As a church planter, I am clinging tightly to both of these promises. When we launched, I had heard from other planters and read in books that the second and third years of church planting were especially challenging. The church grows to a point that everyone may not be closely connected with every other person, many people may realize that their vision of what the church might become does not match what the church actually is, and still others become impatient on waiting for the church to fully bloom and leave for greener pastures. I knew these things in the back of my mind, but seeing them come to fruition has been painful.
This summer we have lost many families. Some have felt God leading them to be a part of other ministries, some have left for greener pastures, some have been blessed with jobs in other states, and some have simply become relaxed about attending. As a church planter, your congregation is like family. Losing members feels a little like getting divorced. Over and over and over again. Don't get me wrong, I am excited for those who are pursuing God's call in their lives and who are experiencing God in other places of worship and who have been blessed with fresh starts. It is only in the darkest moments of the night that I indulge the pain and sorrow of lost relationships for just a little while.
When I am tempted to be discouraged, I review these 2 verses again. There are many times in church planting that it feels like running. We are moving forward quickly, nothing is standing in our way, and it is exciting. In these moments I remember that God promises that I can run and not grow weary. He will provide the energy that is necessary for the ministry. Then there are times when it feels that moving forward is like walking in molasses. Everywhere that I turn I encounter strife and difficulty. In those moments I remember that God has promised that I will have the ability to keep walking, even when I feel like fainting. Then I remember that God has promised that if I will not faint, and will continue in doing the good to which he has called me, that I will see blessings.
In these months of transition, I am reviewing the awesome things that have occurred at The Crossroads in the last 3 years. I can't count how many lives and marriages have been made new as a result of the hope found through Christ at The Crossroads. We have seen over 30 people accept Christ as their savior and follow up with baptism. We have been a part of starting other church plants. We are watching an incredible youth group bloom. We are blessed to enjoy incredible worship. We have an awesome pastor that speaks truth every week. We are meeting in an air-conditioned, large, clean facility. One that was unavailable for religious organizations just 2 years ago!
When I remember back to the first time a small group of people met in my living room to begin praying for Anna, and for the friends we were going to make in Anna, I am awed by what God has done. I know from visiting with many in the congregation in the last week, that many are struggling with hopelessness and discouragement. It seems that many are overwhelmed with finances, marriage problems, job issues, addiction, parenting struggles, and general apathy. I don't know exactly what is going on, and why so many are experiencing what seems to be extraordinary discouragement, but I will say that we can not lose faith. Look back and see God's hand. He has been at work for the last 3 years at The Crossroads. He will continue to be at work in our future. Let's keep walking and not grow faint. Let's run and not grow weary. Let's keeping doing what is right in our relationships with each other, even when it's not easy. Let's believe in our future and live in obedience to God's call.