In 2013, if you’d have told John Onwuchekwa that he’d soon be leading a church plant in Atlanta’s long-troubled West End neighborhood, he would have been as surprised as anyone. For five years, he’d been serving as teaching pastor for Blueprint Church, an Atlanta congregation he’d helped build from the ground up. The planting had been hard work; now, he was looking forward to settling down for a long, consistent season of tilling his congregation’s spiritual soil.

A lot can change in a few short years, though—and when John started paying visits to the West End following a four-month sabbatical, he did what he’d always done: He responded to the burden in front of his eyes. Now the lead pastor of the neighborhood’s newly founded Cornerstone Church, Onwuchekwa is one of the men at the forefront of a church-planting movement that’s revitalizing the spiritual pulse of urban Atlanta. (His church is even home to a few Reach Record artists, including Trip Lee, who serves as its teaching pastor.)

For this week’s episode of The Calling, CT Associate Editor Kate Shellnutt sat down with Onwuchekwa to talk about the winding road that led him to his current ministry.

On planting a church in a disadvantaged neighborhood: “The beautiful thing about the West End is that you live in a context where people don’t have the illusion that they don’t need anybody else. So the folks that are poor or without, they know that they need somebody else to survive.”

On cultural divisions in the church: “There are two times in the Book of Acts that you see the church dropping everything that they’re doing and saying, ‘We gotta take care of this right now.’ It’s not when terrorists attack. It’s not when persecution comes from the outside. It’s not when religious freedom is threatened. It’s in Act 6 and Acts 15, when unity in the church is threatened.”

On his ever-changing calling: “There are a lot of pastors that have this keen insight or this sense of, ‘I’ve known for years this is what I want to do. I’m a visionary.’ That’s not me at all. I’m the least visionary person that has existed on the face of the earth. The way that I’ve always determined calling has been more reactive than proactive. I’ve just responded to successive burdens that have been right in front of my eyes….Calling is dynamic. You have to factor in the providence of God.”

(If you want to hear more from John Onwuchekwa, you can catch him at the Church Leader Summit on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. Learn more here.)