My call story begins in my fifth grade science class when I learned about the cardiovascular system. I was utterly captivated by the heart and started dreaming about becoming an open heart surgeon. I knew from age 11 that I would be working on hearts, I just assumed at the time that it would be through surgery.
During this journey to the medical field I became involved in my church’s youth group, where I was continually discouraged and theologically dismissed for wanting to be a leader—simply because of my gender. A holy discontent began to brew in my heart throughout high school and into college. I was living in the dissonance between how the Christian communities I was a part of were living and how I felt the kingdom of God should be.
In college, I had the opportunity to work in an ecumenical campus ministry where I began to wrestle, grow, and fail like never before. It was primarily through this experience that I made the slow shift from the medical field to the ministry field with the plan to be a hospital chaplain. That desire is what brought me to Fuller in 2013. After completing one quarter at Fuller, I began to pray for opportunities to enter into the secular marketplace in order to immerse myself in spaces with the unchurched and dechurched. By the end of my second quarter, I started working for a healthcare management start-up company. This job took me away from Fuller for a few years, but in the process I discovered an entrepreneurial and creative spirit I never knew I had. Through writing business plans, doing market analysis, and meeting with investors, I began to consider the idea of church planting. This consideration led to many talks with mentors and about six months of praying and discerning before I finally quit my job at the beginning of 2016 and came back to Fuller.
Since my return to Fuller this past spring, I have been excited about church planting in Los Angeles. With that enthusiasm, I have also experienced a lot of anxiety. I stepped into a field where, historically, not a lot of young single females have ventured, and I did not have a clear sense or call of where I should plant. However, as I learned in my very first class at Fuller from Dr. Scott Cormode, “as leaders we are required to simply take the next faithful step.” Indeed, I took my next faithful step by connecting with as many church planters as possible in the area. In these connections, I have felt an unsettling mix of excitement and discouragement. The excitement has come from several church planters, professors, and other Fuller students affirming this call in my life and helping me through the discernment process. It is also exciting to see how God is working and moving in Los Angeles through church planting.
The discouragement has come from often being the only female in the room (who is not the wife of a church planter). Stepping into spaces with other church planters I have been singled out to do tasks like set out the food, even though there were men in the room who could have done it. I have been handed brochures designed for women about “finding your role in church planting” that offer lovely resources for wives of church planters, but miss the point of my calling. This summer I was able to take the Starting and Multiplying New Churches class, which not only gave me a lot of valuable information but also affirmed my calling to plant a church, not by proxy as a spouse. Through a time of prayer in this class, I received a picture from God of a street sign: 58th and Figueroa Street. I am still fleshing out what that all means with God and my community, but since that moment I have had an indescribable peace from God about where I am going.
My call to church plant has been formed by a sense of holy discontent, by my work experiences, by discovering my gifts, and by God’s revelation and vision in my life. Friends, I would encourage you if you are sensing a call or a desire to church plant, pursue it. Find safe people in your life to process with, and listen. Don’t be afraid to ask God for vision. I am reminded so often that this is not our work, but rather God’s work that we get to participate in. If you are a woman who wants to church plant but feel intimidated, that’s okay. It is intimidating, but I can tell you that there is ample support from the Fuller community and several church planters in Los Angeles. Connect with your denomination, a church planting organization, or the church planting student group at Fuller. Do not give up on a calling or even a desire to church plant for the wrong reasons. Let God surprise you.
Kali Reider is pursuing an MDiv with an emphasis in Church Planting at Fuller. Make sure to read her Student Spotlight on the School of Intercultural Studies’ Facebook page. For more information on the Church Planting Emphasis, click here.