One of my greatest joys is that I get to lock arms with the lead pastors at each of our campuses around the Louisville area. I’ve interviewed Midtown Pastor Chad Lewis, as well as Sojourn New Albany’s Michael Fleming and J-Town’s Lisle Drury. Today, I’m honored to be joined by Kevin Jamison, pastor of our East campus.
Pastor Daniel: Recently you told me of some parallels between Sojourn campuses and Disney World. Can you share that with our readers?
Pastor Kevin: Our family had the opportunity to take a trip to Disney World this spring. As we visited the parks, my wife and I began to talk about some of the parallels between the four parks that make up Disney World, and the four campuses that currently make up Sojourn Church.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has struggled with a bit of an identity crisis over the course of its existence. Originally named Disney-MGM studios, they renamed the park to Disney’s Hollywood Studios a few years ago. At that point the park icon changed from the “Earful Tower” to the “Sorcerer’s Hat”. In the same way, East Campus has gone through a lot of changes as well as a few campus pastors since it started, which has lead to a bit of an identity crisis. This has been one of the biggest issues the pastors of East Campus have been working hard to address over the past year.
The Animal Kingdom is the newest of all the Disney Parks and it is a gem hidden away in the corner of Disney’s property. In the same way, our newest campus, Sojourn New Albany is a gem tucked away across the river in Southern Indiana. Add that to the fact that Pastor Michael Fleming’s nickname is “Animal House”, and the parallel became obvious.
When I originally shared these observations, Pastor Lisle got a bit defensive when I said that J-Town was similar to EPCOT. His initial response was something along the lines of, “What are you trying to say? Do you think J-Town is full of a bunch of old white people who are out of touch with reality?” To be clear, that is not what I am saying. But there is something about the pink walls and the huge waterfall baptismal that just screams EPCOT to me!
And finally you have the Magic Kingdom, which is a lot like the Midtown campus. It is the oldest and by far the most popular park. It is also the park filled with the most diversity. But it is crowded and it just seems hotter than the rest of the parks… kind of like Midtown. And while Magic Kingdom has the castle, Midtown has the cathedral.
The point I wanted to make when I initially shared these observations was that while each of the four parks in Disney World are different, their essence is the same. All four parks are clean and family friendly, they all have great service and they each display the excellence for which Disney is known. My hope and prayer for Sojourn is that can we embrace and celebrate the differences between each of our campuses, while at the same time embodying a shared essence. So no matter which campus you visit you will encounter a people who are devoted to Jesus and to one another, who love and serve their communities, and who desire to serve God with excellence.
Pastor Daniel: Before coming to Sojourn you led a church that you’d planted, The Oaks. What are some of the differences and similarities in leading a campus and planting a church?
Pastor Kevin: Three Differences:
1. More Collaboration: Going from a staff of 3 to a staff of close to 40, I get to work with a lot of gifted people on a regular basis. Our preaching team collaborates every week on sermons, which has helped me tremendously in growing as a preacher.
2. More Resources: As a church planter it is easy to feel responsible for everything in the church – from preaching and teaching to vision-casting and leading to counseling and care, to negotiating leases, maintaining websites and coordinating volunteers and more. At Sojourn we have a great staff that carries so much of the day to day operations of the church which frees me up to really focus in on cultivating vision, leading the staff and elders of East Campus and preaching.
3. More Meetings: Because we are a multi-site church, there is a lot of coordination required between ministries and campuses and leaders. This leads to a lot of meetings… and I mean a lot of meetings! I sit in more meetings in one month at Sojourn than I did in an entire year when I served as the lead pastor of The Oaks.
1. God is still God: When we made the move to Louisville, one of the hardest things for my wife and I was leaving so many close friends at The Oaks. Though we miss them dearly, the move wasn’t as hard as we expected, because the same God we worshiped and served in Ohio is here in Kentucky too. This might sound a bit obvious, but it was truth that was brought home for us in our first few weeks of living in a new city where we didn’t really know anyone. God is still God, and He is good.
2. People are still people: No matter where you go, no matter what difference there might be in demographics, people are still people. In the end, we all struggle with sin, with fear and doubts, and we all long We all struggle with sin, with fear, with doubts and we all are in desperate need of Jesus.
3. The Good News is still the Good News: Jesus is still risen, the gospel is still “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” and lives are still changed by what Jesus has done and is doing, whether it be in Ohio or Kentucky. The message remains the same.
Pastor Daniel: How do you maintain your relationship with The Oaks?
Pastor Kevin: Some of my closest friends and family are a part of The Oaks and I keep in touch with them on regular basis. In addition, The Oaks is a part of Sojourn Network, which means we get the opportunity grow and learn together, as well as to share stories of what God is doing in both Louisville and Middletown on a fairly regular basis. I am also coaching their Lead Pastor, Bryan Lopina, who has been a close friend of mine for over a decade. I love The Oaks dearly and pray for them often and I am grateful for the men and women God has raised up in Middletown who are carrying the mission forward.
Pastor Daniel: I’ve heard you have an affinity for bluegrass music. What’s the story behind that?
Pastor Kevin: I grew up as the son of a banjo player and some of my earliest childhood memories are going to bluegrass shows and festivals. When I first began to learn how to play guitar, I served as the rhythm guitar player for my dad and my brother, who is a phenomenal mandolin player. Because of this, moving to Kentucky, the “Bluegrass State”, kind of felt like coming home for me.
Pastor Daniel: We’ve talked before about how you’re not really a “beach guy.” Where do you go to relax?
Pastor Kevin: I’ve never really understood the allure of sitting in sand, covered in lotion and sweltering in the sun, basting like a turkey on Thanksgiving day. When I want to get away and relax, I like to go to the wilderness – be it the Smoky Mountains or the Grand Tetons, or to Voyageurs National Park in Northern MN, which has been an annual trip for me since the age of 5.
Pastor Daniel: What is your vision for Sojourn East?
Pastor Kevin: I’ve been at East Campus for 10 months now, and a lot of my time up to this point has been spent simply trying to get to know both our church as well as the East End. I think one of the great challenges and opportunities set before us is the need to redefine what church is for so many people. The church is not an event you go to, but instead it is a family you get to belong to, by God’s grace. To help bring this truth home we are putting a strong emphasis on getting people plugged into group life as well as calling folks to commit to the church and one another through membership. In addition to these two things, we have started our own student ministry and we hope to hold our first medical clinic on the East End of Louisville sometime next spring.
In the end, our vision is to be faithful with the people and the work God has put before us, trusting that God does extraordinary things through ordinary people, and that Jesus will indeed build His Church.