A Year in the Making: Part 12
Dreams are a funny thing. I don't know about you, but most of the time I find that when I aspire to great things (say, I don't know, blogging regularly. When did I do this last?!) I often come up short. Way short. What I know to be true, whether I feel it or not, is that this primarily happens when I seek to do things in my own power.
We have arrived at the one year anniversary of our starting Cross Fellowship Church. I am going to spend the next couple of weeks posting about various aspects of that journey, and maybe will invite a few people to join me along the way. Heaven knows that I'm sure plenty of people have plenty to say on the matter.
Let me go ahead and start with the moral of this story: I've discovered over the past year that I've never been much of a man of faith. Now, for those who might have known that I've been in ministry for 17 years, this could be a concern. And you know what? It should be.
I'm not saying that I have lacked belief or convictions. I have had plenty of that along the way. But what church planting has taught my family is that rarely did we have to put much of that into action. We chose times and places to exercise faith that fit into our abilities and schedules. And budgets. Sure, things would get hard over the years in various life situations. In those moments, those trials of faith were real, and I would never want to disparage them.
The reality, however, is that so much professional church life is developed into a sytem to be plugged in to, where people come to you so that you can perform whatever service you were meant to provide them. It's kind of like going to the store. You know what's there, you go and get what you want/need, and then you go home. The people who work at the store, I mean, church, know that usually people come, people go, lives are changed, and the Lord provides. Just keep the schedule full and the people happy. That was my life.
Then a little over a year and a half ago God decided to change all of that for me and my family. What would happen when the entire paradigm of my understanding of church actually got put to the test? You see, over the years in ministry I had many ideas about church. What I think it should be and stuff. Some were plain idiotic. Some may have biblical merrit. But would I stake my life on it? Would I trust God and his Word when all else was stripped away and, as far as the church went, "Behold, he is making all things new?"
I simply can't communicate very well what this last year has been like. It would make your brain hurt. I know this because mine is hurting right now trying to verbalize it. There have been amazing highs and frightening lows. There have been times where I thought, "I can't wait to lead the next great church planting seminar because of how awesome I am." And there have been probably more times where I'm like, "Is Best Buy hiring?" But the great work that God was doing in me, in this paradigm shift I was talking about, was surrounding me with a wonderful group of people who want to live life together in community in such a way that God is glorified and people's lives are changed.
This has been the key for the last year of my life: Gospel community. When people are hurting, when national championships are there to be watched, when marriages are on the rocks, when raucus laughter fills our two-story house from ladies' Bible study (seriously, they are loud), as Eric Liddell once said, "I feel His good pleasure." Our worship gathering is so sweet. Our home Bible studies have been amazing. And the rest of our experience is trying to live life amongst a people who are searching for community and the American dream, but who are in so much pain that they don't know what to do.
This is what our first Sunday looked like last year:
15 people meeting in my house. I'm so grateful for these people who helped us begin a work of faith. While many of them have served their time and moved on to other things, I will forever be thankful to the Lord for providing them. I wish I had a group picture from now to show you where we've come, but that might be distracting anyway. It's not about the number of people we have coming. It's about putting faith in His mission. And let me tell you, that is NOT easy.
Our family has had personal challenges like we've never had before. But God has been faithful. Having heard so many "didn't know how the next bill would be paid but God provided" stories over the years, we were beginning to experience them ourselves. Our methods of "church growth" would be turned on themselves over and over again. Pass out flyers and have a community breakfast? No one would come from that work. But then 10 visiting families just saw a sign and decided to come. There was no rhyme or reason to what would work except one thing: God. No seriously, here's my lesson from the moral of the story:
It's God's church. Not ours. Not mine. It's not GracePointe's baby, it is the bride of Christ. He will work out what he wills. So we joyfully serve him in his endeavor. I believe that now I have a greater idea of what living by faith means. I'm sure there may be trials on my horizon that will test that notion, but for now, I'm grateful for his faithful work in me. I'm grateful for being a bivocational pastor that experiences more things that connect me to my congregation (I work in finance?!). I'm grateful for a family who loved me through some pretty stressed out and ugly moments in my life. I'm grateful for the amazingly kind and encouraging words people have spoken to me at just the right times over the last year. I'm grateful for the support of GracePointe Church, our sending church, in many different ways. And, to be perfectly honest, I'm grateful that we're still here. That it's working. That we have this beautiful, diverse group of people who are buying in to what we're doing. I look forward to sharing more of that story in the next post.