Friday, December 21, 2012

My Year-in-Review as a Church Planter

Almost five years ago I began serving a church in Port Arthur, Texas as pastor with hopes to bring revitalization through Biblical church reform. There was no agenda, no clandestine plan, just a love for a people and a commitment to preach and put into practice the Word of God. For nearly four years I served the Lord among some precious saints (and some more challenging saints) and the Lord produced fruit. Human expectations were not always met, and that created conflict at times, but I believe God was glorified and the church edified. By the summer of 2011 it was clear my time as pastor there was near the end. The Lord directed my heart to church planting while directing a new shepherd to take up my former pastorate. My wife and I took a lot of wonderful memories with us, and many lessons learned from the difficulties as well. These would serve us well as church planters.

Over the past year the “nuts and bolts” of administration, management, building team and consensus, and relationship building that I learned the previous four years found application in planting Cross Point. This year has been what could be described as the “core group building phase”. I naively thought this phase would take a lot less time than a year but God’s timing is perfect. Including my wife and I, three couples began meeting in each other’s homes for prayer and fellowship. We also met on Sunday nights at the Baptist Hospital for worship. The Lord connected other couples and single adults to us—some popped in and out quickly, others lingered for weeks or months, some committed to help for a year, and some have dropped anchor to be part of sowing the gospel in the city as a missional community.

We launched a Sunday morning worship service in April and in September split our core group into two Community Groups. These groups are the arena for church life and mission to be “fleshed out”. They eat together, play together, pray together, learn together, serve together, and share burdens together. By November we were ready to call for local church membership. At this point some of those core groupers and some of the regular visitors participated in “Starting Point”—our membership class. The charter membership of Cross Point will be officially dedicated on January 13, 2013. Fourteen disciples have committed to be in covenant together as a local church and missional community.

Just a few weeks ago we moved out of the Baptist Hospital and into our own space on Calder Avenue. The historic Alamo Grocery building is in the heart of the Old Town district on Lower Calder. This is where we’ll gather on Sundays and hope this location will be a tool to establish a presence in the neighborhood. Our “grand opening”/ Old Town Launch will be on January 20, 2013. That is MLK Jr. weekend, which is a significant holiday for many residents of the community. We hope to capture the theme of the weekend by celebrating reconciliation in Christ through the gospel.

It has been a hard year but hard is not bad. Church planting has been exhausting at times, discouraging at times, and frustrating at times but mostly it has been a tremendous faith journey, a continual exercise in sanctification, a pipeline for lessons about God’s provision, a gateway to meet some of the most fantastic and beloved people in my life, and an opportunity to see God glorified over and over again.

I dearly love the flock of disciples Christ has entrusted to me—they enrich my life. I dearly love the city Christ has assigned to me—it is just busting with gospel opportunity. I dearly love the people who Christ has put in my path that have not yet had their hearts opened to His Lordship—their unbelief breaks my heart but I’m trusting the Lord to break through! I dearly love my children and that they can grow up seeing the Body of Christ in this way. Some of my best memories have been passing out fliers or painting restroom walls with my son! I dearly, dearly love my wife (in a way unique and above every way I’ve previously mentioned) and that God gave me the most excellent partner in this journey of faith. Chiefly, church planting this year has taught me to dearly love and trust my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ in a more intimate and enduring way. It has been a roller-coaster year but an abundantly blessed one because of Jesus.

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