Too Many Churches?

One of my biggest struggles in church planting has been the nagging thought that there are already plenty of churches. As we drive through Spartanburg we see countless churches. I question our calling as I think that with so many churches already, what could we possibly accomplish that isn’t already being done?

A couple of weeks ago Mike had an amazing opportunity to attend a gathering for local pastors called Come Closer, an initiative in Spartanburg to bring unity to the body of Christ. This is so exciting because this is what Jesus prayed for us: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn 17:20-21)

As God has laid the vision for The Gathering on our hearts over the last 10 years, this desire has become deeply rooted in us. That the Church, the body of Christ, would be united for the Kingdom of God so that the work we do is not just for our individual church body but for the Church as a whole. We were awed to find this work already in progress in Spartanburg. We had imagined it would be a pioneering work that would need to be done, but instead we can jump right in to the work in progress. Mike was able to connect with multiple pastors who welcomed us to attend worship with them and even said they would want to support our work. We had been afraid to walk into a church fearing they would think we were coming to steal their people, but as it turns out they are gladly opening their doors to encourage us. Wow. It is so amazing to see God at work in this way. I praise Him for the work He is doing to unify His Body, the Church. 

We have attended a few of different churches. Surprisingly, this has helped my understanding of our call to plant. These churches are at work for the Kingdom, growing in God’s love and desiring to spread the gospel. And they each have their own personality. It is almost like walking into someone’s family gathering. You can fully enjoy it and see their joy in it but still know it is not your family. Our church will have its own personality as well, and some people will be drawn into that dynamic and others will find that it just doesn’t fit them. And this is why we must exist as much as the church that may be right down the street from us. Different people will call each place home, and God will use each place to further His Kingdom, bringing His healing, wholeness and truth. 

So my perspective has changed. You can’t have too many churches. Each place is different and each place is called, set apart, and used by God to bring His fullness. I am excited to see who we will become, what uniqueness God will bring to our gathering. It is a privilege to watch that unfold. May we be open to who God calls us to be!

God with Us

I have been reflecting lately on one of the first times Mike and I skied together.  We were dating at the time, still getting to know each other in so many ways.  As we started out, Mike asked me what kind of hills I liked to ski, and I told him I liked anything but black with moguls.  I am able to ski black, but I do not care for the thrill of it.  I like to enjoy being outside.  I like the feeling of gently swooping back and forth across the hill marveling at God’s creation, all while perfectly in control of my body.  Mike on the other hand, skis for the thrill. The point for him is to find a challenge and go fast. Regardless of our differences in taste, we enjoyed the morning skiing a variety of hills working our way around the mountain.  Conceivably, though, Mike was secretly assessing my skill because suddenly we “happened” upon a hill, steep as could be, full of moguls. DOUBLE Black.  I clearly stated that I did not want to ski this hill, perhaps mentioning that I had already told him this once before…. Mike, in all his gentleness, replied that at this point we didn’t have any other options, and he supposed the only thing we could do was go down it.  After some comforting and consoling, he took off down the hill leaving me to decide if I was going to follow or not.  So I followed. 

I thought that this was a simple event in our dating history, laughable even.  As I have reflected on it the past couple of weeks I see that in a very real way it characterizes our life together.  Mike at the edge of adventure, and me, praying for strength, following to places that I never dreamed I’d go.

Maybe that day of skiing was a test I didn’t know I was taking; would I follow into the scary? Into the unknown? Into the adventure? I didn’t know then that we would go to places I didn’t want to go, didn’t plan to go, but God has nonetheless given me everything I need to go.  And that is HIMSELF.  “This is my command: be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

So here we are again at the top of another mountain, freshly reminded that it is God’s power alone that we can walk in, that we are weak but his grace is sufficient for his power is made perfect in weakness.

So deep breath.  The waiting is seemingly almost over.  Our house is under contract again.  If all goes as planned we will be closing in about 7 weeks.  Mike is working full time for the church plant which has made it possible for us to travel back and forth between the beach and Spartanburg, starting to build relationships and making new connections.  We’re looking for a house in Spartanburg. I am homeschooling Parker full time to further allow for this transition (which truly has been a blessing!). It’s certainly not the relaxing descent I envisioned. The hill is steep with lots of bumps, but the Lord our God is with us in this adventure.