You can read the first post here.
Next Update-The Church Plant Years….
Ok-so my wife and I had our first baby on the way- when it was announced at church, that our best friends at our SG church would be leading a church plant to a mid-sized city in the mid-west. We were very excited for them, and spent a week talking about signing up for the plant. We genuinely loved these guys and I thought the husband would make a decent pastor, if he showed the same type of love to others that they shared with us. My wife and I also felt like our new marriage and involvement with our larger church was good, but had led us away from being able to share the gospel and befriend anyone outside of our church circle. I think we even agreed ,that we were both feeling dry spiritually and wanted to be used more by God in building his kingdom-we thought this would be a perfect step towards doing just that. We shared our desire to go and we were given the green light to pursue being a part of “the team”.
In general, there was a lot of enthusiasm and much earnest prayer with the team of folks that began to consider making the journey. It was exciting to be with like-minded people, risking life as we knew it to launch out in to something new-all with the hope that a new church would be born that would live out the vision of Godly community in our new city. And we would get to be part of it all-not just spectators or Olympic style applause meters-no, we’d be actual participants in God’s chosen vessel, the local church. And we were truly excited about it!
But there were other happenings that began to serve as red flags to what we were about to experience. One of the couples considering coming was told that they could not come on the plant. It was obvious there was much tension, but few details were given. I just happened to know the husband of the couple from care group, so I was aware of the sending church “intervention”. They were eventually given the go ahead at the last-minute and went west with us. More on this later…
Another thing happened, there was a subtle shift in our relationship with the couple leading the plant. We were still friends, but they began to speak more about how we’d have to submit to them. My wife also began to feel a growing disconnect with the person she knew the future pastor’s wife to be, and how she (the pastor’s wife) began to carry herself and speak to my wife. I just chalked it up to some nervousness and the couples reactions to being in a more prominent leadership position. “New Leader Mistakes” is what I’d say to my wife, to calm her growing doubts. I assured her that any differences would be worked out because of the way SG desired to work things out orderly and relationally. It became especially hard for my wife-I’ll explain.
My wife began to have doubts about the church plant and was feeling more distant from this future pastor’s wife. But at the same time she was asked to speak at a special ladies event-which was set up to honor the new pastor’s wife. She was asked to please speak at the end of the event about how God had used this woman and their friendship. My wife agreed, only after I convinced her to speak about the past grace and not to worry about the current state of the relationship. She eventually “submitted” to my leadership and agreed to speak. When I picked her up after the event-I asked how it had gone. She said it was a very frustrating night for her because she felt like she had been a phony. I asked her what she meant. She replied that another pastors wife kept praising my wife’s friend, about how much God was using her and especially how wonderful to see “such good friends” now joining together in this amazing endeavor, to church plant together. My wife then got up and read her honest appreciation for all this woman had done and how much she meant to my wife-the only reason it really got to my wife-is that it hit her during her homage to her friend, that they were truly growing apart and my wife felt like a total phony for pretending that things were still as they used to be. She said many women came up to her afterwards and heartily encouraged her about being “such good friends” and how good it was to see “such good friends” going off to do ministry together. It truly became the buzz catch phrase after that night-it must’ve been said to me 100 times from my pastors and lay people alike.
Besides some of the red flags-we pushed ahead. As the target launching out date neared, we were constantly praised for what we were about to do. At one point our Senior Pastor had called us (the church plant team) on stage. He pointed to us and said we were his heroes of the faith. In our final weeks before leaving the sending church we had meetings with pastors, church leaders-it all seemed so important-like we were going on an Apollo mission or something. We were warned that they’re might be trouble ahead-but not to worry-the home church would never leave us nor forsake us. They would always be available and especially to resource our new pastor-who would lead and guide us thru these truly exciting and amazing times. I know some of you are thinking that I’m being too flip-but I need you to understand that it was such a heady type of atmosphere that surrounded the sending out of this team. It truly felt like we were on a mission from God-historymakers, pioneers, spiritual heroes were some of the praises that all of us on the team were told.
Finally, the day comes, the final cut of those who not only had a desire, but actually quit jobs, found new ones, said goodbye to friends and family and moved out to plant a new church. My new pastor preached with passion about the city we were moving to-the racial reconciliation that would occur, the lives that would be touched, the desire to preach the gospel, and be a new testament local church. Special songs were sung, prayers prayed, and a total of 3 couples and a handful of single folks in their 20′s launched off……..
After the long drive and moving everyone in to our new locale-the adventure began. After about a week into my new job, someone familiar with the fact that I had moved to be a part of a new church, asked me about the town we planned to meet in. I told him all about our vision to preach the gospel, be a multi-cultural/ multi-racial church and told him where we were located. He practically laughed at me when I told him the town. He laughed because he didn’t know how we were going to do all those great multi-cultural out reach ministries in an almost all white, upper class suburb that was called “the bubble” by those who lived there. I was slightly shocked and asked another church plant member if he knew about “the bubble”. He said he did and that it was true (he had grown up near by).
Other things began to happen as well-we began doing “outreach” in the neighborhoods. We passed out free cofee and flyers about our church in front of a drug store. We passed out batteries in another nearby neighborhood (for peoples’ fire alarms) and offered an invite to our church -as we awkwardly explained why a brand new church, with no affiliation to the local fire department, was passing out batteries and offering spiritualized reminders about fire safety. It was so weird. What was even weirder is that we were calling this evangelism and spending an inordinate amount of time obsessing with our outreaches and upcoming new church. We rented a table at a local outdoor grocery market and passed out flyers about our new local church. We all had to sign up and do our time at the table. As I remember-there was a lot of bickering over whether or not we should have some sort of gospel tract made available at the table. After much infighting between a few of us-I think our pastor agreed mid-day to have chic tracts or something to that extent on the table. Whew-I’m sure you can all imagine how inviting we must have seemed with all our wrangling over whether or not to have gospel tracts at our “grocers” table. As I write this-I’m still amazed at how absurd so much of this actually was and that I spent months being a part of this nervous energy.
Well the official launch day came-after month’s of prayer, music practices (I was one of the worship leaders), and evangelistic outreaches as described above-we held our first service. But it didn’t go totally as planned. At the last minute-the building we were going to rent changed their mind and pushed us back a week. Not to worry-we could not cancel because of all the new folks that might come from our evangelism and batteries. It was decided that our first meeting would be held at someone’s house instead-and a few scouts would go to the advertised meeting spot to direct the newcomers to the proper location.
Another detail-since we’d been prepared to set up chairs and full sound system for the worship band in the rented building-we stayed on track and set up around 40 chairs and a full sound system in this person’s house (no joke). Besides being very labor intensive-it was also extremely cumbersome to have a full-blown worship band (and sound system) crammed into our friends new home in “the bubble”.
We anxiously waited for our scouts to arrive with all the new people. But here’s the strange thing-nobody ever showed up at the advertised meeting place. But instead of packing things up or scaling back for the 12 or so adults-our new leader launched us into a full-fledged church service patterned after our sending church (whose attendance was over 500 people). We passed out printed programs, the worship band played, we had feedback that caused everyone to go temporarily deaf, we even had our pastor turn over the announcements to another worship leader and we all were instructed to continue speaking in the microphones for the service. The worship leader had originally planned to give a welcome to guests-but since there weren’t any, he thought he’d skip it. Oh no-our pastor instructed him to go thru the whole deal. You know-”Is anybody here for the first time, if so, we have a packet just for you, if you’d just stand so the ushers can see you….”
And then our pastor launched into a 30 minute sermon about the church (and it was obvious he had geared it towards visitors)- it was absolutely insane
Not that what we actually did was insane-just that we were “pretending” there might be visitors, that we were “pretending” we were still in a rented auditorium and not in someones house-thus the need to speak to all 6 people in the cheap seats with a microphone. Never mind we were only 5 feet apart-why let reality set in? “Pretending” that this was what we had signed up for…….I could go on. It was one of the more “twilight zone” moments of my life.
But as my title suggests, this was just the start…………to be continued.