I grew up in rural Michigan, at the intersection of two dirt roads and a ditch, outside a town of 3,000 people.
My parents loved God and loved me. Dad installed carpet for a living, and Mom and I both worked right beside him often. They taught me how to serve, how to love, and how to work. They also taught me about Jesus, and led me to surrender my life to Him shortly before I turned 5 years old.
By my teenage years, I was torn. I genuinely loved an pursued Jesus. I read my Bible a lot, prayed often, and served eagerly. But I also struggled deeply with all of the same counterfeit gods that captivate the hearts of most young men--lust and pride, success and reputation.
Two weeks before I turned 17, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved my dad more than anyone in the world, but I needed a wake up call. I needed to stop playing games with God. I needed to truly surrender. That night I stopped living a double life with a divided heart. I knelt beside my bed, then just laid down with my face to the ground and said, "God, you say that the prayer for righteous man in powerful and effective. That is who I want to be. Please save my dad."
Ultimately, almost five years later, my dad did die of cancer. But God used that experience to shape me. To teach me how to find joy in him, not in my circumstances. To teach me the brevity of my own life. To show me just how much he loves not just me, but every single person I will ever meet, or talk to, or even see at a distance across a large room. God used my dad's cancer to give me a deep love both for Him and for people, and to propel me to steward all of my life to bring the Good News of His love and grace to other people, through the Church.
I chose Alma College because it was close to home, and close to my dad. I had always wondered, "What does is mean to be 'called' into ministry?" How do I know if I should be a pastor or a teacher or something else? Within my first 3 weeks of college, I was absolutely certain that I was called to be a pastor, because it grieved me to spend even a few hours of my week doing anything else - except drawing near to Jesus and telling other people about Jesus.
At Alma some friends and I started a college ministry. In a single year, we saw dozens of students come to faith in Jesus Christ, including the girl I would one day marry. As a student, I also began to dream about planting a church in a larger college town, that would reach not only students, but the entire city with the Gospel. At 21 years of age, I was dreaming about planting Mosaic Church in Ann Arbor.
After college I joined the staff team of a small baptist church in Alma, continuing to lead the college ministry. From there, Jess and I moved to Dallas to earn a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After more training for church planting with Fellowship Associates in Little Rock, and with the strong support of Oak Pointe Church in Novi, MI, we launched Mosaic Church in September of 2009.
Hopes for Mosaic
I long for Mosaic to be every bit as diverse as the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti community. Full of college students and grandparents, singles and marrieds, newborns, teenagers, and the middle-aged parents who go with them. Every race and every socio-economic status. All not just worshiping in the same building but living in intergenerational and diverse community with each other. Sharing their lives with one another.
I long for Mosaic to be full of people who met Jesus through our church. People who will be crazy enough to be trained and sent out to start new churches in college towns and urban centers, small towns and suburbia, throughout Michigan, across the country, and around the world.
We believe that planting and leading Mosaic Church is the most strategic investment we can make of our lives to advance the Kingdom of God. If we didn't believe that, we would be doing something else.
Favorite book of the Bible
Favorite book outside the Bible
I've enjoyed lots of different books, but nothing compares to my Bible.
Favorite local activity
Little League Baseball with my son Luke
Favorite local restaurant
Isn't Shannon a girl's name?
Why did your parents name you Shannon?
My dad was Darwin Temple Nielsen. His dad was Temple Sylvester Nielsen. I think they just appreciated the value of getting picked on continually on the playground in order to make a young man tough.