About Us

Why Mustard Seed?

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like?

What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden.

It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
–Luke 13:18-19

If you are familiar with the Bible, this may be a familiar verse to you — so familiar they you may skim over it. You may relate it to another of Jesus’ sayings about mustard seed, where he describes a faith as small as a grain of mustard seed is enough to move mountains. But it is not faith that Jesus likens to a mustard seed here, it is the Kingdom of God. This is a simple parable of what happens when things go the way God intends them to.

While it is true that a mustard seed is very small, that’s not the primary emphasis Jesus had in mind here. Rather, he was saying something that would have been troubling to many who would have heard it. From that small mustard seed sprouts an active and aggressive plant, considered in some times and places to be more of a weed than a crop. It was so aggressive that we have records of laws prohibiting the planting of mustard in a garden so that it wouldn’t spread to adjoining gardens. So Jesus begins with an image of a fertile, active plant taking root where it wasn’t supposed to be.

But the unique imagery of what Jesus has to say doesn’t end with the first sentence. A mustard plant is a shrub rather than a tree, and not one that would often have branches strong enough for birds to light upon. But the birds are as important to the parable as the mustard plant. The prophets of the Old Testament used images of birds finding shelter and food in branches to represent people from other places, other nations, coming to find their place in the God’s Kingdom.

While our name is Mustard Seed, our logo is a bird, because the one leads to a place for the other. We have the Kingdom of God in mind, forming a community where all can come and find life, abundant life, thriving life, as God intends for it to be.

While our name is Mustard Seed, our logo is a bird, because the one leads to a place for the other. We have the Kingdom of God in mind, forming a community where all can come and find life, abundant life, thriving life, as God intends for it to be.

Meet Our Leadership Team


April Karli – Co-Pastor

April grew up in Austin and attended Concordia University. When she and her husband Matt got married in 1998, they decided to make it their home. April has been involved in church leadership since she could talk in the church nursery. She is passionate about helping people learn to hear God and grow closer to who God created them to be. April and her husband Matt are the parents of two daughters (one in college and the other about to be) and two dogs.

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Shane Blackshear – Co-Pastor

Shane lives with his wife Kate, daughter Margot, and son Amos. Shane is a Realtor by day and podcaster in his spare time. Shane likes reading theology and watching good TV.









Erin WilliamsKids Pastor

Erin was a military kid who was blessed to spend most of her growing-up years in Southern California. She and her husband and their 3 busy kids relocated to the Austin the summer of 2017, but have felt an instant connection with the area and with Austin Mustard Seed, having worked with John and Sherri Chandler as church planters in Seattle. Erin’s degree is in Human Development from Hope International University, out of Fullerton, CA, and her passion is in connecting with children, with their families, and seeing them enjoy the fullness of God’s works and creation. She’s been able to come alongside families in their parenting and in their faith as a Pre-K teacher and preschool administrator, and through her time in church ministry working with kids of all ages, from crawlers to drivers. Spare time is rare time as a parent, but time spent singing, laughing, and exploring with her kids and husband fill Erin’s tank. She will also never turn down conversation and stories shared over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.



Leadership Team

The leadership of Austin Mustard Seed discerns and guides the direction of our community and to provides oversight and support for team leaders and pastors.

Bethany Cheng

Chris Gandy

Daniel Ziegler

Jamie Richardson

Tim Allen

What We Believe

We hold to the historical beliefs of Christianity, standing in a long tradition of churches that affirm the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. Unique to our community and our emphasis on story is the following narrative of beliefs. This is the story found in the Old and New Testaments, which we believe were inspired by God as an account of God’s activity in history:

We believe in a Creator God who is the ultimate reality. Before the creation, God existed in a community of three that included the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Through the Son, God spoke the created world into existence. God’s good and relational nature was passed along to humanity, who were created in God’s image. No other being, whether angels or animals, can make the same claim. God’s desire for humanity was to have a relationship with us.

God offered man a true and full life in this good creation, but humans rejected it. After being deceived, humankind chose to follow their own way, rather than choose the life God had offered. This caused man to fall from intimacy with God, and all of creation’s relationship with God became fractured.

Though broken hearted over this schism, God worked to again initiate a relationship with humanity. God called Abraham and Sarah to begin this work. God promised them that through their offspring, the Hebrews, all the peoples of the earth would be blessed.

In time, the Hebrews became slaves in Egypt, where they cried to God. God heard their cry and remembered the promise that had been made to Abraham and Sarah. After liberating the Hebrews, God established a covenant relationship with them, offering blessing to them as they followed the Torah, a set of laws or guidelines on how to live. But though the law was meant for good, it became a burden as some tried to prove themselves more righteous than others.

Through one of Abraham’s descendants, Jesus, God offered the means to repair the broken relationship with humans. Jesus was God’s son, fully human and fully God. He lived a perfect, sinless life, to offer a view for humans of the way that God had designed us to live. Jesus proclaimed this way of life to be the kingdom of God, and invited humanity to live in this way.

Jesus was killed through crucifixion. This was not only a gruesome execution, but also God’s offering of self as a final sacrifice to mend this broken relationship with humans. Three days after he was killed, Jesus rose from the dead (also known as resurrection) as a testimony that he offered power over sin and death.

New Creation
Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus left the earth to be with the Father in heaven. But he did not leave us alone. He promised that he would send the Spirit to come and continue to show us how to live in the way of Jesus. For those who are followers of Jesus, the Spirit affirms us as children of God, empowers with gifts, convicts, guides, comforts, counsels, and leads us into truth through a communal life of worship and a missional expression of our faith.

When the Spirit came, the church began, and it continues today to extend the kingdom of God on earth. The church is a global and local expression of living out the way of Jesus through love, sacrifice, and healing as we embody the resurrected Christ, who lives in and through us, to a broken and hurting world. We labor to restore relationships between God and humans, and among humans. We hold firmly to the belief that the way of Jesus is the best way to live and it is open to anyone who desires it. As a sign of commitment to living in the way of Jesus, we remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus through water baptism.

But even as we labor for the kingdom of God, we know it is not yet complete. We look forward to the day when Jesus will return, and God will fully and completely restore things to the way they were meant to be. God will dwell with us here in a restored creation. Our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation will be whole. All will flourish as God intends. This is what we long for. This is what we hope for. And we have given our lives to living out that future reality now.

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