Seth McCoy is a native of Southern California and currently resides in Saint Paul’s Midway neighborhood. He co-owns a neighborhood cafe, can create latte art, and really can taste a difference between good and bad coffee. He’s been married to his best friend Jennifer for 20 years and has 3 kids: Judah (19), Glory (15), and Sials (12). He spent most of his ministry career leading and teaching at mega churches and discovered Anabaptism through a weekend at the Simple Way with Shane Claiborne, the writing of Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder, and the gifted and gracious people of Shalom Mission Communities.
Third Way is a new church that some friends and I planted along the University Corridor in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We are primarily first generation Mennonites, and there are currently about 60 of us. We worship Sunday evenings with mainly folksy music and a good number of kiddos in a former Presbyterian Church building. Most all of us participate in house churches of 15-20 that meet weekly to live out the rhythms of family, missionaries, servants and learners. We mostly choose to live in proximity to other community members with some folks doing that under the same roof.
One of the founding couples of Third Way and I own a neighborhood cafe called Groundswell that is run by a Third Way member and employs a few other members. It serves as a gathering place throughout the week for Third Way folks and our neighbors. It is an experiment in non-agrarian common work.
I confess that I am a novice Anabaptist, and at times not even a very good one. I became Mennonite because I was enticed and converted by an Anabaptist theology, which I discovered primarily through Anabaptist books, along with making some new Mennonite friendships. Often times when I am with Mennonite folks, we will be in conversation and someone will use a German-sounding word, and everyone will nod their head and I will be puzzled, wanting to nod my head, but having no idea what is being talked about. Graciously, someone will notice that I am lost and will carefully explain what is being talked about so I don’t feel left out. It is during these times that I am reminded that I am new to the story that God is writing in the Mennonite tradition. In this scenario, I will confess that I have lots to learn and catch up on since I don’t have the benefit of having grown up in a Mennonite congregation. And most of the time that is met with a strong word that my outside experience is not a detriment, but a benefit. I still wonder how much of my experience and work at churches so different from Mennonite Church USA churches can be helpful, and in what ways.
Recently I have been returning to some moments that were key to my life and my development as a leader within the church. I think we have all had key moments in our lives when someone or something caused us to pause and make choices that shaped who we have become as people. It is undeniable that Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Ill., did that for me. I spent most of my time in ministry working at Willow Creek churches, and even though I have found my theological home in the Mennonite Church, Bill’s passion for leadership and the local church have stuck with me. I can’t shake it. Here are two things of immense value that I have brought with me into my leadership of our Mennonite church plant, Third Way. Maybe they are a beginning to what I can bring to the rich life, theology and tradition I have found in Mennonite Church USA.
Vision still matters. Bill Hybels, in a creative and short video excerpt from one of his recent sermons, says that vision is “a picture of the future that ignites passion and commitment.” I was reminded that when Third Way got started all we had was vision, and it has been exhilarating. We still don’t have much but vision, however I would rather have vision and struggle for resources than have resources and struggle for vision. Right now at Third Way we are renewing and enlarging our vision for the future. As we are giving shape to this vision, we imagine filling multiple empty neighborhood church buildings in St. Paul with vibrant and passionate Mennonite congregations. I am thrilled to be doing it as a Mennonite and to be doing it with a group of capable and passionate pioneers at Third Way!
Jesus is still asking for our best. When did God bring anything less than the very best? Never. I am convinced that if and when individual people in the church get serious about bringing the BEST of their gifts to the ministry and life of the church, it transforms it and fuels it. No kingdom movement was ever fueled by leftovers. Jesus has simply not stopped calling out to his followers, saying, “I have a significant role for YOU to play in building my church.” Around Third Way, teachers, leaders, administrators, musicians, shepherds and nursery workers are saying “yes” to their roles and it is an invigorating and vibrant place to serve.
I hope that in the future, as Third Way takes root and grows, we will feel more and more at home in Mennonite Church USA, and Mennonite Church USA will feel more and more at home with us.