I’d rather work with a man of A-grade character and B-grade gifting than a man of B-grade character and A-grade gifting. That’s not to diminish the value of gifts. I’d just rather work with a man who drives not only to achieve through his gifting, but drives to personal excellence as he goes about the work of achieving. Of course, this means measuring personal excellence according to the Lord’s economy, not man’s economy.
So, while the temptation seems overwhelming to evaluate the local church with the typical ABCs of success measured by Attendance, Building and Cash, the Lord uses those ABCs as secondary measures of success, not primary measures. If I understand the Scriptures correctly and Revelation 2 and 3 specifically, the Lord at His core is deeply concerned about who we are as we work for Him. That’s the genesis of the FiveStone Churches core value of Character before Gifting. Gifting is good and important, but character is better and crucial. It’s gold to the follower of Christ.
With all of that in mind, FiveStone Churches is moving toward planting a church in Austin, Texas. Aaron Reyes, a man who by every indication has A-grade character and A-grade gifting, will be the church plant pastor. Austin, home to the University of Texas and the state’s capital, is a fast-growing metropolitan area of about 850,000 people. We’re expecting to plant east of Interstate 35, where there are few dynamic, life-giving churches. Austin’s east side also has a large mix of all kinds of people. I expect our work there to flourish.
Aaron gets the importance of Character before Gifting. That’s one of the things I like best about him. Aaron’s heritage is Latino and Caucasian, and he was born and raised just north of Austin. Aaron played football at the U.S. Air Force Academy until he figured out that the Lord wanted him in vocational pastoral ministry. He then transferred to Wheaton College in Illinois, where he finished a business degree and played football. He went on for a master’s degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., while he served as the lead shepherd of a church’s young adults ministry. That’s where he and I connected.
I spent time getting to know Aaron while discerning his character, commitments, convictions and gifting. We agreed last fall to covenant together to plant a church in Austin. Aaron’s been serving as a FiveStone Churches resident at one of our partner churches, Christian Fellowship Church in Itasca, Ill., where he’s been mentored by Pastor Lucas O’Neill in shepherding and preaching. I’ve also been working with Aaron to build and prepare the plant seed to germinate and emerge this fall. Aaron has been spending time in Austin, recruiting like-minded pioneers to serve as prayer partners and point people to prepare for the first worship service.
Aaron and his wife, Michelle, expect to move to Austin early in June. Michelle, who is of Indian descent, is completing a doctorate in German literature at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
To read more about Aaron and the vision for Austin, click here.