I never come to an NextGen expecting to leave the same.

In fact, I have been a part of this movement in one way or another for over a decade, and each time I come, God usually pulls me back from activity and into a closer relationship with Him. I had grown accustomed to this, and in my heart, I was already searching to see where I was placing activity for God above my relationship with Him.

The unexpected happened, though, in the very first session.

A bit of backstory first.

I was involved with a micro church planting movement a few years ago when I lived in Miami. I watched these small churches start in the unlikeliest places and saw the unlikeliest people turn from their ways and follow Christ.

As we prepared to move back to Tennessee, a co-laborer asked me what was next for us in the ministry.

“Ginger’s,” I told him.

Ginger’s is a deli a mile or two down the road from where I grew up and now live. Ginger’s has always had great food, but I remember many “church” people in the area wouldn’t go there because the deli sold beer and attracted people they did not want to associate with.

To condense an incredibly long and sad tale, I live in a coal community with no coal left. Poverty and drugs have overtaken the area. Many of “those people” ended up at Ginger’s throughout the community’s decline.

After I saw what I saw in Miami I knew Ginger’s was a place the Lord could bring blessing.

But I moved and thought I would take some time to get settled. So I settled, but then Covid hit. And then an unexpected job that left me little time for ministry. Eventually, God gave me a new job with more margin for ministry. By this time, three years have passed since I moved. And I still thought of Ginger’s now and then. I still knew this was something I was supposed to do. But for some reason, I wouldn’t pull the trigger.

Then I went to NextGen, looking for ways that God would pull me out of activity and into a deeper relationship with Him. From the first session, it could not have been clearer – I sensed God telling me: if you want a deeper relationship this time, you will have to find me on mission. As soon as I heard that, I knew what God was saying. Come find me at Ginger’s.

So at 2 pm April 24, 2023, I wrote in my journal, “Plant a church/community at Ginger’s – she is the person of peace.”

God was not calling me out of activity but into activity. A week or so after NextGen and much prayer, I went to Ginger’s to ask her if she would be willing to host a Bible study.

Little did I know she had rededicated her life to the Lord recently and had even been praying about how to use her business for God. In fact, she said she had just spoken to her pastor about that very thing, and he told her she should start a Bible study. And with tears in her eyes, she said, “I told Him I could host a Bible study, but I couldn’t start one; God would have to send somebody to do that, and I guess He just did.” We prayed and cried, and two weeks later, we started our little Bible study.


Since then, we have baptized five people and have a few more ready to be baptized. We have seen someone rescued from suicide. We have seen a mom who lost both her kids to drugs finding hope for the first time. But we have seen struggles, too. One of our members is currently in jail, one is dealing with the aftermath of an abusive relationship, and one doesn’t want to come anymore because she doesn’t want us to see her high. It has not all been roses — bruised roses, maybe.

Even with the hard things, on Monday nights, when I look around and share the truth of Jesus through shadows of cigarette smoke and vape clouds, I couldn’t be happier.

The first story we read together was from Luke 7 about the sinful woman. At the end of that story, I asked which character everyone identified with, and for the first time in my life, everyone said the sinful woman, not the Pharisee.

Ginger has opened her deli every Monday night for this community. She has stayed up into late hours of the night, counseling people and praying with them. She has spent 16 years as a business owner in this community earning the trust and the right to share what she is sharing now – and people are listening.


This year, the NextGen was different. This year, the NextGen has thrust me into one of the busiest seasons of my life, but maybe the most rewarding I have had. It led me to have a conversation that unlocked a local hero – Ginger. I teach every week, but Ginger is our pastor. She is the shepherd, and doing ministry with her has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. If she reads this, she will dispute that, but it is entirely true.

All that to say, you never know what will come out of the NextGen. I have left NextGen with deep conviction before, with long seasons of prayer, and now, I leave to join a misfit community that other churches in the area can’t seem to wrap their head around. But as long as God brings shalom to our town through this little Bible study at Ginger’s, I’ll stay along for the ride.