We want to introduce you to the New Leaf Blog contributors by giving them a chance for them to share their story. Sharing today Jared Siebert.
The New Leaf Network is a dream I have been dreaming for quite some. It was born out of what I was seeing in Canada: the Holy Spirit up to something brand new in our towns and cities. For years, I have been watching my friends get caught up in that “brand new” only to have their lives turned upside down. Sometimes in amazing and beautiful ways. Sometimes in ways that weren’t so good. Their stories have made me long for a stronger support network for planters and starters. A network of people who want to join the Spirit in the “brand new,” but also make being a part of a learning community that nurtures them along the way a priority. That’s what I hope the New Leaf Network becomes. In this series where New Leafers are telling their stories, I wanted to share with you how the last two year of my life have been propelling me toward seeing this kind of network become a reality.
In May of 2015, I went to my first Missio Alliance gathering, in Alexandria Virginia. About 7 months before that conference I had begun a research project on what I was seeing around me. I wanted to understand what it took to stay at this experimental church planting stuff long term. By May of that year I was just winding up the interview stage of that project. In the fall of 2016 that research project would culminate in the release of Gutsy: (Mis)adventures in Canadian Church Planting. In the interviews some of the stories I was uncovering were inspiring and some were really hard to listen to. Here is what was hard to hear: some of those who got caught up in the “brand new” not only lost their churches, they lost their faith. What made these stories even harder to hear is that these were the stories of my friends. Their stories really got inside my head and my heart. I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of shame and failure: many of these stories of failure took place while I was the leader. These things were happening to my friends under my watch.
The thoughts in my head sounded something like this…
I should have been there for them. I should have protected them. I should have… I should have…. none of what I did was enough. I’m not enough.
That’s what was swirling around inside me in Alexandria, Virginia early May 2015.
One of my favourite features of the Missio gathering was the way that we were led in prayer throughout the event. Mandy Smith was doing a brilliant job of leading us in prayer. I have to confess I don’t often notice the prayers that we begin our conferences with. But I did this time! Mandy lead us with such powerful, vulnerable, and nourishing prayers. I sat up and took notice. She was praying hope right into the middle of the volcano of emotion in my head.
Fast forward to some afternoon workshops. We had choices. Lots of them. One workshop that caught my eye was being hosted by JR Briggs. He had recently written a book called Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure. Mandy Smith was the other host. I was in. As the workshop got underway and as their stories of failure were shared the volcano in my head started to quake and the villagers fled. I wasn’t the only one in the room experiencing this either. As Mandy and JR ended the workshop, offering to pray with people, they were immediately surrounded by wounded leaders. I hung at the edges and time ran out before it was my turn.
I was desperate. Smoke was billowing out of me. I followed Mandy out the door. I not so subtly invited myself to a supper event that she was attending. She snuck me in. I was desperate to talk, to share, to unburden myself – but I was also afraid. I was afraid because my feelings of shame and failure were so deep, so pressurized, I was sure I was going to explode. How do you bring something like that up? Can you pass the butter please? …also, perfect stranger, I thought you might like to know that my head is about to explode in a life-levelling, out-of-control, pull-your-children-off-the-streets, hunker-down-in-a-bomb-shelter kind of a way. Why? Well, it’s because I let God and my friends down.
Throughout dinner I begged God for help. I asked Him to mention it to someone seated at the table that I needed help. I promised him that if he could convince someone to get the ball rolling I would go along with whatever happened next.
Mandy broke the silence, “I hope you don’t think this is weird but…could I pray with you?” I, of course, said yes and asked if a few people around the table would mind joining us in the corner.
Friends, what happened next I’m still not 100% clear on. I just remember a lot of ugly crying and saying “ok” to Jesus. Not, “yes,” mind you. I didn’t have the energy for something that triumphant sounding. “Yes,” would have to wait for later. A few minutes later, the prayer ended because we had to sit for dessert.
I’ll tell you this friends, I wasn’t healed when I sat down. The prayer had made my head volcano erupt, but I was still a smouldering state of emergency. Luckily, these Missio folks are Spirit led people. The fact that people were praying in the corner for a blubbering Canadian didn’t go unnoticed. At the end of the program the leader of Ecclesia, Chris Backert, handed me the mic and asked what all the fuss was about. Friends, what came out of my mouth was the furthest thing from dignified. It was a desperate and guttural cry for God to do something new in Canada. I needed God to start protecting those that were putting up their hands to join Him in the “brand new.”
Chris, mercifully took the mic away from me and simply said – “let’s pray.”
What happened next was the sound of people storming the throne room of God.
It was the sound of heaven.
It was the sound of American praying on behalf of Canada.
And it healed me.
People saw visions of God using this event to begin something new and incredible in Canada.
I left that event a changed person.
I came home to Canada different.
I came home ready to see what God would do.
I came home with a quiet, patient, and focused need to get the New Leaf Network off the ground.
As soon as I arrived back home I implored anyone that would listen to help get this thing off the ground. Friends like Elle Pyke, James and Charity Livingston, Greg Langman, Jon Hand, Clint Mix, Dallas Friesen, Aaron Gerard, James Watson, Amy and Tim Bratton, and many others have all responded with helping hands and hearts. What has happened since that event is nothing short of a miracle.
This Network is a thing.
It’s a real thing, and I thank God for that.
If you’d like to read Mandy Smith’s side of the story you can check it out here: Birth Pains of the North American Church