“I prayed out loud for the first time in my life this week…with my kids. I think I did it right,” shared one young mother, changing the trajectory of her whole family.
Story of Water City Church originally published in “Church Planting in Judea”
Twelve years ago, people everywhere (including me) were reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and not only reading it, but resonating with it. We began wondering if there might be a different way to do church… to be church. Relevant. Authentic. Messy. A safe community for the disengaged but interested who had been burned by or burned out on it all. That book was like a lottery ticket, a license to dream about how things might be. And then, eventually, we all went back to our day job. In my case, it was back to youth pastoring at a great church in Marshfield, Wisconsin where I would continue for three more years.
“I’m an interested agnostic. Just thought you should know,” one man filled out on his Welcome Card, after having checked out Water City for a couple of months.
But, things never really went back to normal for me. It was like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure book where the reader has to make a choice and go with it (i.e. “Turn to page 67 and just keep heading to the carnival. Or, set sail for Mystery Island on page 43”.) Unless the reader makes a choice, the story ends there. Like those books, life is full of choices that move our stories forward. My next ministry step was one of those choices: stay in Marshfield or set out on a journey that didn’t have a clear destination. So, our family prayed and talked and listened and took a risk. Church planting was the adventure we chose.
Water City Church in Oshkosh started as a group of friends around a dining room table, working through what this new church would hold as it’s values. Those conversations were our first, beautiful, wobbly baby steps. Months later, we had our first small public meeting on campus at UW-Oshkosh. A few weeks later, we transitioned to meeting in an old third floor photography studio on Main Street.
And then, it started happening. This thing that we had been dreaming about. People started coming. Individuals and families from all walks of life, and all different backgrounds, started coming . . . risking . . .sharing their stories with us . . . and engaging with The Story of Jesus. Over the past four years, Water City has been collecting and celebrating stories of risk, hope, healing, doubt, rescue, and faith. It’s been amazing.
“I’ve done the ‘church scene’ all over the country, and Water City is something special. The fact that my husband wants to come with us to church says a lot,” shared a young wife and mother, after their family relocated to Oshkosh, and found Water City.
One of the things we decided to do right from the beginning was to let go of the traditional definitions of church success that have been passed on for too long. Our success wasn’t going to be based on numbers of people or dollar amounts or total square footage. We were choosing to be committed to giving Jesus a better reputation in our city… even if that wasn’t easily quantifiable. Water City is not successful today because our attendance is in the 80’s. Water City wasn’t insignificant at our first gathering when there were only ten of us. We are what we are and we’re not yet what we are becoming. Success, for us, is being faithful and trying to do the next right thing… and then doing it again, and again, and again.
Even now, there are times when Water City reads like an unpolished rough draft. But, as God continues to reveal our story, and we’re woven into His, we see it’s such a beautiful narrative. Messy and beautiful. We’re excited for the opportunity to see what the the next page will bring.
Jason Fiedler (pastor)
Water City Church