When you start working/living in a new place, you often hear stories of what it was like before you came. I started working at Christ Community Church in April of 2005. One of the individuals I heard about was Ethan Burmeister. Ethan hadn’t been at CCC for five years, but yet people still talked about him.
The tough thing can be to sift through the things you hear to get an accurate picture of what actually transpired. Why do I say that? Because Ethan moved on from CCC to start Core Community
, a church in midtown Omaha. It was confusing because I heard he was fired, I heard he was sent out to start Core, I heard it was a mutual decision for him to be “released into ministry”. (“Released into ministry” can sometimes be the nice way of saying “you’re fired”.)
Ethan’s personality was also memorable and distinct, which probably added to CCC people still talking about him years after he wasn’t here. One thing that was common about everything I heard about Ethan was he was an incredible communicator and teacher.
So, I heard a lot about Ethan before I ever met him. You don’t want to “judge a book by its cover”, but it was tough to not have some perceptions about Ethan before I met him.
One of my good friends, Nathan Higgs, attends Core Community. He would also tell me stories about Ethan, but he’d also tell me about the great things happening at Core. The past few years, Nathan and I would trade stories about our respective churches, encouraging one another with the great things happening at each church.
While I was introduced to Ethan at last year’s Big Omaha conference, I didn’t really get to know him until earlier this year. I received an email from Ethan asking for advice regarding some tech purchases. I got some coworkers together (Micah Yost, Nick Kelly and Marc Birkey), and we went down to the Core offices to help in any way we could.
We talked for over an hour about ministry and tech. Part of me was also observing. Two reasons. First, I’d heard a lot about Ethan. I wanted to form my own thoughts and opinions and not be shaped by other people’s experiences from ten years ago. Second, I wondered if something greater was at work. There was the recent public reconciliation between Trinity and CCC
, and I wondered if God was doing something to strengthen the relationship between Core and CCC.
I came out of that initial meeting pumped up. It was cool to get to know Ethan directly. He was great, smart, but more importantly has a passion for Jesus and the city of Omaha. (Likewise, it was also good to meet Doug Stevens
at that meeting. He’s the Executive Pastor at Core. Ethan is the Lead Pastor.) As well, to me it seemed obvious that God was doing something to restore the relationship between CCC and Core.
Was the relationship between CCC and Core bad? I don’t think I’d say that. Awkward is probably a better description. And maybe I say that from a CCC vantage point. CCC had this weird break with Ethan, but then there was always support for Core. When CCC talked about past church plants it directly or indirectly was involved with, Core was one that was referenced. People were respectful and happy for Ethan and Core. So, you had a church that was “birthed” out of CCC, but yet not strong relations with it.
At Big Omaha this past May, I crossed paths with a number of the Core leaders. I talked with Ethan briefly again, but I also talked with Doug and Matthew Smith. (Matthew is the Formation Pastor at Core.) It was fun talking to them about God, Omaha and the various things we were hearing at Big Omaha.
While I was hearing about what was taking place at Core, they were hearing and observing what was taking place at CCC. Ethan was also present when CCC and Trinity had their public reconciliation, and blogged about the experience
. They liked Lead Pastor Mark. They liked the creativity and freshness we were bringing in presenting the gospel.
Talking with the Core guys, we realized we should do something together between CCC and Core. What that would be, I didn’t know.
I then had an idea to have the leaders from Core come in for CCC staff prayer. We’ve had people from the outside come in before, and we’ve taken time to pray for other churches, businesses, schools and organizations. Why not pray for Core alongside the leaders from there?
Staff take turns facilitating the staff prayer. I knew my turn was coming up. I presented the idea to Doug Stevens and Steve Walters. Doug said he and the rest of the Core guys were for it. Steve liked the idea, but had me double check with Mark. Mark’s response was an enthusiastic yes.
So, this past Thursday we had Ethan and Matthew from Core in for staff prayer. (Doug was on vacation and couldn’t attend.) Some staff were surprised to see them walk in for prayer, but everyone there was warm and receptive to the guys. I shared a bit, jokingly referring to Ethan being “released” into ministry to start Core. Ethan then shared some of his story, along with what’s going on at Core.
I wish people could’ve witnessed the time. I was blessed and encouraged to hear Ethan share. He was humble and personal with his words.
We had a great time praying for Core. We prayed for its people, the redemption groups, its needs, its future and much more. I was in the group with Matthew and really appreciated praying with him.
At the end of the time, we gathered around Ethan and Matthew. I asked Steve Walters’ if he could pray a prayer of blessing over them. Ten years in the making.
Now what? Who knows, but the relationship between CCC and Core is stronger. I had a number of staff come up to me throughout the day thanking me for bringing in the Core guys. Some other staff were thinking of other churches we should do this with. Cool. We need to strengthen the relationships between churches, especially when it comes to churches we have such a close connection to.
While it’s great to have stronger ties with Core, I’m glad I’ve become friends with Ethan, Doug and Matthew. I’m excited to see and hear all God is doing, and will continue to do, through them and Core.
Finally, thanks to my friend Nathan who played a role in this whole thing, whether he realized it or not. Nathan has been gracious with his time as well, meeting with some of the CCC staff to discuss how Core does renewal/recovery ministry.
Excited to see where God takes Core and CCC now.
To find out more about Core, visit their website by clicking here. You can also follow their blog by clicking here. Their Sunday services take place at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Check it out some time.