April 22, 2015

A New Thing | Colby Martin

For background on this series, read this. This was inspired by the How I Work series over at Lifehacker. If there are planters, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs–ministry leaders that are working on new enterprises that you know and think I should profile, fill out this form or leave me a note on Twitter or Facebook.

About Colby: Colby Martin is the founding pastor of Sojourn Grace Collective–a new faith community in San Diego, CA. A pastor for over 10 years, Colby has been a worship leader, built arts ministries, and taught the Bible in churches in Oregon, Arizona, and California. To kick off this new series, I asked Colby several questions I'll be asking other leaders in forthcoming weeks..

The Series: Colby Martin | Jane Gerdsen | Jeya and Dan So | Sara Shisler Goff | Katie Nakamura Rengers

Can you describe your new thing?
Well, it’s certainly “new” to us, but overall I doubt very much its “newness.” That being said, here is how I would describe Sojourn Grace Collective. We are a group of people who are attracted to a vision of flourishing driven primarily by love. Love for God, love for neighbor, and discovering how to fully come alive as we love ourselves. We are uniquely Christian (in that we find the story of Jesus and the narrative of the Bible to be compelling and true) but not exclusively (in that we hold space for a range of beliefs and we acknowledge that truth and beauty and meaning are found in places beyond the Christian tradition). As sojourners, we recognize that we are all on a journey and all on different places in that journey, so grace is needed in copious amounts. Finally, we are a progressive bunch. People who, by and large, are aware of the church’s history of creating barriers for things like science, gender, sexuality, socioeconomics, race, and creed, and would like to see that pattern change.

Why you? What drew you to do this?
You mean other than Jesus? I blame him, really. Generally speaking I’ve been chasing after a faithful life of following Jesus for the past 15 years. That journey has stirred up different passions along the way, but in the end it is about helping people connect with the truest things about them and discovering the abundant life that can be found in and through Jesus. Beyond that, though, I think what has drawn me to Sojourn Grace specifically is seeing a significant need in our culture for churches that are progressively bent, but the bends are still oriented around a Kingdom vision.

How would you describe yourself?
Myers-Briggs tells me that I am an INTJ. Which rings true for me. I am a Values based person who tries to make decisions based on what I value most. By nature I am a Leader, and over the years I’ve worked to leverage that natural leadership to better empower those around me. My ego is always wanting to take over, but in my best moments I try and not take myself too seriously. I am overly wordy (motto: why use 10 words when 50 will do?), I tend to overthink things, and I can be neurotically driven in my need to be understood.

Where and when are you most productive?
I am most productive when I break up my day in to smaller chunks of time and designate specific tasks or projects accordingly. The Pomodoro Technique has been particularly helpful. These days I work at a co-op work space, and it is here (rather than my days in the coffee shop) that I am most productive. I also wake up early every morning to get 90 minutes of writing in before the family requires my attention.

What inspires you to create?
The awareness that there is something inside of me that really does want to come out, and I won’t be happy or at peace until it does. I also create because it energizes me, it feeds my soul, it reminds me that I have been given the gift to create.

What are you currently reading or listening to that inspires you?
Reading: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is keeping my playfulness and wit alive. Don Miller’s newest Scary Close is a full-on look in to the mirror, both encouraging and convicting me. And Frederick Buechner’s Alphabet of Grace is forcing me to think.

Listening: During Lent, I was spinning the album “Lent” by The Brilliance. I also never get enough of The Lone Bellow (although their latest album is still trying to convince me). And for podcasts I love Richard Rohr’s homilies, the Robcast (Rob Bell), and Freakonomics.

Start-up’s can be spirit-draining work. What nourishes your soul?
Honestly, spending time with the people in our church nourishes my soul. Which is strange for an introvert like myself. In general, people drain me. But I’m discovering that genuine, authentic, real relationships can actually be restorative for me! I am also nourished by my relationship with my wife, by spending time at the beach with my family, and be writing regularly on my blog.

Starting something new requires knowing who will be served by the thing you are creating. What method(s) have you employed to understand your context (or market)?
I’m not sure that I have? At least, not intentionally. But the more I think about it, the more I can see how organically I developed awareness around what people are looking for (and what they are triggered by!) in a church. So I guess I’ve listened to people’s stories about how they’ve been disillusioned by religion, or the by the church, or by the clergy. And yet buried underneath those wounds are often a thirst for something that will actually quench. So how can I proclaim the Gospel in a way that is consistent with Jesus’ Kingdom proclamation while also finding a way that connects with the dis-churched.

Typically, there are fewer people available to get work done in new endeavors. What do you use to manage your time, get things done and/or delegate to your team?
Managing time is not one of my strong suits, sadly. If I’m intentional about scheduling with iCal, and if I’m mindful about utilizing the aforementioned Pomodoro Technique, then I can see a noticeable difference. I am a fairly effective delegater, except when it comes to things that I have convinced myself “only I” can do well. I’d love to see that list grow smaller. Release this notion that I am the best person for this job and that job.

Time and resources are often limited during start-up’s. What time-savers have you found useful? What have you found is worth splurging on and what can you skimp on?
The first thing (only thing?) that comes to mind for me with this question was when I got a new MacBook Pro. The difference between what I can get done in an hour, in a day, with a speedy laptop has made all the difference. It was absolutely worth the splurge. On the church end, with limited resources, we skimp in areas like marketing (meaning, we do nothing), food on Sunday mornings (it is all made/brought by volunteers), and media presentation for our services (bare bones, using Keynote. Not ideal, but cheap).

Where do you find affirmation that you are doing what you were meant to do?
I find it in the stories of the people who come to Sojourn and for the first time in a long time (or ever) they discover a “christian” place that holds space for them. I find it in the answers that people give when asked “what does Sojourn mean to you,” and they talk about finding a second family, or being welcomed just as they are with all their doubts and issues, or they say how they have come alive as a result of joining this collective. I find it when my I lay my head down at night feeling more connected and closer to my wife than we have ever been (because the first ten years of our marriage it was me working/pastoring. Now it is us, doing it together). And, I find it in the excitement I get every week for Sunday to come. i want to be with our people, I want to pastor and shepherd and lead them as best I can.

On days that you go to bed with a deep sense of satisfaction, what happened? What was accomplished?
Usually this means that one of three things happened (with the occasional golden day when all three occur!). 1) I felt super productive during “work hours,” and succeeded in avoiding distractions from meaningless stuff. Got sermon prep accomplished, knocked out some graphic design work, built or updated websites, etc etc etc. 2) I stayed mindful of the present moment, grounded in the now. Rather than being overly anxious about the future or stuck in the past. 3) Interacted relationally with someone in a meaningful and positive way. This could be an honest and raw online conversation. It could be a coffee with someone that either fed my soul or allowed me to feed their soul. It could be a vulnerable conversation I have with my wife, or a fun game I play with my boys. So I guess satisfaction comes to me through work productivity, personal mindfulness, and relational connectivity.

What advice would you offer to others starting something new?
Two things: First, do it with people you love. People you know, like, trust, and love. It is hard and grueling work, and if you don’t regularly have a group of people you can just deflate in to and totally be accepted, then I don’t know how you’d make it. A buddy of mine had $150,000 to start a church in a new city where he didn’t know a soul. We had $0 but a handful of really incredible souls that we loved and trusted. I’d take the people over the money every time. (Okay, I’d take both, but you get my point) Secondly, make sure you know who you are. We are all works in progress, for sure. So it’s not like you need to wait until you have it all figured out… you’ll be waiting forever. But do you know who you are? Do you know who you came from? Do you have a sense of what drives you? What triggers you? What are the wounds you carry from your childhood or past experiences? What are your fears? What version of you do put out there for the world, hoping to convince them that it’s the “real” you? What does the voice of shame say to you, and how often do you listen? If you don’t have a grounded sense of who you are, and if you don’t love that person, then you’ll find yourself worn out in a constant game of mask wearing and costume changing.

If there are leaders you think I should profile, fill out this form or leave me a note on Twitter or Facebook.

The Series: Colby Martin | Jane Gerdsen | Jeya and Dan So | Sara Shisler Goff | Katie Nakamura Rengers