I remember the day I met Jeremy Linneman. My wife and I were preparing to move out of our apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. We had grown as a family and needed more space for our kids, so we put an ad on Craigslist. A few days later a couple showed up at our door, having driven from Missouri, and told us they wanted to rent our place. We were thrilled! When all was said and done we came to learn that they were moving to Louisville to join, serve, and work for Sojourn Community Church, the local church where we were members. It was a great day for my wife and me; one we will never forget. God had answered our prayers in bringing a new, young, Christian family into our neighborhood. And he had brought friends into our lives that we continue to pray for until this day.
Since that time, Jeremy has spent years serving as a staff pastor at Sojourn, especially as it relates to community groups and spiritual formation. He's been a wealth of wisdom and an encouragement to many. So I decided to ask him about his recent transition from Kentucky to Missouri, from the (relatively) stable environment of his role as a staff pastor in an established church to the ever-changing, new experience of life as a church planter.
Casey Smith: You've been on a journey of transitioning from a staff position in a large church to moving back "home" to plant one yourself. How did that come about?
Jeremy Linneman: Last Fall, we began to really feel the Lord was calling us to move back to Missouri to put down roots and raise our kids around family. Church planting was our top option but felt really intimidating. Little did we know: God was already at work putting the team together. One of our friends, Lindsey, called my wife saying she had her dream job offered in Columbia, Missouri. Our other friends, Mark and Allison, took us out to dinner to ask our advice on their future ministry plans. They wanted to move back to Missouri to do ministry in a college town, preferably in a church plant. So before we had fully committed to the plant, we had three members and leaders!
Then, another couple from our community group, Garrett and Nicole, decided to join us in Columbia, and a family from Sojourn Community Church's J-Town campus, Paul and Betsy and their kids, heard me preach at their campus and offered to join our core team as well.
Lastly, an old friend from Kansas City had relocated with his family to work in this area, so they are joining us at Trinity as well. In the first week here, I met an 82-year old retired minister. He told me he had been praying for five years for God to send a church planter to his neighborhood—and that’s exactly where we had just bought a house. I often think of a quote from Thomas Merton: "God was at work before you got here, and he will be at work long after you’re gone."
CS: What have you been learning since getting to Columbia, MO?
JL: I’m learning that church planting is SLOW work, and I’m learning that I’m not that patient. In seven years of ministry at Sojourn, we experienced a lot of blessing—some seasons of incredible growth, the leaders and resources to move quickly, and a positive reputation across the city. But planting a church feels like the opposite: We have a few great leaders but very limited resources. @@We are building everything and we are building from nothing.@@ Most importantly, we are doing the hard work of meeting people, building relationships, and sharing the Good News. There’s no way to rush these relationships, and it’s growing me to appreciate the ordinary, slow work of the Holy Spirit. As my mentor Eric has said, “Soul work is slow work.”
CS: How did the Sojourn Network Lead Pastors & Wives' Retreat minister to you and your wife?
JL: First of all, it was just great to get away and reconnect with some of our best friends in the world—friends at Sojourn and at churches around the country. We are so blessed to have friends like the Jamison, Lewis, House, and Drury families, plus the Owens, Smiths, and Bozarths, and everyone else. And lead pastors that I’ve worked with in coaching cohorts or on community groups; we just love the relational strength of the network.
Second, Zach Eswine’s messages were incredibly timely and life-giving. He identified a significant idol in my heart: I want ministry to be fast, big, and spectacular, but God primarily works in the slow, small, and ordinary moments and relationships in life. And he pointed me to another area of internal striving in my soul, as I want to “know everything, fix everything, and be everywhere at once” for our church. But these are attributes of God—certainly not of me.
CS: How can we be praying for Trinity Church?
JL: There are a number of ways.
- Pray that we can continue to transition well as a family and as a team. My boys (8, 5, and 3) are getting used to their new home and school, so we are trying to make this place as familiar and peaceful as possible.
- Several members of our team are still looking for work in town here.
- We have a few big decisions to make, like where to focus our planting efforts, either in central Columbia or the southwest neighborhoods, and if we’re going to join another network or denomination in addition to Sojourn Network.
- We are cultivating dozens of relationships with unchurched friends, so pray that the Spirit works in these relationships to draw people to the Father. Our prayer is that the Lord would allow us to meet and have spiritual conversations with 500 people over the next six months, and we are praying for ten baptisms in the next twelve months.
- We just started meeting together on Sunday nights in our home for dinner, fellowship, Bible study, discussion, and prayer. We’ve had 17 different adults join us in the first three weeks, so pray that we can minister to these folks well and continue to see new people coming every week.