In ways previously unimagined

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!

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Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

14 thoughts on “In ways previously unimagined”

  1. Oh Lisa, I am so glad to hear that there is peace and blessing. God is so faithful to bring beauty from ashes. It makes me so sad to see how churches can become such areas of strife. And even competition between churches. How Satan must gloat at how that distracts us and hurts our witness. But he does NOT have the final word! I rejoice with you as you experience the blessings God has in store for your new church.

  2. What a perfectly beautiful post. Tomorrow I will be thinking about you, specifically, and praying for your new church family as you fulfill the role that God has called you all forth – collectively – to play!Blessings!

  3. Tomorrow, while I am worshiping at my church, I will pray for you worshiping at yours. This has been a long-sometimes painful-road I know, and there is much kingdom work ahead of you. But, know, I am be rejoicing with you sister-friend.

  4. Lisa,I still remember our charter day a couple years ago, and even now we are undergoing some major changes (like joining a new denomination) and will be doing some of that again in the coming month. So, as one with fresh memories (and in the midst of the planting experience) I join with you and your new church body, praying for a covenant of fulfilled promises to one another – knowing that, just as with Abraham, The One who made us is the true covenant keeper! No matter what you wear, do it for the joy set before you – the joy of service and suffering as you walk in the steps of our dear Lord and by His Spirit! Adorn yourself with the doctrines of grace and the gentleness of spirit the Lord is working in you, and you will be perfectly attired.For the sake of His Kingdom.

  5. Reading this post makes my heart happy! Tell everyone I said hello and that I love them. Wish I could be there with you all!

  6. This is your gift from God and it came hard but what a blessing for the start of 2009 !May your day be joy filled and full of Jesus…

  7. I have big tears as I read this. Our church, which is one of those huge, mega churches now, started out as a church plant by our current pastor about 30ish years ago. So often I have wished I could have been one in those now faded photos of the charter members. Their stories are still so encouraging and the bonds they still share are such a blessing. Enjoy what you have right now- even in the work. 30 years from now, when they are asking those charter members to stand on those special anniversaries….well, you will share a special knowing look with those others standing. That knowing of God’s faithfulness and all that you have known of Him.Blessings-

  8. Oh Lisa, what an encouragement to read this post! To see God’s faithfulness — both in your life, and the lives of those you worship with. Praise the Lord!

  9. Blessings to you on this new venture – isn’t it awesome to see the things God accomplishes (and how neat that we get to help Him!)?

  10. Coming here Lisa, is salve for my soul.Just yesterday, as we tried yet ANOTHER church….walking away disappointed. I thought to myself, “Really Lord? Did we take this step of faith, out of our church home for this?”Reading today, as you are clearly on the other side, I have courage to continue our search for our church home.I admit it. I’m selfish. I thank God that you have gone before me and that I can glean from you now.Rejoicing with you today.

  11. How wonderful that the new church is growing and reaching the lives of others. I agree with all of what Linda wrote—it is heartbreaking when we turn from and on each other.

  12. I am praying that your service went well and dying to hear all about it. I found myself without a church after a nasty church split in May of ’06 and it was an awful time for me. I’m so glad that the Lord has blessed you and you know He’s there and this will be a wdonerful and exciting time in your life.

  13. “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.”Beautifully said. We longed for all that you wrote here. While it has broken us in many ways that it did not carry through to fruition … at least in the way we thought … God has been glorified and will continue to be. We learned so much! So, so much! Being involved with the church where we are now (who began as a church plant 20 years ago) and realizing that there are such valuable resources in seeking those who are like-minded but also wise in maturity that can only come through experience. Knowing that there are those who have also walked through the same trials but are standing on the other side and can give testimony to how that came to pass. We should have sought that council when the time came. Now we know.Sorry to get carried away. I have loved reading these posts about your church! Prayers as you begin this incredibly hard yet rewarding work.

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