Lilies don't bloom somwehere else (a Church Planting post)

Spring is upon us, and many of the wonderful things I have planted in my yard are coming to life. Lilies are popping up, pear trees are blooming, and blueberry bushes are starting to bud. In all of this activity, one thing is certain - everything that blooms will bloom where it is planted.

It also happens that we are almost 2 years into our church planting journey, and I'm discovering that "bloom where you're planted" doesn't always transfer to people. It turns out some people simply won't bloom here.  Some will join the journey, put down roots, make commitments, and then decide to move on. Lilies don't do that. But a church is much harder to plant than a garden.

Several years ago, I learned a valuable lesson that I find increasingly valuable on this roller coaster called church planting.  I was Lead Pastor of an established church. As happens too often (even once is too often in any church that claims Jesus as the subject), things happened and words were said and feelings were hurt. The hurt feelings were those of a couple who had become very dear friends to my family. They chose to leave the congregation and find somewhere else to bloom. During that season, I remember reading a powerful blog article about this very situation by T.D. Jakes.  In his article he said that if people can just walk away from you, and from the vision that God has given you, then let them walk away. Don't chase them. Don't beg them. If their relationship is such that they can just walk, let them walk. Will it hurt? Yes, every time. Love them. Pray for them. But let them walk.

In all honesty, that helped me so much. I was reminded that God has called me to stay connected to Him, and to guide others to get/stay connected with Him... but not necessarily to me. I don't like that, because it means holding on loosely and opening up my heart to the hurt. And Pastor Jakes was right - it hurts... every time.  But God has proven Himself faithful in my life over and again, so that I know I can trust Him for what I can't see, and regardless of how I feel.

Here's an example (it doesn't always happen exactly like this, but I'm surprised that it does more often than not).  This week, on Sunday afternoon I received a text from one of the young leaders at Awaken Church, letting me know she was going to step away from the church plant and find something else. It kind of makes sense, as she is a college student from a larger city, and attends a really large church at home, so of course a new church startup would feel really different.  Still, being a really great person and an awesome & willing worker, I really hated to get that text.

A few minutes later, I hopped onto Facebook, and there was God right on cue, with a message posted on the wall of a lady who worshiped with us that morning for the very first time.  Here's her glowing review:

For those around town who haven't checked out Awaken Church one Sunday morning... I highly suggest them!!! Spirit filled, totally relaxed, unlike any church you've ever attended.  And I guarantee the nicest, non-judgemental, down to earth people and the most comfortable seats you'll ever sit in at church!!!!! Thank you for having me this morning! I will be back for sure. 

So, we work, yes.  And the work is harder than most people have any clue about. BUT, as we work, we trust God to build the Church!  We hold on loosely and we praise God anyway, because He is worthy!

Psalm 127:1a - Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.


Gary Kendall said…
Stephen, You guys are doing a great job. People have their own agendas and it is not someone anyone else can affect. Their choices don't define you. You have an agenda too, following the call God gave you. Jesus let people walk. By the way, it hurt him too. Take heart in his words, beware when all men speak well of you--at least you don't have to worry about that, haha! Keep at it. I'd rather hear the applause of heaven than the applause of men even if secretly I do like it. God is still shaping me and no doubt, shaping you and Awaken Church. You are on target, stay focused and keep loving. Hurt is a byproduct of love and love is worth it. Gary Kendall

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