I’ve shared how my husband and I recently joined a smaller ‘start-up’ church. It’s been about 7 months since we started attending regularly. I KNOW it was God’s calling. Still I had HUGE trepidations about doing this because of a previous experience at a start-up church whose story I will share but shall remain nameless in this blog. I rest in assurance that God will deal with it in His time. Suffice to say, according to some very close friends who recently left this church; the antics continue.
I wonder sometimes if there should be a “kit” for start-up churches that includes: recommended reading, potential studies for members, “how to” write your churches vision and implementation of this vision, emergency contact information for dissension and backsliders. To the reading list I would definitely add; “Bait of Satan”, “The Spirit of Jezebel”, “Turning Vision into Action”, “The Purpose Driven Church” and “God Calling”…just a thought!
Some really great things happened at our first start-up church, I’ll call it “Alpha”. Alpha had this 5 fold-ministry with 5 direct purposes and had outreach and in reach and just SEEMED to have it all. Things are not always as they seem. The pastor, who I still proclaim to be one of the greatest Biblical teachers I’ve ever heard, is young and sometimes that youthfulness is a blessing and others times it’s not!
He had a vision. He has set his life with purposeful intent of pursuing this vision. The problem started, for me, when the nature to pursue the vision began to move out of control and out of unity with the church as a whole. You see, it was a “leader-led” church. This translates roughly, in my experience to, ‘we’re doing what the pastor says!’ He wouldn’t dispute that definition. You can see where this might be going…Division and disharmony started to appear within the first eight months. The “honeymoon” was over.
The pastor decided we would do the study “Bait of Satan”. All ‘start-up’ churches should complete this study, probably quarterly, in my opinion. Only after the study, could we clearly see how this division can and WAS destroying the “VISION” of the church. For a while things improved. As a body, we would ‘own’ the offenses we held and we would WORK to repair the hurt. We would come together in unity and we would purposefully pursue the vision the pastor had so clearly explained. We started to grow! God honors obedience and we saw the sowing and reaping in the flesh!
Here’s where it all gets tricky…as a church grows and the pastor gets SO excited about the growth and SO excited about new lives brought to Christ…he may get SO excited and caught up in all this excitement that he forgets about the principle of discipling. He forgets that once these new lives come to Christ, they need counsel and they need direction and they need to study and understand what they study, through others. What began happening is what is termed the “revolving door” syndrome…people came, and people left…the services always seemed to be full but I wasn’t recognizing the people anymore.
My husband became a “Christian” at this church and he soaked up everything he read and heard. My husband is an exception in that he read through the entire Bible without prompting almost immediately and he studies the Word of God with intent even now. He began to want more in the teaching. By this time, many of the people responsible for this “in reach” had either left or were reassigned to other outreach areas. The few remaining who believed this was such a core part of church, were left feeling selfish and self-seeking in their desires.
After three years, it came time for us to leave this church as we needed to “grow” and we both knew we had reached the top of the ‘beanstalk’ and their was no one upstairs to learn from anymore. We met with the pastor to explain our decision, as this was part of our covenant to the church. I still can’t talk about his reaction and his words because it still hurts. When we left that meeting I was ready to de-church for life and didn’t give a flying ‘hoot’ about anyone but myself and my husband. I was just FINE with that…
My husband insisted we find a church. To put it mildly, I was reluctant. I was thinking: “Are you out of your freaking mind?” We eventually found a LARGE church where we could get ‘lost in the crowd’ and go sing the songs and hear the sermon and go home and not be bothered by it all. Sounds a little ‘lacking’ doesn’t it? We did decide to visit one of the “small groups” eventually and lo’ and behold we became a part of a “family”, a sort of hodgepodge of people all seeking God’s will for their lives. I’ve NEVER had a problem finding my voice. The problem for me has been in ‘tempering’ my voice. This group of mature adults helped me hone that skill a bit. They were loving, they were honest…I healed and we grew!
Thankfully, this is when God opened my eyes. The ‘scales’ fell off and I began to see people through His eyes. I saw the hurt. I saw with such clarity that God had created me not only to have relationship with people, but to encourage them and to help disciple them and to grow together towards His purpose for us. From the first time I visited Journey Fellowship, I KNEW that is exactly where God wanted us (I just had to wait for husband to see the 'burning bush').
The bush did BURN and we’re now at this “start-up” church, which we LOVE by the way. The pastor is truly a pastor in the Biblical sense and while outreach is so vitally important to him, he has already begun to place people in positions of discipleship. As I’ve shared before he is always willing to sit with people and answer questions and help people grow in wisdom. This pastor sees that the church must be a collection, a UNITY of believers seeking to do God’s will AND to provide a place for the lost…to find love…and truth…and light. This is a place where we can meet with Jesus, grow with Jesus, work with Jesus and bring others to Jesus!
As I stated earlier, we’ve been here 7 months…soon the ‘honeymoon’ will be over. We are all human and there are offenses people will hold, but the good thing about my previous experience is I can share openly with these people as I get to know them and encourage them to do the “Bait of Satan” study and seek to maintain God’s peace and unity in our church. I pray daily I don’t become “bait” for the enemy and I’m going to fight him kicking and screaming when he tries to steal my brothers and sisters!