The joy and pain of pioneering a new church
As a church this month we celebrated our 10th anniversary – I can't believe how the time has flown by (yes I know that's a sign of getting older!). It was rather hilarious to watch clips of our launch service, spotting those who have been with us since the start (and noting how much younger and slimmer we all looked!)
We had a fantastic anniversary service, praising God for bringing us this far and re-dedicating ourselves to His vision. We then enjoyed a feast of international food prepared by everyone in the church. But what has struck me most during this time of celebration is how faithful God has been throughout the journey.
The church almost lost two of its leaders before we even really began as our marriage began to unravel. I remember my husband saying to the pastor who was mentoring the team at the time, 'but what about the church?'. His answer? 'God will build His church – you focus on your marriage.' Wise, true words.
I can also remember at the time asking my sister, 'Why won't God just let me walk away? It isn't fair.' But now I know – He had a plan and purpose for our lives that lay together, building His church locally and now, by God's grace, my husband is lead pastor.
God's faithfulness in bringing us through that horrific time just at the start of the church did not mean we were immune from the pain. We've also made many mistakes since. One of the hardest things I think I've ever done was choose to stick with a church family who knew my history – warts and all. It would have been so much easier to stay away, and yet God, and loving friends, welcomed me back. It was such a humbling time but now I can truly say, 'There but by the grace of God go I.'
I don't think any of us could have 'made' this church 'happen', but God, in His sovereignty, orchestrated those that became part of a team and who worked hard together to bring it into being.
Our previous leaders were the backbone of the church; it certainly wouldn't have survived till now without them. In celebrating God's faithfulness I have to acknowledge them – and thank God for bringing them to us. We didn't know them but He did and worked things out so that they moved to our area to start the church with us.
Of course things have not been all plain sailing. Starting a new church with a small group of people is hard work, and, even as the church has grown and more teams developed, it remains so! But it is a brilliant way of working out your faith; in a family that loves you no matter what and who supports you as well as worships alongside you.
Having had my mask ripped so firmly away from my face has enabled me to see the value in being totally honest with those around you. We are, after all, on a journey; none of us perfect but all sharing the same beating heart of worship. It is as we come together, find friendship and unity and 'do life' together that we truly become a reflection of the church God longs for.
As a church family we share our joys and our sorrows together. In the last ten years we've cried with friends who've lost babies, lost family members and, at times, lost hope. We've also celebrated new lives being born, weddings taking place, countless new jobs – and some incredible miracles.
I will never forget the day when, leading worship from my keyboard, I watched as a friend who had been wheelchair bound for more than 6 months asked to be helped out of her chair and then was suddenly leaping up and down frantically!
I am so looking forward to seeing where God takes us next as a church. We are certainly at a pivotal moment; in the process of buying a building so we have a home and community base (there will be much more on that I'm sure as man that has been a loooooonnnnng process) and looking to expand the leadership team in the near future.
Through it all, God has been in our midst; teaching us, loving us, correcting us, nurturing us. I know I'm biased but, on this our anniversary month, I feel I am allowed to say: our church is quite simply the best! ;)