Andrea Abrahamson left ministry with no plans to return. The departure occurred shortly after finishing an MBA at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“I started in ministry when I was relatively young—knowing the Lord was calling me to it, but not having a category in my mind,” said Abrahamson. “I served in some creative arts departments, then left working in the church and thought, ‘I’m never going back.’”
Abrahamson eventually found her way into The Wesleyan Church (TWC), where she felt a call toward church planting. She enrolled at Asbury Theological Seminary to study church planting, but the thought of planting a church was unnerving, eventually leading her to seek employment at an established church upon graduation.
Around this time, Dr. Ed Love, now TWC director of Multiplication, began noticing the absence of churches in the Greater Lansing, Michigan, area. Love and Chris Conrad, West Michigan District superintendent, started to imagine how God might meet the need for churches within Lansing.
“Our total attendance in Lansing churches was under 600,” said Conrad, “while our total attendance in Grand Rapids churches was over 4,000 … this wasn’t just about Wesleyan churches … if you looked at the Lansing landscape, the entire area was under-churched.”
God made it very clear where I should be planting—and made it clear that the time was now!
After identifying the need for discipling communities, Love and Conrad began praying for a network of church planters who could support each other as they attended to the spiritual needs in Lansing. They named this burgeoning network, The Lansing Initiative (TLI).
Having grown up in the thriving Grand Rapids community and having moved on to a career in an established church, Abrahamson was seemingly an unlikely candidate to move to Lansing. Though her call to plant a church was suppressed for a season, “God made it very clear where I should be planting—and made it clear that the time was now!
“About a week later, I called Ed [Love] and said, ‘I think I’m finally ready—what do I do?’ So, Ed started talking with me about Lansing,” said Abrahamson. “I just started taking day trips and talking with people about the city, driving through neighborhoods, sitting in coﬀee shops and I felt God burdening my heart for the city.”
Since moving to Lansing in September of 2017, Abrahamson’s read on the cultural landscape has changed her engagement with Scripture.
“Sometimes in our [launch team] larger group conversations, I’ve wondered, ‘How do we preach the Good News of Jesus instead of harping on issues?’ How do we re-present the beauty of the gospel in our community?’
“Obviously formation and confronting issues have to happen, but I’ve challenged myself to communicate the beauty of Jesus in the larger context while in the smaller context confronting issues as they need to be addressed.”Andrea Abrahamson
The people God has brought into these conversations have been demographically surprising to Abrahamson.
“One member of our team grew up in a universalist church, and her daughter who is around fourteen years old said, ‘I think I’m going to be an agnostic.’ Her mom said, ‘Let’s find a church.’ Now, several months later, her daughter is starting to talk with me about—though she didn’t use these words—how God is speaking to her heart,” Abrahamson said. “They’re hearing Jesus talk to them, even when they can’t name it as such. Our team is heavy on baby Christians and light on seasoned disciples. But this is heartening to me because Jesus took people who were hungry and ready to grow—and he taught them.”
As the launch team leans into God’s activity in Lansing, they hope to see discernible changes in their community.
“If Transformation Church is truly praying, ‘Your kingdom come in Lansing,’ we are going to see actual, statistical, measurable shifts that say, ‘That’s not just the church growing; that’s the kingdom,’” she said. “People are being broken free from addiction, marriages are reconciling, kids are graduating high school, drugs are lessening and our city has come to life in a new way.”
As The Wesleyan Church places an emphasis on transforming presences in every ZIP code, The Lansing Initiative is a model for missional communities. “TLI is another sign of what we’re trying to do, which is win people to Jesus and to believe God for greater things: not just for what we can produce, but for supernatural things,” said Conrad.
Under Abrahamson’s leadership, Transformation Church’s launch team continues to work, pray and befriend their neighbors as they prepare to launch their first service in September 2018.
In all the areas I’m feeling inadequate, I’m realizing how adequate God is.Andrea Abrahamson
“Coming into this season of church planting, in all the areas I’m feeling inadequate, I’m realizing how adequate God is,” said Abrahamson. “He doesn’t call us to abandon us; he calls us to form and shape us. In areas where I’ve been worried about my own weaknesses, he shows his strengths more and more.”
“Pray that when Jesus works, he works through his church,” Abrahamson said. “And that when we pray, we pray knowing you might be the one he sends into the field. That might be planting a church, but that might be getting to know your next-door neighbor.”