The Sunday evening before Christmas, our church service featured the children of our church singing songs and carols of Christmas. It was a good service, nothing new or innovative, just the sweet sounds (and adorable antics) of young children singing of the Christmas baby, Jesus, God-becoming-man.
There in the former office space turned church meeting space, without a single Christmas decoration nor any hanging of the green nor any of the usual accoutrements of church Christmas programs, I worshiped. I rejoiced. And yes, I laughed some (I may be partial, but the kids at our church are some kind of cute). And I thought to myself, “This is church. My church. My church family, my church home.”
Certainly the idea was not new to me. I know church is not the building nor the programs nor the Sunday school and not even the Wednesday night suppers (though I must admit those things are sometimes missed when absent). Church is the people, the body of Christ, the family of believers I am called to love in community. I get that. I’ve gotten that. That Sunday night I realized it anew as I was moved to gratitude for these my fellow sojourners.
I used to think that people who split from other churches, for whatever reason, and began a church plant did so out of fiery passion and fervent zeal. That’s what I used to think, but now I know that passion and zeal sustain for time; after that it is mostly work. Hard work. Decisions about where to meet and what to call yourselves and whether there will be enough money–these questions and more kept me up at night. We none of us had any real idea of what we were doing, thus relying heavily on the Lord’s direction and the support of each other.
And let me just say that the Lord has been incredibly faithful to us. We have seen His provision over and over and over again, both financially and logistically, but also as He knit our hearts together with common vision and brotherly love…
For me personally, the journey from church split to church plant has been something of roller coaster ride, as you well know if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time. At first, and sometimes still, I grieved. Leaving my former church ranks as one of the hardest things I have ever done. It broke my heart. Not only that, but perhaps due to my anonymous pen pal and commenter(s), I found myself insecure to the point of paranoid. Additionally, I was shocked that the Lord would bring me, us, to this. “Surreal” was the best way I found to describe the whole experience.
At the same time, I knew–I knew–that the Lord had indeed brought us to this. As hard as it was, as heartbreaking as it was, I knew we were being obedient. My testimony tonight is this: obedience, even when wrapped in heartbreak, brings the blessing of knowing the Lord in ways previously unimagined. He Himself is the reward to the obedient: knowing Him in greater intimacy and finding that not only did my faith stand when tested, it was strengthened.
Just a few minutes ago I came downstairs to ask my husband’s opinion on what I should wear to church tomorrow. I won’t tell you how long I stood in my closet looking for inspiration (nor how many different outfits I tried on). It is as I told my husband: “Tomorrow my picture will be taken, recording for generations to come this Very Important Event in our church, so what I’m wearing is critical!” To be clear, my picture will only be taken as a face in the crowd of the rest of the charter members, and my husband’s only input came in his recommendation that I wear the flats. Never mind I had a different flat on each foot (options, people!).
Tomorrow will be a big day. An amazing day. An emotional day. A day of boasting in the Lord. Of celebrating His faithfulness. Of commissioning ourselves to carry His gospel to our community and beyond. A day of covenanting together as a church, promising to love and support each other as we love and serve the Lord Jesus.
I cannot wait.
I am glad. I am glad that when the time came, I counted the cost and stepped across the line because my Lord required it of me. Though I must admit, it felt less like a step and more like a leap!
It’s been hard, yeah, but it’s good. Way more than good. Because He is good and gracious.
I don’t want to offend anyone from my former church, so, please, I hope you hear my heart on this. I am profoundly thankful for the years we served and sought the Lord together. Your impact on my life (and my family’s) is huge. HUGE. It is my fervent prayer that we each would experience an outpouring of His Spirit not only in our respective churches but in our community as we, brothers and sisters in Christ, hold out the words of life!
To God be the glory!