SYNERGY: Share the kind of ministry you do.
JOEL TRISKA: (Same as Rachel) Life in Deep Ellum is a church in a historic arts district of downtown Dallas. In a very general sense, there are two components to our ministry – the faith community and the cultural center. The faith community gathers on Sunday mornings, in life groups and engages the community through our cultural center. Monday through Saturday our building serves as a community cultural center, complete with an art gallery, coffee shop, space for Deep Ellum neighborhood meetings and an event space used by our community partners.
My title is Resident Philosopher. Rachel and I used to have more traditional titles – Lead Pastors and Executive Directors – but since we recently switched our job descriptions we thought our job titles should say less about what we do and more about who we are. J Currently, I oversee the Cultural Center including the Umbrella Gallery and our Community Partners. Our community partners are other organizations that we partner with because we have common goals. Sometimes, they are Christian organizations, but they don’t have to be. If they have goals of community development or artistic celebration in the city, then we joyfully link arms with them. Here are some of our partners:
SYNERGY: How did you come to do this type of role? What were you doing before you entered this role?
JT: I use to be a youth pastor in Broken Arrow, OK. I’ve always had a heart for those on the fringes – the marginalized. After spending time seminary – including abroad in the Philippines – I grew in my passion for contextualizing theology. I saw that American culture was shifting and began to see myself as a missionary in my own country – which meant I had to do what all missionaries do: build new relationships, listen to people different than me, learn new customs. Deep Ellum is a very bohemian neighborhood and anti-religious. This place has taught us how to innovate our ministry approach in an effort to better connect with those who distrust the Church.
Before we came to Deep Ellum, I worked at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and taught adjunct theology at Evangel University.
SYNERGY: What’s the biggest thing you had to overcome to find success in your ministry?
JT: Changing my metrics for success. In the first several years, I thought we were failing because we weren’t big in attendance. But God showed us that what man calls success isn’t necessarily what he calls success. Currently, we measure success by stories. The story of our involvement in the community, how our neighborhood has embraced us; stories about people that we partner with, and how people are coming to and back to faith.
SYNERGY: What is the risk in pursuing what you love?
JT: Normally, people will say that the risk is failure. But failure is inevitable. If I truly want to learn from the process, failure is part of it. The real risk is quitting because it gets too hard.
SYNERGY: What’s the biggest way your ministry has changed since you started it?
JT: For me, the change is how I have stopped trying to prove or justify my ministry approach to others. We have given hundreds of tours of our building to other churches/pastors. In the past, I always felt like I needed to get the approval of others. I don’t anymore. I know what God has asked me/us to do. And it okay that it doesn’t look like what others do. In the past, I used to take it personally when someone left our church because it “wasn’t for them.” Now I don’t mind because I’m not building my Kingdom, but God’s. Our church isn’t for everyone – just like every other church. Our church is for the people God sends to us.
SYNERGY: Tell us a few things you have to be consistent in to lead your ministry.
JT: Self-care and personal growth. This includes rest and relaxation. This includes healthy habits in eating, exercise, meditation, and friendship. I have friends that truly know me. I attend groups where I can be imperfect without apology.
Orient myself around people not like me. Because I often meet with people of different religions or with different worldviews, my faith can be stretched and I can learn to accept people where they are at – like God does with everyone. This empowers me to be a spiritual leader in the marketplace, not just in my church.
SYNERGY: What do you do to keep learning in ministry?
JT: Talk with people who don’t see things like me. Listen to them. Try to see things from their perspective.
Also, I listen to LOTS of podcasts.