I don’t know what the next ten years hold, but when I look back at this past year, I think I will share the story of one of the craziest, most emotional, strangest, and least expected years of my life. Many of you may relate because on top of all my individual woes, we were all navigating a global pandemic, an election year, and more shutdowns and isolation than many of us had ever experienced. What a year to start a ministry!
But I have to keep coming back to the fact that when God was knitting together the threads of my life into the partial tapestry I see today, He wasn’t unaware of all those variables. If I truly believe in a God who is sovereign, then I must believe He knew what he was getting me into. This thought alone has been both comforting and haunting to humankind as we wrestle with all the hardships those things included.
And it’s those very haunting questions that many of us were faced with this year. We can look back on the highlight reel and rejoice in the good moments – how many people we met, who came to our outreach events, what kinds of conversations we started with new neighbors, new jobs and new houses, etc. And we might even sit and remember the moments when bad things happened – the moments when house deals fell through, the moments when our timeline was delayed, the moments when we received job rejection letters or didn’t know our next steps. All of those things are the things you’d expect to be in an update.
But when I think back on the strangest most unexpected year of my life, I don’t think of the good things or the bad things. I think of the questions; the lack of clarity. The moments when I didn’t have a clue what was happening. This year has forced us to reckon with questions that touched deeper parts of us and required more soul searching than ever before.
How can I know what God’s will for my life is?
How do I share the news with my church and friends and community that I’m leaving?
Is it okay to grieve what I’m losing even though I’m excited about what I’m gaining?
Can I trust my own heart to discern God’s voice accurately?
I thought that God provided open doors when his people followed his will…why does it feel like we’re hitting brick walls?
How do you decide between two good options if you don’t feel confirmation on either? Which house should we live in? Which jobs should we pursue?
What if the pressures of church planting are too much? What if we’re not strong enough? What if it breaks our faith or our families or our friendships or our sense of self?
How does God desire to be worshipped? If all our church norms were stripped away, what would be left?
How does Jesus desire to be expressed to those who don’t know him?
What does it mean to love people who are different from us?
Did God mean to put so many different people together on one team?
Can we trust that the people on our team love us and want what’s best for us?
Is this vision what God intended? Are we missing a piece of the puzzle?
What if what we’re doing doesn’t seem to be working?
What happens if this church plant fails?
What do we tell people who ask for updates?
Who am I? Who was I created to be on this team/in this ministry?
Do I trust God enough to do the hard things he’s asking of me?
Does God love me enough to carry me through my own moments of doubt and insufficiency in this ministry?
Does our team trust each other enough to work through team conflict and pursue the unity required to do this work?
Where do we go from here if we don’t know where we’re going anymore?
These are just a fraction of the questions that have kept us up at night. Some of them we’ve found answers to, others we continue to ask, trusting that God is good and sovereign in the midst of our own unknowns.
Maybe what we’ve been missing all along is that faith is more about asking the right questions than finding all the answers.
Much of what our ministry has been about thus far has been our team learning how to strip everything else away and ask the questions – What is worth doing? Who is worth knowing? What is worth saying?
And we’ve learned that the process of asking the questions worth asking has to start with being WILLING to ask the scary questions. The questions that put everything already established up in the air for the sake of finding what God wants us to establish.
It feels like a real Abraham and Isaac moment. The real work that had to be done as Abraham climbed that mountain was learning to ask, “Would I be willing to sacrifice my son?” We all know the end of the story was that God provided a ram instead. But that wasn’t the point. Was Abraham brave enough to ask the scary questions? The questions that made him hold his breath because it was almost scarier to utter them. Have you ever asked God that kind of question? The question that left all the options open, released all of your own control, and gave God full reign to answer with HIS ANSWER instead of your bias?
Whether you’re asking him who He wants you to be, where he wants you to live, what job he wants you to have, or what He wants your ministry to look like.
So in a year where we gave up our homes, our jobs, our schools, our communities, our churches, and so much more, sometimes I think the hardest part has been learning to give up everything within ourSELVES that wasn’t compatible with the work God was doing within us.
Working on bad habits, learning to communicate out of love, casting away our idols, checking our hearts, and rebuking our fleshly responses.
And in the process of even being willing to ask those questions of ourselves and God, He has been so Good.
Yes, he has blessed us with moments of external fruit in the forms of relationships with neighbors, successful events, Bible studies, or ministry moments with people hungry for God. But I think even more than all those metrics, the real work He’s been doing this year has been inside of us. He has so graciously invited us to go deeper within ourselves, deeper within our relationships with our team members, and deeper within our relationship with Him. One might think this invitation would be dependent on if we were brave enough and strong enough and resilient enough. But we weren’t any of those things. All he wanted us to be was WILLING.
And when we were WILLING, he lent us the courage that only comes from the God of Joshua, the strength that only comes from the God of Samson, and the Resilience that only comes from the God that transformers gardens of Gethsemane to empty Graves.
A year ago, if you asked us what the next year would hold, we would have given you a spiel about our vision that included the 10-year plan. And as put-together as we sounded, we would have been wrong. Today, if you ask us what the next year holds, we don’t know. But God does. God knows if we succeed or fail in the end. And whether a longstanding church is established, or one man meets Jesus…It’s God who determines what our success looks like. Whether we meet every sunday for church or meet once a month for living room prayer, He is the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path. Whether the initial team lives together until all our hair turns gray, or whether God calls us to be launched into other ministries whose seeds were planted in this soil, He is the God of the harvest.
When it comes down to it, we are like soil that’s been tilled and turned over for a fresh crop. The soil knows not what plans the farmer has, the farmer knows exactly what kind of tilling and plowing and fertilizing it needs to produce the harvest he has planned. As we look forward to and pray for a future harvest, we are completely dependent on our Creator and that’s the perfect place to be.
Will you pray for us to be WILLING as God does the painful work of breaking up the hard clumps of soil in our hearts and removing the weeds and rocks?
Will you pray for us to be dependent on HIS voice as we dream together about what a future harvest looks like?
Will you pray for that future harvest with us, and for more team members to join us in the mission?
Will you pray for each member of our current team (and the kids) – that our team would be unified, communicate clearly, and care for each other’s needs by loving each other deeply?