Called to Serve

The Rev. Mike Baughman: Curating the community

The Rev. Mike Baughman. Courtesy photo.
The Rev. Mike Baughman. Courtesy photo.

The Rev. Mike Baughman has always used his gifts to inspire others and to be inspired.

Change agent.

Dreamer.

Risk-taker.

Bridgewater (N.J.) United Methodist Church and its strong mission ministry greatly influenced Baughman, who grew up in Manville, N.J. He sought to respond to how God was shaping him and to what the church had contributed to his spiritual growth.

So it was that after graduation from Duke University, Baughman answered God's call to ordained ministry. He attended Princeton Theological Seminary for his Master of Divinity and Master of Arts degrees.

Now the United Methodist elder serves in an unconventional niche ministry in Dallas. Innovation and pure guts undergird his "coffeehouse church," planted primarily to reach young people wary of church. Union is considered a research and development arm of the church.

"I sometimes refer to it as ‘change your pants ministry,'" he explains. "I don't know whether to pee myself with excitement because we get to try new things, forge a new path and not be constrained by ‘the way things have always been done' or poop my pants in fear because there's no road or safety map and a lot of uncertainty at every turn."

Flexibility and freedom make his ministry successful as does his embracing the challenges that come from doing a "new" thing.

"We didn't start Union in order to bring God to our neighborhood or Jesus into the lives of our customers," he says. "We assume that God is already at work in their lives. Our job is to see what God is doing in their lives and try to become a part of that activity."

The pastor spends significant time connecting with the community, creating partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits and student organizations.

"In two years of working at Union," Baughman says, "I've never had a moment where I've thought, ‘Well, that was a waste of time.' It's great to be a part of something that so clearly matters to our community and the broader church."

His greatest joy in starting a coffeehouse church?

"Seeing God-inspired dreams come true. Through it all," he says, "I see God at work on a daily basis. I've got one of the best seats in the kingdom."

Celinda J. Hughes is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

 

Originally published in Interpreter Magazine, September–October, 2014.