Together for a Purpose

Posted on July 9, 2021 by VMMissions Staff

In both marriage and the church, God brings together people who have different gifts and ways of perceiving the world in order to build communities that provide a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven.

By Tyler Yoder

My pulse was increasing, my muscles tense, my stomach in knots. I was starting to sweat as I told Kendra that it would be better for us to just walk the 15 minutes back to our car, order online, and drive to pick up the food, rather than simply go inside the double doors of the restaurant right in front of us. I did not want to walk into an establishment I had never been in before and have to figure out their takeout policy and menu in front of their employees.

At first I couldn’t explain to Kendra any rationale behind my logic. It was just what I impulsively felt would be best. After noting her confusion and realizing the absurdity behind my approach to this innocuous scenario, I remembered an article I had just read. The article addressed the rise in social anxiety being experienced as we are re-entering social situations we have been deprived of during the pandemic.

So I confessed to her, “I think my social anxiety is kicking in. I’ll go in to the restaurant if I can follow you and you do most of the talking.” Bolstered by her confidence, I followed her through the double doors, approached the counter and proceeded to order some chicken pad thai that needed just a little extra sriracha sauce to be perfect. But while eating the food, I kept silently asking God the question: Why would you call someone with social anxiety to plant a church?

Tyler and Kendra Yoder walk through the Manchester neighborhood of Southside Richmond, Va., where they have planted Garden City Church as VMMissions church planters. Photo by Carol Tobin
I have always struggled with mild social anxiety. I never know when it is going to flare up or how severe it will be. It has been a consistent small voice in the back of my head ever since I first remember feeling it in ninth grade biology class. Kendra and I have learned that we can use her steadfastness in social situations to help me through my anxiety at times. There is something about having another person with you that helps you stand firm in the face of life’s challenges.

We encounter the same phenomenon in church communities. People within a local church gather to support each other and help each other become more Christ-like. We yoke together and carry each other’s burdens as we also practice casting our burdens on Jesus. Having a community of committed Christ-followers around us increases our strength. “A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecc. 4:12). As we support each other and together learn how to follow Christ more fully, we model this way of being for the world. Alexia Salvatierra says in Faith-Rooted Organizing that churches work “to change the broader community while also becoming a model community.” She insists that we cannot change the broader community if we have not first worked at becoming “a model community.” This work of “becoming” is continuous until Jesus makes all things new.

In our marriage, Kendra and I are always learning how to relate with each other better, and we will continue to learn for the rest of our lives. We cannot let the never-ending aspect of this discourage us. This work is essential for us to become that model community, to become a sign and foretaste of the kingdom of heaven. This doesn’t mean that we will have the “perfect marriage” and that people from all nations will flock to us to hear our marriage advice, but it does mean that we need to be intentional in small ways to reconcile our differences and build each other up in love. We each have different gifts and ways of working in and perceiving the world, and this will cause tension, innovation, and joy in our marriage. With God’s grace, and intentionality on our part, we can both lean into and work through these differences.

One of Kendra’s passions is exploring ways of being human, researching various personality tests and organizational systems. This research has helped us immensely, both in our marriage and in our church planting work. We have learned from Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point that I am energized by information and ideas; she is energized by people. We realize that we need someone on our team who is energized by exciting people about the ideas! We have learned from Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. I feel loved by acts of service while Kendra feels loved by words of affirmation. We have learned from DISC profiles that I am motivated by chances to use knowledge and she is motivated by opportunity.

Each of these learnings, and more, have helped Kendra and me to become more of a model community together. Moreover, they have helped us learn more about how to interact with members of our church, encourage them in their daily lives, train new leaders, and see what our group might need. We are in the process of becoming a model community between the two of us, and our church gathering is working to become a model community as well.

This is one reason we have felt called to focus on house churches as the centerpiece of planting Garden City Church. Lasting discipleship happens most consistently within smaller groups. Smaller groups provide more opportunities to be bolstered by each other’s confidence. We can work at becoming a model community together.

So back to my earlier question: Why would God call someone with social anxiety to plant a church? Well, I have learned that God is not just calling me to plant Garden City Church, but he has placed Kendra and me with each other to embark on this work together. In fact, it isn’t even just Kendra and I that are planting Garden City Church. God has also called others to partner with us in this work. We have been trained and sent by Eastside Church in Harrisonburg. We are appointed workers through Virginia Mennonite Missions. God has called people here in Richmond to join us. To say that I alone am called to this work—or even just Kendra and I—falls short. God has called all of us together for a purpose: to plant Garden City Church in Richmond, Virginia’s Southside, to see this part of Richmond reflect Christ.

What is the purpose to which God is calling you? And who does God intend to be your partners? None of us are on this journey of life alone, and none of us can do it alone. God has graciously given us the local church—the family of God—to go through this journey together. As we learn about our individual giftings and personalities and how we complement each other, as we learn to carry each other’s burdens, as we learn to bolster each other’s confidence, as we learn to bear with one another, Jesus is made tangible among us. “They will know we are Christians by our love” when we are together—together for a purpose.

Tyler Yoder serves with his wife Kendra as church planters with Garden City Church in Richmond, Va.

Filed in: All posts, News, Transforming


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