Aaron and Morgan Snow
When I first talked with Aaron Snow at Shapevine in 2007 he was working in Las Vegas as a catalyst and leader of Intentional Gatherings, an organic movement in the world of intentional close communities of faith. For nine years we corresponded on the twists and turns of organic church life, each of us drawing on some rich and varied ministry experience. Our points in common and our points of difference made for a stimulating conversation, taking in matters of church, vocation, intentional community, business, family life and the nature of the Christian life. The extract of our conversation which we agreed to publish focuses on our transitions in the years 2014-2016. I hope what we shared might encourge you if you are on a similar journey.
PAUL: Aaron, you and I have both worked in grassroots ministry among university students, developed forms of intentional community among millennials – you with Intentional Gatherings and me with Jesus Generation. We are both known as missional bloggers, 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 while you’re Gen Y – a full twenty years younger than me. Not wanting to get an “older brother complex” here, 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, and 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 a business 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 realization 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.