|You Put the Line Out . . . God Brings the Catch
--An Interview with Meredith McCollum
A world-renowned trout river, the Battenkill, runs near the house of Gail
and Mike Hadlock in Hoosick Falls in upstate New York. Their daughter
Meredith grew up there. Meredith fished, but she preferred the more
leisurely fishing for bass from a boat on a nearby lake.
Gail, her mom, was the product of many generations in churches of Christ.
Mike, her dad, was an Irish Catholic with no real relationship with Christ
when he went to college and met Gail. Eventually, he converted to
Meredith and her sister Elizabeth grew up attending the church in
Bennington, Vermont, just across the state line. Later they rode an hour
Sundays and Wednesdays to worship with the church at Clifton Park,
New York, where they could be a part of a youth group. Meredith was
baptized at the age of 12 at summer camp.
After high school, she moved across country to attend Pepperdine
University, receiving a BA degree in theater arts. In college, she met and
married Phil McCollum. They stayed in Los Angeles so Meredith could
pursue an acting career, though they planned to move to a smaller town
when they had children.
They began worshipping with the Hollywood Church of Christ, and both
fell in love with the church there. They felt God calling them to work
there. When Phil and Meredith first visited the Hollywood church, it had
thirty members. Now it has grown to over 100. They moved to
Hollywood. â€œGod was working on our hearts,â€� Meredith said.
Dan Rodriguez, then parttime minister at the Hollywood church, taught
Spanish at Pepperdine before joining the religion faculty. Meredith had
studied Spanish in high school, then with Dan at Pepperdine. Dan has a
heart for missions in the Spanish-speaking cultures. Phil and Meredith
spent a summer living in Mexico to improve their Spanish.
Phil began thinking about church planting five years ago with the inception
of the Los Angeles Dream Team, comprised of people from Pepperdine
and the Hollywood church who dreamed of planting churches all over Los
Angeles. â€œBut some things didnâ€™t work out,â€� Meredith says. â
€œPhil and I were young, headstrong. God worked to discipline and
mature us. God wanted to use us, and heâ€™s done a lot of preparing.â
Currently Phil and Meredith are planning a church plant in East
Hollywood. But they are not doing it alone. They are part of a group of
people with a vision for beginning a church-planting movement in Los
Angeles and surrounding areas, including members and leaders of the
Hollywood, Conejo Valley and Hilltop churches of Christ, and Scott
Lambert, former campus minister at Pepperdine, now network director for
Kairos, an organization that offers important training as well as financial,
spiritual, and emotional support to church planters.
Meredith is struggling to define her role in church planting. Since the birth
of their three children--Nathan, 4, Isaiah, 2, and Elijah, 6 months--her
plate has been pretty full. However, she is gifted in one-on-one evangelism
and other skills that can help in church planting. She enjoys looking in her
daily life for people God put there to love and share her faith with. She
responds readily and warmly to hurting, lost souls who are ready to meet
her, whether sitting beside her on the bus or working beside her in a
cubicle or sitting on a porch across the street.
Meredith learned a lot from fishing. â€œItâ€™s exciting to discern when
people are ready,â€� she says. â€œYou put the line out there. Youâ
€™re never uncomfortable when all youâ€™re doing is opening yourself
and letting God shine. Doing that purposefully is the first step. You
mention prayer, church, or say, â€˜God bless you.â€™ You are ready
and open, peppering your conversation with God words. Itâ€™s a little
frightening the first time, but then you get a nibble, and the adrenaline starts
flowing. Itâ€™s so exciting to watch when a person opens up. It
rejuvenates your Christian life. Seeing a person God brought into your life
turn to him does wonderful things for your own faith.â€�
Meredith has learned to be patient and wait for God to prepare her for
service, and to be patient and wait for God to work in the lives of those
around her. Meredith has come a long way--from upstate New York to
East Hollywood, from dreams of being an actress to dreams of planting a
church, from fishing for bass to fishing for people who are ready to come
Phil and Meredithâ€™s church planting site in East Hollywood is just
across the street from Los Angeles City College. People from many
neighborhoods, ethnicities, and walks of life study there--from students
fresh out of high school to adults taking ESL classes or learning a trade.
Meredith wants to reach people who will take the message back to their
neighborhoods and make it happen there.
When the McCollumsâ€™ second child was born, Meredith suffered from
postpartum depression. She felt that her world was falling apart, but God
brought her church family to support her. â€œWhen youâ€™re broken
and something good happens, you can only say that God did it.â€�
Meredith longs to be transparent. â€œWhen youâ€™re raising and training
new converts to start new churches, youâ€™re doing them a disservice if
youâ€™re not real, if you donâ€™t allow people to see God working in
the weakness of your life. The Lord is disciplining me, but that means he