Almost every day around the VantagePoint3 offices we hear what we call a “mustard seed way” kind of story. God initiates something without fanfare in the human heart. And, over time it grows, without applause, to be fruitful and impactful.
Today I was schooled afresh in the solid, fascinating conviction from Pastor Josh Johnson with The Exchange in Rochester, Minnesota where Jesus’ mustard seed way is the way.
When Pastor Josh and I were seeking to connect 18 months ago, I randomly stopped by The Exchange. It was a hot summer day. There were teens outside playing dungeons and dragons. There were a couple of moms supervising children and helping with the clothing closet inside. They visited with me about their Thursday night open dinners.
The Exchange exists to pay attention to those among us who are struggling with poverty, mental health, substance abuse, and other life-altering issues. This is a group of people who so often feel like they are too broken or too messy to have a meaningful place in the body of Christ.
The Exchange imitates Jesus’ relational way with broken people. They build relationships and invite those who are in addiction or struggle of any kind, to engage in ministry right where they are and discover for themselves that they are who God says they are.*
The “how do they do that” question is answered by Pastor Josh with great conviction, “The Journey.” And that’s how VP3’s path intersects with this mustard seed way story.
Pastor Josh was a young seminary student attending Peace Church in Minneapolis, MN when he was invited to participate in VP3’s The Journey. That was 2005-06.
“When I was in seminary, I was figuring out who I really was. In my life there had been trauma, addiction, my parent’s divorce, and years away from God. Seminary does a really good job of helping you understand scripture, hermeneutics, interpretation. But The Journey was far more formative to me than seminary ever was.”
He credits his participation in The Journey process 17 years ago with planting the seed in his heart for what authentic discipleship looks like.
When Pastor Josh began The Exchange, he saw similarities with his own past. He saw struggling people who had lost connection with the church and God. They had no safe place to explore that they are enough, and that God can use them right where they are.
Pastor Josh continues with remarkable conviction,
“For me, as an ordained pastor who loves Sunday morning preaching, there is no better way to grow deeply with Jesus in what that means on a practical level, than the VP3 Journey process.”
Josh has two groups going and plans to start a third targeted toward young adults suffering from chronic homelessness.
“The biggest problem we are facing today is an identity crisis in this world. The Journey opens the door to discover who they really are. It opens wounds and allows adults to experience God’s love for them anew,” shared this passionate pastor.
Interestingly, over the almost 20 years I have been influenced by VP3 myself and have sought to tell others about it, I always have a hard time finding the right words to explain it. That was not the case for Pastor Josh. And it was instructive to me.
Josh says, “When I am leading The Journey I feel I am the most authentic disciple I can be. It’s freeing for me. I have permission to be me. To be real. The Journey helps adults become more fully themselves.”
There you have it. Simply explained. The Journey helps adults become more fully themselves. And who among us doesn’t need more of this?
[Of considerable note to me personally, God has been using Pastor Josh and one of his Journey groups at The Exchange to provide a path for considerable healing, recovery, and awakening to a precious friend of mine. She is truly becoming fully herself as a loved child of God through her participation.]
*You would be blessed by a full read of The Exchange website, from which I borrowed text here.