in this campus that was definitely not an option that I wanted to seriously consider, but I knew that ultimately we could only do what God was doing. If God was winding things down, our own efforts to do otherwise would only be doomed to fail, and it would make an idol of the church in the process. Everything in me churned as we prayerfully explored what we believed God was saying to us and to the replanting team that we had formed. We had hard conversations, tear-filled conversations, and we prayerfully sought the Lord. Over time, the Lord spoke pretty clearly to Scott and I, to the Hinsdale staff team, and to the replanting team that we had formed that it was time to close the church, and that's what we did. Our final service was May 28th, where the congregation gathered to honor what God had done among us and look forward to an unexpected future that we can trust is good because we know the God behind it.
Closing that campus was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I think closing any church is an emotional and painful process for everyone involved, and at this point I was multiple months past what I had estimated I had left in the tank. It was so hard. So. Hard.
But we did it, and we did it well. Strange as it sounds, I was proud of how well we as a church family navigated the process. There is a nobility that can come out in moments like this: moments when what God is doing is the opposite of what we wish were happening and we are suffering a deeply painful loss. How we handle ourselves in moments like that reveals a lot: do we graciously accept loss and allow the Lord to prune us, or do we pout or find some way to begin bargaining with God? I'm increasingly convinced that it is a deeply noble thing to be able to take loss well; to be able to walk through loss without losing our handle on the person we want to be in the process. For my part, I'm proud of how our church allowed the Lord to close the campus. It was hard, but we loved each other and trusted the Lord through the process.
(2) Hitting the Road Again
Late February and early March this year, I was finally able to get out and hit the road and lead a team trip to the UK. We brought a team of about 8 (with a few people who joined for short windows over in the UK) and we did various training and impartation events in Birmingham, Ashford, London, and Cardiff. It was a super intense trip - I think I spoke 28 times in 15 days!
The intensity of our activity was matched by the intensity of the Holy Spirit's activity! Every place we went we saw the Spirit fall in power. In this particular trip I think every place we went we saw deliverance begin to break out unprompted in the ministry times. It seemed the Lord was releasing freedom and wholeness to his church after a few years of this challenging COVID season.
From my side, it was so great to be in the UK again. I had the chance to go in January of 2019, but I haven't been back since because of the pandemic and all that. It was fantastic to see friends I've missed since then and be in that kind of ministry environment again.
(3) Preparing for our Next Assignment
So what am I up to now that my interim role has wrapped up? I'm beginning to stage for our next assignment. What is that you ask?
The Putmans are going to Phoenix, Arizona to undertake a Church Pioneering Experiment.
Over the last couple of years God has been steering us to the realization that for a number of years he has been setting us to go and try something radical. I've been convinced for at least the last four or five years that the way we do church is hitting its cultural expiration date. We are less and less effective at connecting with each subsequent generation, but it's not like the effectiveness of the kingdom has changed. What's missing? I think a part of the puzzle is that God is driving the church towards a qualitatively different future, but we need to be able to adapt and try and reinvent what we do and why we do it the way we do it.
That's what we want to go try and do in Phoenix. Will it work? I have no idea! But I know I have to try or I'll regret not stepping up to the plate when God invited me to do so. I'm excited for the road ahead. It's filled with uncertainty and adventure, and I'd have it no other way! Would you be praying for this next chapter for us? In many ways it is involving us putting everything in our lives in God's hands all over again and asking for him to guide in nearly every area. It's intense!
What is church pioneering? How are you going to church pioneer? Why Phoenix?
These are awesome questions that I'm sure I'll write more on later! For now, through the end of July, I'm going to be taking some "seek the Lord on the mountain top" type time so you won't hear from me much again until August. Once I get to that point I'm sure I'll begin writing a bit more about what I'm seeing building in this experiment! So long for now!
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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