My five-year-old son still asks to go back and visit occasionally. When we drive by a neighborhood church, his view from the back seat will catch a glimpse of an Episcopal church. No, we didn’t change denominations. He remembers when a dream and lots of prayers led a small group of people to starting a Baptist church in that building.

In 2012, after months and months of praying, seeking, denying, and finally accepting, a small group of folks began the process of starting a church. The folks who were drawn to our community were mostly folks who were not attending church anywhere and were looking for community. We were different in many ways than the plethora of other Baptist churches in our area. We were going to be community led, open our doors to anyone, and have a woman pastor.

Balancing being a work from home mom was challenging and exciting. I loved the weekly routine of sermon preparation and worship planning. In the first year, my family welcomed a new baby into our lives and suddenly, my time, energy, focus was split again. More demands at home stretched me thinner and thinner. The community was understanding, but I always felt like they deserved more time and attention than I was able to give to them. I struggled. I wasn’t giving my best to anyone in my life, and I felt like everyone was suffering.

After much prayer and many tears, I knew I needed to step down from being their pastor. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I felt like a failure and like I was giving up. The next few months, as I reclaimed time with my family, I struggled with doubts, feelings of failure, and wondering if I had misheard God’s call to begin the new church at all.

It’s funny though. My son doesn’t consider the church a failure. He remembers playing on the playground at the church and watching the musicians practice. He remembers meals around the dinner table with our church family, the games they would play with him, or the time he stood beside me on my last Sunday offering communion. His longing to go back reminds me of the good times, too. Instead, of listening to the voices of doubt and fear, I choose to believe that our church’s year and a half journey was a courageous one. It was one that created beauty, love, and friendship together as we worshipped God each week. Thanks be to God for the community of St. Clare Baptist Church, the life we shared together and the places we went from there.

In an interview with Krista Tippett, Carrie Newcomer said,

“… I think courage has nothing to do with being fearless. I think courage has everything to do with loving something or someone so much that you will brave it with solid feet or shaky knees because you love it that much.”

The journey to start a new church was one filled with that kind of courage. It’s the kind of courage to follow God with shaky knees into unknown ministry opportunities. It’s also the kind of courage that knows when to bless something as good and walk another direction, on solid feet.

Ministry is not a solid path only for those with a clear calling from God. It takes on many different twists, turns, and terrains. It requires courage to trust in the nudges, the dreams, and the prayers with solid feet or shaky knees. Be courageous!

LeAnn Gunter Johns is a 2004 graduate of McAfee School of Theology. She has served churches in Georgia and California and now lives in Macon, Georgia with her husband, Barry and their sons, Parker and Patrick. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Stanford Cardinal and Mercer Bears, running, and drinking coffee!