Sometimes the Lord nudges us to walk across the room and start up a conversation with a complete stranger, and even though we feel like the butterflies in our stomach just may get the best of us, we do it anyway. Then the Lord takes over and we are grateful we said yes to maybe being the only positive image of Christ that person has ever encountered.
And then sometimes the Lord grips your very soul and asks you to do something that is frankly - terrifying. And even though you feel as if you may crawl out of your skin, you do it anyway - even scared. And as you do, you humbly whisper "Thank you" to the Lord, for finding you worthy of such a calling.
This is the current season my family is in, this is the story of our current yes.
For the past two years my family has fought relentlessly to push back against a culture of excess and a society that is constantly telling us that being blessed is defined by where we lived and what kind of car we drive. Through many hours spent on our knees we finally came to the place in which we told God He had our yes, whatever the calling may be, before the question was even asked. As we prayed, the Lord began painting a picture in our heart of a community of people that found true sustaining hope in Jesus Christ and then gave it to the world around them. A place that intentionally built bridges between those of different ethnicity, socioeconomic statues, seasons of life and even religious views. A place that used the Bible to engage our society in a relevant and loving way, and people that actively fought the injustices of this world both locally and internationally. An organization, that as Andy Stanley says, shows people they matter to God, even if God doesn’t matter to them.
At the time the Lord began piecing this picture together, I was coming up on my nine-year anniversary of being on staff at the church I worked at. I loved the church deeply; I had seen it grow from 150 people to 3,000 people and was constantly overwhelmed by the opportunities the Lord gave me during my time there. I had known my pastor since I was 12 years old, he led me to Christ, baptized me, married my husband and I, came to see me in the hospital for the birth of our three biological children and came to my house when we brought home our fourth from China. He hired me at the ridiculous age of 23 years old to run and lead an entire department and of course at the time I thought I was super mature and so ready for the job, looking back now I realize how big of a risk he took by hiring a mere baby.
But despite all those emotions, I knew deep down the Lord was calling me away, calling me to something different. And as the gravity of what that meant become clearer and clearer, my heart got heavier and heavier; leaving a place where my family was deeply loved and I had spent my entire career literally made me nauseous. My first thought was not at all to plant a church, mainly because it sounded ridiculously hard, so even as the Lord was working in our hearts I never one time thought He was calling us to church planting until the day this happened:
I asked the Lord, “Ok, God I know you are working and calling us to something new, but where do you want us to go?” That same day I was reading in Acts, studying the New Testament church, and came across this:
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:27, NIV)
Even as I am writing this now I still get chills because I remember this day so distinctly. After I read this verse, the Lord and I had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: What am I suppose to do with this?
God: I placed you in the fastest growing area in the United States for a reason; there are too many people and not enough churches. I gave you a vision for a church now go and be a shepherd over ALL my flocks, which my Son gave His life for.
Me: I’m sorry, what? I don’t think I can do that.
God: You can’t, but I can through you. You just have to decide if you are going to be obedient or not.
Y’all, I was in the midst of studying the “Rich Young Ruler” for the book I was writing, in order to teach others - not myself. During these times, God has always been faithful to surround Chad and I with amazing couples that listen, pray and give such wise Godly advice just when we need it. One of those couples at this time was Ryan and Ashley Lokkesmoe. Ryan is also a pastor as well as a doctor (I mean a fake doctor – his Ph.D. is in Biblical Studies but a doctor nonetheless) and if you think that is impressive you should meet his wife Ashley she is definitely the more impressive of the two. As we shared with them what we felt like the Lord was calling us to do and asked for them to pray for us to have clarity, discernment and boldness; they began to share that the Lord had been working on their hearts in the same way with some of the same convictions. Again, I was just left thinking, “Lord, what in the world are you doing?”
After several other conversations over the next few weeks, we eventually decided that the four of us would take a month to pray and fast for a definite answer from the Lord. I already had an idea of what the Lord was going to say, because of my earlier prayer times but I had not yet directly asked the Lord if he wanted us to plant a church or not, mostly because I was terrified of actually saying the words out loud. So on July 1st, 2015 for the first time I asked, “God, are you asking us plant a church?” His response was simple, “Yes. That is what I have been preparing you for.” Well, ok then. At the end of the month of prayer and fasting we scheduled dinner with Ryan and Ashley and on August 7th, 2015 Real Hope Community Church was born. From that day on it has been a rollercoaster of excitement, fear, hope, insecurity and thankfulness.
So, starting on March 21st, 2016 I will begin my role as the Executive Pastor at Real Hope Community Church. I would be lying if I didn't tell you that as much as I am over the moon about this adventure, I feel equally unprepared and unworthy. But the fact is I want to live in such a reckless abandonment to Christ that people question my sanity! I don’t want to get to the end of my life and wish I would have taken more risks for God, or lived more in the moment. I want to live in the constant reality of James 4:14,
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
A mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes! Just think about that for a minute, because when I do, all of a sudden nothing accept glorifying God with all that I am seems all that important anymore. In the grand scheme, my life and your life is just a small dot on the spectrum of eternity, I don’t want to take up even one day of it pursuing the stuff of this world, because at any second it could all be gone. I want to spend my days pouring into things that will far out last this life – building God’s Kingdom and loving His people.
But even with all that boldness just waiting to explode, I would like to ask you to pray for us. Pray for our families and our kids as we begin this transition and ultimately pray that God is honored and made famous throughout our community!
If you would like to get more information over Real Hope Community church or you would be interested in supporting Real Hope in anyway, please visit our website.