Michigan church plant embodies "Journey of Grace"
Months before the Board of General Superintendents launched the Journey of Grace global discipleship initiative, Sharon and Brent Norman began planting the Journey of Grace Church of the Nazarene in Saginaw, Michigan. In hindsight, the Normans are amazed that God brought together their church's vision and the recently launched Journey of Grace framework.
The Normans hope Journey of Grace Church of the Nazarene will be a community where people are welcomed, challenged, and transformed. They see the church building as a “headquarters” for what the congregation is doing in the community.
“You’ll see us here on Sunday and whenever we have other discipleship activities,” Sharon said. “But otherwise, the church needs to be sent. It cannot stay in the building.”
Their path to planting the church is a journey in and of itself. The Normans had been serving faithfully in Grand Rapids until 2013 when they received an offer to go to Kankakee, Illinois, or Saginaw, Michigan. They drove through Saginaw to take a look at the area and discuss whether or not the time was right.
“I said, ‘If we move here right now, we will do good things,’” Sharon said. “’But if we want to do great things, we need to go where we can get the training and experience we need to lead God’s people.’”
They chose to go to Kankakee, where Sharon served at Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene and Brent worked on his master’s degree at Olivet. In 2018, Randy Owens, pastor of Saginaw Valley Church of the Nazarene, called them again about serving in Saginaw.
After Owens left, the Normans put their name into the mix to be lead pastors of the church. They soon learned they didn’t receive the call to pastor Saginaw Valley by just five votes.
When they broke the news to their children, their youngest said, “So, when do we start our own church?”
The Normans began exploring the idea of church planting and discovered there was another Nazarene church that had closed a few years prior. In the fall of 2020, The Michigan District decided to open the property to them and their plant: Journey of Grace Church of the Nazarene.
The ethos of their ministry is rooted in their beliefs about what the Church is supposed to be.
“We have to stop making Christ and Christianity fit us,” Brent said. “We have to start allowing the Holy Spirit to change us and shape every inch of what we do. [We have to] allow it to enter those uncomfortable spaces so that it will actually do the work that it can do.”
As Nazarene leaders launched the Journey of Grace framework, the Normans found that it perfectly articulated the thoughts and ideas behind their ministry.
“We need to let them belong and be a part,” Sharon said. “The reality is people will belong before they believe. They’ll want to be like the crew they’re with, and they’ll figure out why the crew they’re with behaves the way they do, and then they may believe.
“For so long, we have put the cart before the horse. We want them to behave first, and the reality is that you can’t take a man out of the gutter and dress him up like he’s a CEO and think that’s just going to make it work. You have to meet him where he is.”