Sharing the journey with Aaron Snow – a three-year long conversation

 


Aaron and Morgan Snow
The conversation that follows spans two years 2014-2016. When I first talked with Aaron Snow at Shapevine in 2007 he was working in Las Vegas. He now lives in Fort Worth, Texas and into his 31 years has already packed some rich and varied ministry experience. Our points in common and our points of difference will make for a stimulating conversation which will take in matters of church, vocation, intentional community and the nature of the Christian life…

1) MINISTRY AND LIFE’S SEASONS IN 2014
PAUL: Aaron, you and I have both worked in grassroots ministry among university students, developed forms of intentional community among Gen Y’s – you with Intentional Gatherings and me with Jesus Generation) – maintained theologico-missional blogs, and have been engaged repeatedly in church-planting.

I am a naturalised Australian and you are an American. I am on the cusp of the Baby Boomers and Gen X (this is my last birthday with a 4 at the front of it!) while you’re Gen Y – a full twenty years younger than me. Not wanting to get an “older brother complex” but how were you able to find your way into these out-of-the-box, pioneering, high-commitment forms of ministry twenty years more quickly than I did?

AARON:…I feel truly humbled to have had some incredible men in my life who have poured into me from day one. Obviously, God’s grace played the Number 1 role. I’ve always been a bit rebellious by nature, so challenging and questioning the “status quo” has never been a problem! My questions drew me away from “organized religion” and into the arms of Jesus as I have learned what it means to BE His Church, His Bride. Had I asked these tough questions without amazing mentors in my life to course correct me I’m not sure where I’d be.

Next, I try to not slip into the trap of claiming to have “figured it out”. I have a few non-negotiables in my life which I do not sway from. Outside of that I’ll entertain a conversation about anything – truly entertain it. All the while trusting His Spirit to guide. I am very SLOW to become convinced of things to the point that I won’t question them. I view this simply as “remaining a student for life”. I never stop exploring, being challenged, learning, & asking questions.

PAUL: Aaron, you have great pastoral and teaching gifts – you’re a thinker and an influencer. You’re a natural pick for an existing congregation to say “Come and pastor us!” Yet your paid work is in sales in the secular market place – in the Fibre Optic Industry with and my earning work in 2014 has been in Real Estate. Why have you chosen that path rather than a pattern of life built on congregation-based ministry?

AARON:…Before my journey into more organic forms of church life I worked part time on staff at multiple large churches. I then set off to “church plant” where I raised support to cover some basic expenses. In every scenario I was always bi-vocational, working part time jobs to supplement income and keep me “in the world”.

Almost four years ago I went back to work in the “secular” work force full time. I just couldn’t “get paid to be a Christian” anymore. Something didn’t feel right about it…for ME. It was that feeling mixed with a strong realisation that God had gifted me for business. He began showing me strategic ways that I could make big impacts from the perspective of the Kingdom of God outside of traditional/official ministry. I stopping taking a check for ministry nearly four years ago and haven’t looked back once. It set me free.

PAUL: Aaron, you have a beautiful family – a wife and three gorgeous little kids. How does this season of life shape your current balance of life/work/ministry? Do you find that having a growing family to support reshapes your understanding of church or your vision for ministry – specifically in the pioneering that you’re doing right now?

AARON: Woah, this is tough to unpack in a short paragraph, but I’ll do my best. I’ve come to understand life in seasons. Four years ago before my daughter was born we could have 20 people crammed in our living room to worship and pray until 3 am. We could camp out on the streets with the homeless. I could travel the country to train students to lead their friends to Jesus, Baptize them, and start a new student led church in their dorm.

Now, we have three children four and under. It has seemingly halted all that I ever thought would be the “pioneering” work I thought I’d be doing 5 years ago. That was difficult for a while…until I started seeing God work in my wife and children…watching my two year old son lay his hand on his sister or mommy and say the most precious prayer. It was then that I realized that I am in a beautiful season of “planting a church” among my family first.

Who knows what the next “season” will be for us. I often wonder that, but I rest easy trusting that He has something big in every season. Each season also needs the other. In this season He is preparing me for the next. Had I not camped with the homeless, traveled SE Asia, and stayed up till 3am with close friends worshiping and praying I wouldn’t be half the husband and father I am today. All of these things will continue to build upon the other. I can only hope that as I am faithful in each season that He will continue to desire to use me in His way.

2) AND WHAT IS CHURCH??
AARON: Paul, as much as we’ve shared together I have never asked you to define “church” for me. We do share a lot in common, but in the midst I would love to hear how you define this. We live around the globe from one another, and you have a very different background than I do. How do you feel it is that we ended up at some of the same conclusions with such drastically different history? (Your Anglican ties, and my quasi Baptist turned anti-denominational “Jesus follower”)

PAUL: Through the years my understanding of church has got broader and more pragmatic. By my reading the NT words used for church – whether as a noun or a verb – simply mean “gathering” or the “group that gathers”. The Apostle Paul gives special instructions for when we gather – things that edify. And God provides things to edify the church – the five-fold ministries of Ephesians 4, the gifts and ministries of Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, a home to meet in, an elder to oversee and teach, deacons and other workers to help.

In the 80s I encountered some amazing church communities in the interior of Amazonia which received ministry from clergy/priests no more than two or three times a year. Yet their life of faith was rich and multi-layered. This really altered my view of what is a) essential and what is b) a gift to edify. Basically I hold to a filleted version of my ordaining denomination’s position statement (It’s from the 1662 Church of England Prayer Book): “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful [people]” ie a church is a body of believers.

I have belonged to some churches that were ministry units, all pulling together towards one particular focus or mission. By contrast the second church I ever attended was a traditional Baptist church. Their mission and ministry were lived out in response to their shared encounter with God and his word on Sunday – each one scattered through the week to the place of their vocation. Both models of church have their place but in this over-scheduled season of my life it is that second view that I resonate with.

As to different backgrounds, well…you do know the first Baptists and Methodists were Anglicans! Those labelled as extremists and “radical reformers” in ages past often contended for things that most mainstream Christian believers today would now take absolutely for granted. And of course there was a time when we were all part of the Orthodox/Catholic Church!! In the end we have to concede that we all share the same heritage. We’re all connected. Certainly I feel that all these strands in my DNA!!

AARON: To return your first question to me – from your own journey why do you think it is that some Gen Y’s seem to be coming to some of these conclusions 20 years earlier than you say you did? I ask because I know we share many of the same things I talked about before.

PAUL: Well, though there are very real cultural shifts we need to engage with from Gen Xs to Gen Ys and from the Baby Boomers etc. I reckon that we’re more connected than that. I actually believe that GenYs will take perspectives on a whole range of things precisely because of the experience and reflections of generations that have gone before them. We all look and learn. For that reason I believe we Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are all a bit more Gen Y and a bit more millennial than we were ten-fifteen years ago!

I reckon this is all part of how the Holy Spirit leads the church forward too. For me my journey has radicalised me. Like you, I am rooted in some fundamentals and increasingly stretched in my outlook and practice. Maybe another layer of connection you and I share is that the seasoned, older guys who mentored you are guys who, just like myself, have been radicalised by their journeys.

AARON: Paul, there are a lot of theories out there about “what to do with kids” in a house/organic church setting. You and I are in similar places in life with the ages of our kiddos. I’ve heard a lot of “ideas” for engaging kids (Ages 1.5 – 4.5) in a church gathering, and have recently experienced some after much searching. What does this look like for you and your family? Specifically, how do you ENGAGE your children in a gathering vs. “manage around them”?

PAUL: Ha, ha, this is the question I hoped you would answer for me, Aaron!! In the immortal words of Bono; “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” From a visitor’s perspective Ruth and I have visited some churches and been greeted with “Oh, you have an energetic two year old! Please sit in this side room with neither sight nor sound of the service. When we’ve finished our worship we will talk to you at the welcome desk.”

I have been impressed by some larger churches at the pentecostal end of the spectrum which run parallel age streams through the morning meeting. I like that each age gets to do church in a meaningful way, but regret that it separates families and segregates generations. Another growing pattern is “Come and bear with us as we help the kids do church in a way that engages them.” I like that but see the need for a supplementary program to edify the grown-ups. For a time-poor family that might add up to a lot of time.

Perhaps the best compromise is one where we’re all in together as much as possible for worship, fellowship and ministry times, and separate the ages out just for the teaching track. In my most recent plant that was the model we leaned to.

The commonest lament I hear among my urban and suburban neighbours is of churches grieving over having entirely lost contact with the current generation of young families and perplexing over why. Early on a Sunday morning, after six days at work, five beginning with the rush and panic of the school run, when the alarm goes off at 6.30 or 7am to get families to church for 9.30am or 10am I think I can guess at one reason why.

I hope that doesn’t sound critical because I loved each of the churches where I experienced each of those various scenarios. Right now in 2014 what I’m hungry for is a vibrant sense of Christian community for my kids. That’s what we have yet to find.

3) VOCATIONS AND PRIORITIES

PAUL: Aaron, tell us a bit more about your work in the market-place – your paid work. What do you do? Does it demean your paid work to call it “tent-making”? Do you see it as a vocation? How do you think of it?

AARON:…Currently, I work as a Production Manager for a Fiber Optic Engineering/Manufacturing company. I’m responsible for managing a couple of shifts with about 80 employees to ensure the parts we manufacture are assembled properly & shipped on time. I also run a business with my wife, & another married couple who we are in community with. The wives are hair stylists, and the husbands run the business development side of things.

Hmmm…I wouldn’t say it’s demeaning to call my paid work “tent-making” at all. I suppose, if you paint things black and white that may be what it is. Paul spread the Gospel, and made tents to support himself. I work the job I work not necessarily because I love (or even like) Fiber Optics, or engineering. I help manage and grow our small business with our friends not necessarily because I love hair salons and cosmetology (But working for yourself is certainly much more “fun” =) but because it provides for my family, and brings me life. Working brings me life. Using my gifts, and skills brings me life…there’s something in the Bible about working…somewhere in the middle…what is that book? Oh yea, Proverbs. Just because I no longer wake up, go to my office, and read my Bible for two hours “on the clock” does not make my job any less powerful/meaningful to the Kingdom.

We hear stories of powerful moves of God, and they always come from guys who get paid to be a Christian full time…so…of course those stories are BIG. They are newsworthy…and…they ARE. They are AMAZING stories. The problem is that it sends the wrong message to the laity. The clergy gets paid to “grow the kingdom” 40+ hours per week. So, they have lots of fruit to show for it. This standard is spread out through the Kingdom, and makes “normal folks” feel that they make little to no difference in the Kingdom – even if they TRULY want to…and…actually ARE; it just looks different. Right now my main focus is leading my family spiritually, and being in tight knit community pushing/being pushed closer to Jesus. Along the way Jesus opens up doors to branch outside of growing His Kingdom through discipling my family, and friends I’m in community with.

PAUL: Aaron, you have moved from a high profile, planting and ministry exemplar role to your current pattern. Have people accused you of “leaving the ministry” because of your decision to give so much of your time to the market-place? How do you respond to that?

AARON: I’ve actually never thought about it like that. I think most of the folks who walk with me know my heart well enough to know that if I’m doing something it’s because I heard God’s voice. I think one time a friend who worked closely with in my “vocational ministry” role pushed back a little bit simply because he didn’t want to see me “settle” for JUST discipling my family & potentially “wasting” an apostolic calling Jesus has placed on my life. I received his council, and it led me to the realization that while the season I’m in of discipling my family will never end there will be opportunities that come up to grow the Kingdom outside of that. My friend was encouraging me to be open to those opportunities and to take them. I would view this dialogue as one of those opportunities.

I can’t lie and say that there aren’t days that I miss the “posh” lifestyle of a “cutting edge” church planting pioneer (not my words). We got to make our own schedule, travel at will, and do some really neat things for the Kingdom. But, that season had to come to a close for me as God refined my heart and began preparing me for the next season. He spoke to me that it would come, and that I’d be better prepared for it. I always have, and continue to encourage any and all people in, or going into vocational ministry to be bi-vocational. To me it’s one of the most strategic ways to grow the Kingdom and protect against getting trapped in a “Christian bubble” where you’re always around people just like you.

 
AARON: Paul, tell me how you balance doing “big” meaningful things for the growth of the Kingdom (ie, the things that draw attention, get recognition, etc.) and the “small” seemingly less meaningful task of discipling a few people very closely for a couple of years at a time as Jesus modelled in the scriptures…the “big” things seem better. They get more attention. On the surface they seem to make more of an impact. Could we be missing out on the biggest thing of all? (Discipling a few to go and make disciples themselves – this doesn’t make the cover of a magazine, and nobody brings you to speak at their conference because you spent two years with three guys who go on to multiply the Jesus in them, in others)

PAUL: You’re probably right that the quiet, low profile, person-to-person is not what tends to get celebrated. It’s generally not what’s paid. Having said that, I am sensing a growing hunger for spirituality that equips the believer for his/her particular world. I think people are hungry for that. I think that people don’t want a spirituality that implies that their work (the bulk of their lives) is irrelevant to God, the kingdom of God or the Church. I find people resistant to a teaching that makes growing their church the Great Cause from which their work and their families are regarded as an unfortunate distraction. (Growing the church is, dare I say, a concern absent from the Gospel.)

In a way the fact that my work in the market place in 2014 has taken up the great proportion of my week really has forced me to value the “small” things. But then that’s not really so much of a shift when I reflect on it. When I think about it the fruit I have most valued through the years has been exactly the kind of low profile, person-to-person kind of ministry you’re talking about; those moments of being instrumental in another’s finding faith, or being pivotal in another’s journey in some other way. Those interactions – meeting, developing a relationship, Gospel-ing, praying through to assurance, discipling etc. – for me these have all taken place “outside” in the place of our scattered life. I guess that’s why I resonate so strongly with the image of the meeting place as the training place for the market place.

To make it personal, my work in real estate in 2014 has invited me in a fresh way into people’s lives in all their times of transition; births, marriages, deaths, promotions, retrenchments, children growing up, prosperity and pressure, relocations – the works. And my conversations in those moments can be multi-layered. Often people start opening up about their lives in a quite unexpected way. And sometimes those conversations can be significant.


4) FUNDAMENTALS AND UNITY

AARON: I see a lot of disunity in the body because of theological and doctrinal differences. Do you feel that at times those of us in the body get too caught up in things that we think are non-negotiables when they truly are not? Does it distract us as the Body from accomplishing God’s desire for His Kingdom?

PAUL: Well to generalise I haven’t found in Australia the same kind of aggressive polemics I encounter from time to time in the U.S. I was very blessed by my first church, St Andrew’s Chorleywood, which exposed me to the teaching and practice of a great smorgasbord of Christian traditions. Though charismatic renewal often occasioned conflict within congregations, at the same time it profoundly united swathes of believers across old boundaries of churchmanship and denomination. That experience was my start point in the faith – experiencing Gospel preaching, the things of the Spirit and a move to mission as three powerfully unifying forces among believers across many spectrums.

The versions of tradition-ism that I have been exposed to have been more about denominational sub-cultures seeking to safeguard their distinctives in-house. And, look, I reckon that all our traditions hold genuine treasures within them. But I have to say, when I hear people all concerned about maintaining in-house denominational distinctives in the face endemic decline and the loss of entire generations from the church’s ambit – well I can only think we have lost the plot! That’s why I really prefer your question, Aaron, about fundamentals and non-negotiables. Because that’s where we find our unity and our Godly purpose.

AARON: So what are the non-negotiables in your faith?

PAUL: My fundamental is that I believe in Jesus. And I believe in the only Jesus we have any objective access to – the Jesus of the New Testament. Because of the resurrection of Jesus I believe in God. Then, because Jesus said “these are Scriptures that testify to me” I find I have to take the Old Testament scriptures seriously. Not seeing them in a fundamentalist kind of way. I love the scope of prophecy, proverbs, poetry, praise, story, psalmody, history with interpretation and teaching in the OT. And because to receive the sent one is to receive the Sender, the Apostles’ teaching as we have it expressed in the New Testament is, for me, at the very centre of the equation. Everything else is secondary to those things.

Those are my perpetual start points…and that I think it’s good to be nice to each other – even when we differ on our “non-negotiables”!! I guess that’s what I saw modelled in my first church.

pauls-baptism.jpg
AARON: What if we were much less convinced of the negotiables and secondary things so that we could focus on working together to grow the Kingdom of God, trusting Him to work and move as we release control?

PAUL: Amen to that. Releasing control is a toughie with all of today’s proper concerns around professional standards. But for me the word “control” has a very negative overtone. Back in the 80s I saw monastic brothers and sisters birthing vibrant new churches in Amazonia’s interior while the diocesan structures seemed to be doing their best to stifle the new groups. This was because they were anxious that without sufficient priestly presence or control they could not guarantee how much like the mother denomination these Base Ecclesial Communities would end up looking!!

I may be harsh in my reading of it (I was very young at the time) but it still gets me in the gut that the authentic saving faith of those new communities and the holistic devotion of those new believers seemed to weigh so little against the denomination’s value of a predictable outcome in neat conformity with the old order. To me that’s completely back to front.

Today I think some denominations are dawning to the possibility of beginning relationships with the new and the grassroots in a spirit of acceptance and journeying together for the sake of mission – rather than beginning with censure and regulation and then wondering why we can’t develop a relationship.

5) AARON’S CHURCH COMMUNITY AND KIDS IN 2016

PAUL: Aaron, I know that in the past, like Ruth and me, you have been deeply involved in intentional community, and high-commitment residential expressions of church life. Are there other ways that your previous experiences in intentional community shape your current pastoral / church practice?

AARON: Woah. It’s crazy because what we are doing now looks completely different. But I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am without those experiences. Sort of cliche’ if you will, but truth. The things I value are different, which completely shifts the focus of what I pour my energy/time into. It’s simple really. Previously it was all about big, fancy, “cutting edge” ministry stuff that people would take notice of, write about in books, and do interviews on. Now, it’s much more low-key. It’s super relational. It’s life. In the season I’m in it’s focused on my family, and a few other families we are close with.

Our faith community looks different to anything we have done before. We’re almost a decade into this journey of “Organic Church” as some call it. We’ve started, helped start, been a part of, and trained many to start new churches. Of course, they have all looked different depending on the season of life we’re in. Right now, we’re in a very new season! We have three children under the age of five. That makes for a fun/interesting Kingdom life to say the least. We are no experts on the subject, but we couldn’t bear the thought of outsourcing the discipleship of our children to others, whether on “church day” or throughout the week. In our faith community there’s a culture established. Kids are not a distraction.

Many faith communities have that same aspiration, but continue to “manage around” their children. We are not interested in that. Now, we certainly can’t neglect mature, adult, deep, rich time together. However, we MUST make sure that the environment is such that the children are not only mere onlookers, but are engaged and are encouraged to participate in church life. Otherwise, this whole “Jesus thing” their parents do with the other adults is foreign until the one random day they are made to sit reverently with their parents in “big church”! So, we do some kid-focused stuff, and adult stuff. It’s natural. The kids don’t know any better, so they assume it’s all a part of “what we do” as a family & a church.

PAUL: Can you give us a snapshot of how you engage your children in your church’s gathered life?

AARON:  Our kids have “family church quilts” which they lay on the floor. They know to stay on their quilts (which is a constant battle ; )

1) We start by being quiet, turning on some worship music and asking God to speak to us. To share something encouraging with us for someone else in the family. I share Hebrews 3:13 and remind them that when we speak life into one another it pushes out darkness and the ability for sin to take root. We spend maybe 60 seconds “listening” (this would be longer with older children and adults) We come together and each person shares (on a good day my 6 year old has something sweet to share, my 5 year shares something completely unrelated to encouraging someone else in the room, the 3 year old is busy pestering his sister, and the 1 year old is nursing) But again, every now and again one or more of them “get it” and share something super life giving.

2) we get quiet again, turn on worship music and ask God to reveal something in our hearts that doesn’t belong. Something “yucky” that we want Him to heal in us. I read James 5:16 and share with the kids how important it is to confess our sins to bring them into the light so God can heal those areas of our hearts. We spend 60 seconds listening and then share. (This is usually Morgan and I modeling for the kids what humility and confession looks like while gently guiding them to hear God and be open to His correction. Sometimes one of them shares an actual sin or struggle and we pray for each other)

3) I get out the Jesus Storybook Bible and flip to a story that somehow relates to something someone has shared (i.e., if someone shared about being disobedient we read a story like Jonah and the big fish)

We’ll close with some prayer or a bethel kids worship video on YouTube or something. Every so often we’ll take communion together as a family which is super powerful.

That’s it. Three simple steps that have been super fruitful and shaping in the lives of not only the kids but my wife and I as well.

PAUL: Wow! I love what you are describing here. It’s a beautiful picture of close community – a cross-generational community doing what John Wesley called “close conversation”. We practised this too in Jesus Generation – except our band of GenYs hadn’t produced any kids at that point – just two little babies. So we didn’t quite get to the inter-generational experience that you now have going so beautifully. I guess that the pattern you have described really depends a) on the shared aspiration to disciple your children and b) on the intimacy that has grown in your web of community.

AARON: That’s right. These approaches flow from and come back to the root issue of the parents being the primary disciplers of their children. Then, having a tight knit community of others who play a role in that discipleship.

PAUL: What you’re describing – it sounds awesome – but it could sound like a heap of hard work for a young family – perhaps a bit daunting?

AARON: So many young families I meet and speak to on a regular basis look at me wide-eyed when I describe how simple and intentional our time together is! They often ask to join us, but I first encourage them to practice these three simple steps with their own family first…

And I probably should add a disclaimer: our children are now 6, 5, 3, and 1. So on a good day there is much struggle to make it through our time together. It’s not a walk in the park by any means. It’s hard work, and takes discipline, but we have believed that taking intentional time to drive these values home will make a lifelong impact on our kid’s ability to hear God’s voice and pursue Him when they leave our home. Every once in a while we walk away blown away by what we see God doing in the lives of our kids. From time to time He graces us with a glimmer of the fruit from our labor…

6) AARON’S NON-NEGOTIABLES & OUR 2016 TREE CHANGES

PAUL: I can strongly relate to what you say about the shape of this season with family and the pruned set of values and priorities that come from a journey through intentional community. I can see how both factors bring us to a place of fewer things being counted as important. Aaron, you asked before about the non-negotiables in my faith from a beliefs-perspective. What are your non-negotiables? Are they anything like mine?

AARON: Our non-negotiables are very much alike. I spent too much of my life debating with others on what I thought were non-negotiables when they truly were not. They were fruitless debates, and led to no real spiritual fruit in my life or the lives of those around me. My NG’s have been reduced more and more as I place more and more trust in the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His followers. That’s real faith right there.
I was raised in a culture that placed little to no stock in the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of an individual. The default was to teach a believer to be moral, and manage their sin well. Unfortunately, the Gospel of Grace flies right out the window as that begins to happen. It’s nonsense. Now my non-negotiables are simple, and easy:

· I believe Jesus is God’s son, and Salvation comes through faith in Him alone, that He did for you what you could not do for yourself.

· I believe He left us His Holy Spirit when ascended into Heaven to be at work in our lives as we play an active role of bringing the Kingdom of heaven here to earth until Jesus comes back.

· I believe very much in the Scriptures themselves, while at the same time being very hesitant to jump on board with any one particular interpretation of a passage of scripture. God gave me His Spirit so I could hear him, and be spoken to by Him. As I learn to hear His voice more and more I will learn to hear His voice through the scriptures.

Having a few, simple non-negotiables is freeing. I no longer care to debate about whether or not the gifts of the Spirit ceased 100 years after the last apostle died, or you’re “once saved always saved”, or if this or that is a sin, etc etc. Now, I’m free to know God, be known by Him, and introduce others to Him.

PAUL: Since we started this public part of our dialogue in 2014 you have made some significant life-changes. Can you tell us what’s new in 2016?

AARON: Wow, a lot! We recently moved out to the country on a small piece of land and have a bit of a hobby farm. Goats, chickens, ducks, dogs and a cat so far. We felt like our kiddos needed to experience “country life” outside of the city….and…scoop poop the humble them a little bit.

PAUL: This is another parallel; the Wallises too! We don’t have quite us much land and scope for animals as you guys, but our kids are revelling in our rural move in 2016 – what we call a “tree change” – to the Yarra Valley in semi-rural Victoria. Also we are loving life as part of a Vineyard Fellowship – back to our spiritual roots in a very real sense. It puts us in a place where we feel free to major on the majors and simply seek to follow God’s leading in community.

It’s a change of lifestyle for our kids. For us it’s a totally new experience to get them come home from school and see them immediately run outside into the big green space of the backyard because the kids across the fence are shouting for them to come and play. It’s a new thing for us to really have the time to eat and drink with our neighbours on the street – much as we would have loved to where we were before. People were just too stretched. We’ve always had good neighbours but where we were before our kids didn’t have that experience of neighbours and community.

Something about the pace of life here has opened up a social life for the kids too through school. Play dates and movie nights for the kids and the connections with other parents that all that brings. It’s still early days here for us but what we’re seeing begin to shape up, well it now feels how it should be – for the kids and the grown ups. We don’t have any animals yet but they’re on our list!!

So we’re finding that, for us, this is a season where our local and regional focus is stronger than ever. We love living here and we want to bless the place where God has brought us to live. Our church, Yarra Valley Vineyard also puts us in fellowship with a wonderful multi-generational community – with heaps of older and younger friends – including other young families for us to share life with. And we’re findingthat the friendlier pace of life in this part of the world is also enriching our social connections in the little town where our new home is. Neighbours, shopkeepers and tradespeople, and the people we are bumping into as we spend time in the neighbourhood – with all the potential that flows from that.

Keeping track with you guys on FB  I have loved watching the growth of your and Morgan’s business. How is all that working for you?

AARON: Our salon business – Jackalope Beauty Lounge – is growing exponentially and we are bringing on new members of the team every quarter. This has become our new ministry outside of discipling our kiddos. The impact we are able to have on young stylists who go through our apprenticeship program and become stylists at the salon is direct, deep, relational, and real. We continue to live out the Kingdom in our every day lives and refuse to compartmentalize our faith into a once per week gathering, be it in a church building or living room. We have a rich community of other believers who we do life with throughout the week and we have “family church” each week with the kiddos.

PAUL: Does that mean that ministry within the wider Christian scene is off the agenda for you?

AARON: If an opportunity presents itself to bring some sort of influence to a larger audience than that I prayerfully consider whether or not it fits within the boundaries the Lord has spoken to me for that particular season. It’s much more peaceful, about bringing God glory (not myself), and seems to be more in line with the example Jesus gives us in the scriptures. It’s a precious time for us as a family to connect and intentionally pursue God’s voice and direction for our lives.


THANKS!!

From time to time we each need to connect with a fellow pilgrim on a similar track for that sense of solidarity. I think of Mary needing to find Elizabeth – the only person in her world who could say “I know exactly what you’re talking about because, bizarrely, something similar has happened to me!” Their meeting reassured them both that God truly was in their surprising journeys!

Aaron, over the last nine years(!) our parallel explorations and transitions have been a bit like that for me! It’s been fun to share this part of our dialogue more publicly and I hope it has been a spur to others too. I love what you are doing and how you are sharing your journey. I look forward to comparing notes again further down the track! Aaron, love and blessings on your beautiful family, and on all that you’re doing, and thanks again!

AARON: Thanks Paul!