Sojourn Pastor Interview Series: My Talk With East’s Kevin Jamison

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.

Three Similarities:

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.

Community Gardens In The Heart Of A City

While I’m on vacation, I asked a few Sojourn ministry leaders to keep the conversation going here at DanielSojourn.com. These are men and women who are leading us forward. Some of their work is behind the scenes, but it is all appreciated by me, by all the Sojourn pastors and by the many lives they have touched.

This week you’ll enjoy the perspectives of Nathan Ivey. Nathan is Pastor of Community Life at our Midtown Campus, and the founder of Seed, the Sojourn renewal ministry that has helped countless neighbors and drawn national attention from church leaders who want to replicate what we’re doing in their community.

Today he writes about the vacant lot that Sojourn transformed into a community garden in Shelby Park, and how you can do likewise in your city or neighborhood:

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The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city.  How beautiful, then is a garden in the city!  Sojourn Midtown has a unique setting in our city and neighborhood. Being from the state of Kentucky and the city of Louisville, we are submersed in both an agricultural and urban context. Thus, we have both a passion for gardens and the city. And, we believe these present amazing gospel opportunities for us in our neighborhood.

In looking at the Bible, one of our first loves as a church, we see that the Bible story begins in a garden (Eden, Gen. 2:8) and ends with a garden in the heart of God’s city (the new Jerusalem, Rev. 21-22). A garden in the middle of the city…what a beautiful picture!

The imagery of Revelation 21-22 has supplied us with a vision for the city of Louisville. We foresee a beautiful garden providing food, shade, and restoration for our inner city neighborhoods – Germantown and Shelby Park.

This year, Sojourn transformed a vacant lot in Shelby Park and transformed it into a community garden.  Why? Because

  • Gardens begin with God. A garden provides us with a picture of how God intended life to be lived – a way of life and a state of worship. The garden is a place for human work and divine provision.
  • Gardens foster community. Gardens provide fresh produce and plants as well as satisfying labor, relationships, and a sense of community. The same community we were created for can be experienced in our neighborhoods through a community garden! It’s a place for conversation, relationships, and ample opportunities to share our faith and lives with others.
  • Gardens provide restoration. Gardens improve a neighborhood’s health and wellness, and provide restoration to a community, as well as a connection to the environment. God cares for the whole person and we can see some of these needs met through a community garden.

Join the movement!

Connect with Sojourn’s Garden – care for a plot, help keep the grounds, meet a neighbor.

Start your own garden in your city. Collaborate with your neighbors, local stores, and your city officials to see your urban garden become a reality.  Check out the following links on how to get started:

Maybe you already have a community garden in your neighborhood. Join the action! Check out the following website for a community garden near you:

For those that weren’t born with a green thumb, shop at your local Farmer’s Market to support the movement. Find the one closest to you!

Embracing Our Identity As The Church In The New Sojourn Gallery

Michael Winters has overseen The 930 Art Center at our Midtown Campus since 2006, and is Sojourn’s Visual Arts Director. Michael is my guest blogger this week at DanielSojourn.com:

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Yesterday, the post here was about looking back at The 930 Art Center.  Today’s post is about looking forward to the new Sojourn Gallery at St. Vincent’s, which will open on Saturday, August 25 (God willing and construction continues smoothly) with a big open house, and then with first church services on Sunday, August 26.

The gallery nearing the end of construction

How are we going to choose what to show?

The new space is a new opportunity to rethink vision for our arts ministry and slightly shift the gallery’s emphasis.

We don’t ask “What will we not show?” and then make a list of do-not’s for artists – do not show nudity, do not show violence, etc.

Instead we ask, “What art is best for us to share in this time and in this place?”

I now believe that finding the best work for our context requires a full embrace of our identity as the church.  The church is something very different from any other institution or group.  The church is not a museum, business, government, social service agency or a school.  Why do we then so often adopt the methods of these other institutions?  When working with art in the church, we don’t need to borrow the rules and regulations of the fine art world.  We need to more fully understand who we are as the church and allow relationships and practices to be formed from that identity.

In Sojourn we describe our identity as the church through these aspects: Worshipers, Family, Servants, Learners, and Missionaries.

So when thinking about mixing visual art in the life of the church, is there art out there that affirms, challenges, or otherwise encourages us to embrace those identities?  If we can’t get our hands on art like that, can we make it?

I think our tentative schedule for first exhibits at The Sojourn Gallery will encourage us to embrace these identities.

Gene Schmidt walking I Corinthians 13 through the streets of Philadelphia. Photo by Alicia Hansen.

Lovetown, PA by Gene Schmidt and photography by Alicia Hansen

Over the past few years Gene Schmidt’s work has moved out of the studio and onto the streets in a series of projects he calls urban pilgrimages. Combining elements of performance, pilgrimage, and sculpture, the projects are often inspired by, or are meditations on, biblical texts in the context of an urban environment. While these projects are done in public for anyone to see and respond to as they wish, for the artist they are spiritual journeys and lengthy prayers with physical weight and dimension.

I think this project is a fascinating example of an artist embodying the missionary identity.
Who is Shelby Park?

This exhibit will use photography as an entry point into learning our new neighborhood.  Though it’s only a couple blocks from our previous location, this is a new place to explore with new people to meet.  Photography can help us sharpen our understanding of who we are by deepening our understanding of where we are.

We made this for you
This exhibit will invite artists to embody our identity as servants by giving the gift of art to designated individuals and organizations.

Picturing Genesis
As we recently studied the book of Genesis over the course of a year, Sojourn artists illustrated an image for each section of sermon text.  These illustrations were made for the purpose of coming alongside the worship life of the church.  Bringing them all together as nice, big prints in the gallery will be an act of worship too.

Juried: Art by Christians in Higher Education
This exhibit will invite Christians in colleges and universities to submit their best work.  This will hopefully reveal a survey of the kinds of artwork Christians around the country are making.  This will help us get to know one sector of the larger body of Christ family from across the country.

So, my prayer for this new venture is that our church members, artists we work with, and visitors of all kinds will be transformed by the gospel as we embrace our identity as the church and share the best artwork we can get our hands on (or make with our own hands).

You can keep up with Sojourn Visual Arts through sojournvisualarts.com and facebook.com/sojournvisualarts.

After Six Years Of The 930 Art Center — Was It Worth It?

Michael Winters has overseen The 930 Art Center at our Midtown Campus since 2006, and is Sojourn’s Visual Arts Director. Michael is my guest blogger this week at DanielSojourn.com:

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Over the past six years our church has facilitated hundreds of art exhibits and concerts through The 930 Art Center, but now as we prepare to change worship spaces we’ve thrown our final 930 events, and in just a couple weeks we’re taking down the last exhibit.  The signage will come down, the Facebook page will go stagnant and I’ll be left asking what’s left to show for all the work and money and love we’ve put into this venue.

Stirring Exhibit installation view.  Art by Matt Dobson and Denise Burge.

Stirring Exhibit installation view. Art by Matt Dobson and Denise Burge.

When we moved into the building at 930 Mary Street we were a church of five hundred and accustomed to renting Sunday worship space.  60,000 square feet looked like infinite possibility to us.

We had a lot of dreams and ambitions at the beginning.  Were they fulfilled?

We wanted to break down the sacred/secular divide.  We wanted to create natural connections between our church and our neighbors.  We wanted to inspire curiosity about God’s world and celebrate whatever was worth celebrating.  We wanted to serve artists at various stages in their pursuits and meet their needs.  Our mission statement described all this as “a shared space where people of various backgrounds and beliefs could come together for a shared vision of a more beautiful world.”

Sometimes, these good desires found fulfillment.

Our Neighborhood event photos

Our Neighborhood event photos

One of my favorite evenings involved a gallery exhibit called “Our Neighborhood” and a concert by Psalters, a musical tribe of punk/hippie Christians.  We fired up the grill and mixed up 20 gallons of lemonade and invited the neighborhood.  It was like a circus.  It was beautiful because people of diverse backgrounds really did come together and share a vision for a more beautiful world.

I can imagine what could have happened instead on that evening.  The church building could have been empty.  The air condition could have been humming to itself.  Moonlight could have drifted in the window, but no one would have seen it.  We could have all been at home watching sitcoms.  By God’s grace, we cultivated something better, something vibrant, a little like the way God makes things – full and complex.

Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s concert photo

Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s

Most of the time though, our successes were preceded by confusion.  People were constantly trying to figure us out.  “So, does the church have a problem with what you’re doing here?” they’d say.  “I am the church” I’d reply.

Another time, someone applied for an internship not researching enough in advance to know that The 930 was owned and operated by the church.  I told him we only used interns connected through our church and invited him to attend Sunday, thinking that was the end of the conversation.  He ended up doing a yearlong internship.  At the end he wrote “I began to see this internship opportunity as more of a spiritual renewal than work experience for school credit and I’m extremely grateful to God for pointing me here.”

 Installation view of Starcross’d by Dayton Castleman

Installation view of Starcross’d by Dayton Castleman

I’d like to think that occasionally, as people tried to make sense of why a church would host something like a giant cardboard fighter jet kissing a goose, or a concert by rough-around-the-edges bands like Shellac, their curiosity turned into a little bit of awe.  One time, I remember watching a guy across the room in the glow of concert lights.  He had gone through addiction and a divorce and had gone through a dissatisfied relationship with another church.  That previous church was strict and serious and ungracious.  Now, he was new to our church.  His eyes lit up in the glory of live rock n roll, wonderfully confused at how this could be happening in a church, a church he would soon call ‘his’ church.  I doubt he’d credit that show as the reason he committed to our church community, but I’m sure it played a part.  It made a qualitative difference.  On some nights, the mixture of song and light and laughter was really beautiful.

I hope God was honored by the work here, and I hope someone whose name I don’t know keeps a treasured memory of when they first believed the possibility of a church community marked by love and beauty, creativity and joy.

Yes, it was worth it.

 

 

 

What Art Can And Can’t Do For Your Church

While I’m on vacation, I asked a few Sojourn ministry leaders to keep the conversation going here at DanielSojourn.com. These are men and women who are leading us forward. Some of their work is behind the scenes, but it is all appreciated by me, by all the Sojourn pastors and by the many lives they have touched.

This week you’ll enjoy the perspectives of Michael Winters. Michael is the Director of Sojourn Visual Arts and curator of The 930 Art Center. We owe much of Sojourn’s “vibe” to Michael, a gifted artist, visionary leader and dedicated theologian.

Today he writes about what art can (and can’t) do for your church:

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Art can’t replace gospel proclamation, but it’s also true that gospel proclamation can’t replace art.

 

Art can’t save souls, but everyone’s soul is enriched when the worship music compliments the lyrics beautifully.

 

Art can’t give you the body and blood of Christ, but it can give you good bread, wine, and a cup.

 

Art probably won’t boost church attendance, but I know at least one faithful church member who first became aware of our church through our arts programming.

 

Art probably won’t do a lot for your fundraiser, but the economics of art can teach us to better gauge the true value of things.

 

Art won’t make your church trendy and hip, and is more likely to make you look like children until you get good at it, but God likes children.

 

Art won’t usher in the kingdom of God, but Jesus shared visions of the kingdom of God through artful analogies.

 

Art can’t picture unseen spiritual realities, but it can reflect them.

 

Art won’t save the world, but the world will be made new through Christ, so let’s make something new.

 

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