One of the things I love about being a multi-campus church is that I get to work with four great brothers, the lead pastors at each of our campuses around the Louisville area. Last week I interviewed Midtown Pastor Chad Lewis. Today, I’m honored to be joined by Michael Fleming, pastor of our newest campus, Sojourn New Albany:
Pastor Daniel: You’ve been leading Sojourn New Albany for close to eight months now. What is your vision for this campus and the city? Has it changed any since the campus first launched?
Pastor Michael: The vision for Sojourn New Albany has stayed the same but it has intensified. The big vision for Sojourn has stayed the same – we want the gospel to inform and transform our church, our city, and the world. At the same time, since we launched on October 16th of last year we have had the opportunity to better assess, respond, and dream about what God is doing in Southern Indiana.
We are a church plant on steroids. A few short months ago we were a core group of 100 meeting in the basement of a historic elementary school. Today we have experienced tremendous growth in every way and on every level. This year we will go from a staff of one to having multiple staff members. We are excited to train and unleash our first round of elders and deacons while we dream and plan to send out church planters and missionaries in the years to come.
Not only do we want to send missionaries to the nations but we want to own our own backyard as well. Pastor Gary is leading out in reaching students, families, and teachers in our surrounding neighborhood, especially through New Albany High School & middle schools. This summer we are having a community block party and basketball tournament, while also planning to host our first medical clinic this fall. It has been a roller coaster of a year but the one thing that has been evident above all is that God is at work in a major way in our church and in our community.
Pastor Daniel: You’ve said that when you came on board at Sojourn you discovered that the culture is “Animal House meets Monastery.” Talk about this impression.
Pastor Michael: I first made that statement at a Membership Meeting where I was trying to capture what it is like to work alongside three other Campus Pastors. What I love about working with our team is that they are such godly men who encourage and inspire me in my passion for Christ. Our job is about leading through the word and prayer, so the majority of our time is spent together praying for and with one another, wrestling with the scriptures together, and visioning for our churches. To make matters worse, when you walk in Daniel’s office he has a quote by a monk hanging above his desk. As a team we take the calling to preach and pastor really seriously.
But then out of nowhere, Daniel will break out a huge tray of meat for lunch. No bread. No condiments. Just meat. And then Chad Lewis will get out his guitar and — on the fly — will start singing a song confessing his love for meat. Our elder meetings are book ended with brotherhood: we start by sharing meals while watching someone do a crazy skit wearing a clerical collar, and then cap it off by hanging out until midnight and laughing together.
You can count on the fact that every time we meet something will be flying through the air or someone is racing a four wheeler around a telephone pole in someone’s front yard. There is a great balance as a team of working hard together and playing hard together.
Pastor Daniel: You left the Denver area to live in Indiana. A short time later, the Colts traded Peyton Manning to the Broncos. Is there a connection?
Pastor Michael: My attorney has warned me to be careful with how much I share about the details for Peyton’s sake, but yes I was a part of that trade. At the beginning of the trade talks it was originally going to be both Tim Tebow and myself in a package deal but my trade value rose too high because of my superior arm strength and foot speed. Tim got the underwear ad and New York, while I got the Bob Evans endorsement deal and Indiana. Not rubbing this in anyone’s nose, but I definitely got the better deal. Plus I get to play with Jeremy Linn(eman).
Pastor Daniel: Speaking of sports, how is rugby similar to being a campus pastor at Sojourn?
Pastor Michael: When I was being interviewed for the Sojourn pastor position I was asked if I played any sports in college. I shared that I played rugby for the club team at Texas A&M (Yes, gig ’em indeed my friends!). Since then I have been incessantly harassed by some on our team (Not naming any names but Mike Cosper has a beat down coming sans our London trip).
I’ve always loved to play sports and like much of the rest of my life, I enjoy trying new things. Rugby was by far the best sport I’ve ever played because of the physical challenge, the pace of the action, and the camaraderie. In that sense, working at Sojourn is a lot like rugby. It is challenging to figure out how to work together with four other campus pastors and our executive pastors as well as leading my own campus team. We’ve never done it before but it is a blast working through the growing pains and seeing the gospel and kingdom fruit growing from our efforts.
Sojourn is a place where a slow week is akin to a fast week in most other settings. There is a lot going on and a lot to do but being able to dream and influence for the sake of Christ is worth it. Being around men of this caliber keeps me on my toes and challenged to bring my best to the team.
Pastor Daniel: I’m encouraged by your example as a Pastor-Dad. Can you share some ways that you’re pastoring your kids? And tell us what you did for Mother’s Day …
Pastor Michael: The Lord has blessed my wife and I with four children. My oldest three are boys and my youngest is a girl. I really want to instill in my sons a deep sense of honor and gratitude for the women in our home because I think it is a brilliant way to paint a picture of the gospel for our whole family. So for Mother’s Day we made a special meal where the ladies lounged in the living room with some sparkling apple cider while the men cooked my wife’s favorite meal.
After the meal we had my wife and daughter sit side by side on two stools. I had each of my sons share what they love most about their mom and sister through an encouraging or funny story. Then we laid our hands on them and I prayed a prayer of blessing, protection, and commitment. I re-wrote Ephesians 5 into a few short statements of our commitment as the men in our home and after I read each of them I had my sons respond by saying, “With God’s help we will.”
I’m always on the hunt to take the things we already do and redeem them with gospel intentionality. My primary job as a parent isn’t to entertain my kids or make sure they get into a good college. It is to help my kids be independent of me, dependent on Christ, and responsible for their actions.