I wanted to make it one year, because I wanted to watch God work mightily through the local church. To restore in the minds of so many in our area that the church is not concerned with what you can do or have done, or what you can offer, rather the local church is God's ultimate plan in bringing people into community with Him. The local church is God's Plan A in meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of all of humanity - throughout the world. The local church is a safe, warm, friendly enviroment that is a friend to those that are suffering. I wanted people in our community, my friends, to see that, but little did I know, God wanted me to see that.
Right before God called us to start Real Hope, I was struggling. I was struggling in my faith, I was struggling with God. I was struggling to breath. And, truth be told, I let that struggle consume far too much of my life, relationships, and overall perspective on the world around me. So, when God called us to plant a church - it was terrifying. Now, the possibility of it was exhilarating - but the thought of it was terrifying. Because of where I was spiritually, I felt incredibly inadequate. I was trying to figure out if I even wanted to continue on in ministry, if I had what it takes to be a pastor for the rest of my life, so I wasn't totally sure why God would put this potentially crushing task in front of someone so fragile in her faith.
But, even now, typing these words and thinking back through the last year, I realize this church plant was never about what I can or cannot do for God, it was God's way of bringing me back to HIm. And through that process I have learned a few things - ok, I have learned a lot of things, but here are three that I think applies to anyone, no matter where you are in your faith or what you do for a living.
- Leave room for God to show up. You know how I said I felt inadequate for this job? You know why I felt that way? Because, I AM! But, if I wasn't, then I wouldn't have needed God this past year. I would have handled it all without Him and I would have consumed any and all room for Him to show up. Throughout this past year, I have been driven to times of sleepless nights - asking, begging God to show me what to do because I simply had no idea what to do next. And, you know what? He did, EVERY TIME! It wasn't always in the timing I wanted and most of the time is wasn't how I imagined, but that is because it was not my way it was His way - and 100% of time it was undeniably better than my wildest imagination. This brings me to my next point -
- Get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Leaving room for God to show up, for me anyway, also means feeling pretty uncomfortable most of the time. I am a planner, and a linear thinker, but you know what profession is the complete opposite of that pretty much all of the time - church planting. So, I have quickly learned to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. But, here is the beautiful thing, guess who has always faithfully comforted me in times of discomfort? Jesus, that's why He is called the Great Comforter. Those middle of the night prayers - it was God who calmed me down. Being uncomfortable doesn't feel great - in fact it feels terrible most of the time - but I would not trade it for anything, because there are aspects of God's character that I have come face to face with in times of discomfort. And, those moments, those are times in which I was transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.
- It has never been, nor will it ever be, about the end result. In my times of distress and anxiety about starting Real Hope, God showed me some pretty big insecurities I had been carrying around for far too long and many of them (ok, all of them) where rooted in the pride of achievement. I had allowed my self-worth to be tied up in the results. Good results = I was worth something. Bad results = I was worth nothing. So what that translated to, was I rarely did something that I knew would not produce "success," because who likes to feel worthless? Leading Real Hope Community Church has driven me to a place of understanding that God is not in the results, He is in the process. Hyper focusing on the results, steals the joy of the process. Let's just say, hypothetically, Real Hope tanks this next year. Shuts down, done. Does that void all that God has done this past year? No. Does that mean this past year wasn't worth it? That the people impacted and changed by the Gospel through Real Hope, did not have authentic encounters with God? No. Because God is not in the results, He is in the process. And, the process of Real Hope has been life-giving.
But, what I didn't expect, was how much this little adventure would change me. How different I would be. How much more I would love the Lord, and how thankful I would be for everyday that I get to do this job - for however long the Lord lets me.