We want to introduce you to the New Leaf Blog contributors by giving them a chance for them to share their story. First to share is Jason Tripp.
As I reflect upon my journey of life and faith in the first 40 years of my life, in many ways it parallels the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land in the book of Exodus.
That journey, like mine, has been a mixture of victories and struggles, contentedness and complaints, progress and regress.
I am thankful to have grown up in a loving Christian family, where I witnessed the love of Jesus modeled to me in my parents and being raised in various churches and church plants.
While I am thankful for the faith in which I received from my parents, I experienced a certain level of spiritual growing pains during my adolescence, as I wrestled and struggled with my own faith formation and growth. Looking back, I can say that the spiritual angst and unsettledness I experienced during this part of my life was on the surface, a direct cause and effect of living a self-absorbed life which revolved around various addictions (sports, gambling and pornography being the unholy trinity of addictions), all of which were futile attempts to fill an intense void in the deeper places in life.
This inner turmoil came to a head as I stumbled to the finish line of a Sports Administration degree at Laurentian University in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario. Still unsure of what laid ahead and full of uneasiness and restlessness, I embarked upon a two-year journey to South Korea to teach ESL, but more importantly, to disconnect with toxic relationships and behavior patterns.
I recall this two-year stint in Southeast Asia as my ‘spiritual renaissance,’ during which the unfamiliarity in a foreign land ironically aided and nurtured my journey of rediscovering and refamiliarizing myself with the God whom had met me, like Jacob, in my mess and loved me enough to wrestle with me through my questions, doubts, hurts and harmful habits.
During my South Korean renaissance, I was stirred to pursue pastoral ministry as a full-time vocation. Returning to Canada, my wife Sylvie and I were married and I completed 3 years of post-graduate work garnering an MDiv in Pastoral Ministry at Tyndale Seminary in 2007.
As a final component of my MDiv studies, coinciding with the birth of our first child, Michaela, we were given the opportunity to return to our hometown of Sudbury where I completed a pastoral internship at Valleyview Community Church (part of the Free Methodist Church in Canada).
A decade later, we are happily planted in our community where I continue to serve in ministry as the Lead Pastor at Valleyview Community Church, while my wife teaches French Immersion at a nearby Secondary School, and our two children Michaela (9) and Levi (6) are actively involved in their school and community.
I’d like to say that my wrestling with God and faith has come to an end now that I have a piece of paper telling me I am a ‘Master of Divine Things’ (cue the winking smiley face emoji), but I would be flat out lying.
The reality is that I continue to wrestle, ask more questions than I have nice neat answers for, and prune away unhealthy ecclesiological and theological ideologies that inhibit my love for God and neighbour. The difference these days, is that my wrestling is not motivated by a desire to get away from, nor to keep God at arm’s length out of fear or disdain, but rather to draw closer and grow in knowledge and grace.
While I’m not a church planter, the church I pastor sometimes has the feel of a church plant as we tinker and experiment with new ideas and initiatives to understand and engage with God and our community in ways that are authentic and missional.
What excites me about New Leaf is the vision and passion for empowering, connecting and resourcing church planters and starters, along with believers, explorers and those like me, who continue to wrestle with what authentic faith looks like in our post-Christian Canadian culture.
It is an exciting time to be a follower of Jesus, and I am excited to experience and bear witness to the fresh, new ways God is at work in my neighbourhood and in this beautiful, diverse nation of Canada.
If my voice and story as a modern-day Israelite (aka-one who wrestles with God) can be encouraging to any fellow pilgrims on the journey of life and faith, than I am excited to contribute to the work of New Leaf as part of the ongoing work of God’s beautiful, revolutionary kingdom.