Be forewarned, this post is not particularly written with you in mind, so I’ve done very little to follow rules on how to engage you….. Maybe it’s a lesson for me on making sure I’m serving a different audience…the audience of ONE… or maybe it’s just a really bad blog post but a decent space for me to think. Either way, you have been warned, so don’t get mad at me if you don’t get anything from it.
Full disclosure, I am Pentecostal. I grew up in the Assemblies of God, both my parents and one of my brothers graduated from Central Bible College (an A/G school), and my husband and I graduated from Evangel University (another A/G school). Jon and I planted an Assemblies of God church. Or did we really?
This is the thing I have been struggling with for years. It have two very strong desires when it comes to my church. The first is that lives would be transformed by God’s presence and activity. The second is that we wouldn’t have a “weird” church where people use the Holy Spirit as an excuse to draw attention to themselves instead of to God. I know I can have both, yet somehow I feel the second desire has crippled the first in many ways.
Now on to the stuff some of my readers will find weird- prophetic words.
Before we started the church, I felt in my heart the words “a book to build a church on” again and again the words came to me. So, I wrote a book. It has not built a church… yet.
After we moved to Charlottesville, we attended a CHOP (Charlottesville House of Prayer) meeting. They prayed over us and prophesied God would provide us a vehicle (which we didn’t need yet). Since that time, God provided us a trailer and truck for almost no cost, another truck for free, and a van for free. I guess that prophecy was spot on.
Another thing we were told that night is that the church will not look how we expect. We didn’t love that one. As we talked about it, all we kept coming back to was that we thought it would be like most church plants and that we would succeed (probably 250 to 300 people after a couple years). Well, two and a half years after opening our church doors, the prophecy is true. It doesn’t look like what we thought. We are a church that serves about 75 people.
They also said things about people being drawn to us because of our authenticity and some other stuff that has all been confirmed. God is pretty cool like that. However, that is also the reason I am feeling nervous, maybe even scared.
Last Thursday night, at our own prayer meeting (something we started a while back because I have strongly been feeling that the best thing we can do to build this church is ask for God’s help). It has been a crowd of three to five, and we topped the numbers at six last week. Anyway, my father-in-law (yes, two of the people in our super small prayer group are family members… we are totally doing an amazing job of drawing others) shared about God being a shelter in the storm, and he was saying it in a prophetic sense (too hard to explain… it just was). I can’t remember what else he said, but the sense was that it’s going to get a bit harder and God will be there in it.
Move on to this past Sunday. I was visiting my family in Central New York, and we went to my brother’s church. The sermon was so spot on for me. He was preaching from The Circle Maker, and he was teaching on praying hard. My spirit was stirred as he spoke of Elijah praying for rain, which was something God had told Elijah to do. He prayed and would check for rain, yet six times the rain didn’t come. He didn’t quit. He prayed through.
Look, let’s be honest here. God told us to plant a church, and we have had strong sense that was meant to have an impact on the community. However, we have done all we can do and followed all the advice, and nothing has worked. We are tired (see old posts). We are discouraged. We have lost people for reasons out of our control and others because they have lost the vision for the church (which I feel falls on us as the leaders). We were worshiping with over 100 people for a brief window, and now most Sundays we worship with somewhere between 55 and 65 people. Although I have felt a deep love for our church and peace about our direction in many ways for the last few months, I have also been ready to leave if there were a way out.
My fatigue is not with the church, but it is because of the church. One of the most draining aspects has been in our home. Jon and I have enmeshment issues. I hold on too tightly to his highs and lows and he does the same with me. #notthehealthiest, #workingonit, #weloveourcounselor. Anyway, being the leaders of a struggling church can impact our lives due to internal battles of calling and self worth. Look, it is hard. We are human; give us a break. We haven’t quit, and we aren’t going to quit. We are working to build this church until we run it into the ground or it grows. Either way, we are here… emotionally drained, but here.
God called us to this, he is in control, and we are going to work our butts off as we try to follow his leading. We might not get it right, but we are giving it everything we have.
Okay, is that enough vulnerability for one post? It might cause us to lose some folks because we aren’t the leaders they dreamed we are. That is the reality of living authentically. We refuse to put on a show in order to keep people. Some may think we should, but I am tired of leaders failing in huge, public, and shocking ways because they live their lives hiding their struggles in order to protect their churches. Their hiding has always done more damage than good, and I refuse to be another one of those stories. If, God forbid, I make a huge mistake, at least people will have known from day one that I’m just as human as everyone else and just as susceptible to failure. I’m way off track in my processing of the prophetic though….
After the Sunday service at my brother’s church, I went to the altar to ask for prayer. It was powerful, encouraging, and scary. The prayers confirmed that pull I have been feeling to invite God to have his way and to not be held back by my fear. The general sense of the words spoken over me were that we would be a church that looks different from what churches look like today, that I should embrace the prophetic anointing God has placed on me, and that there is still a hard season coming before we see a shift that will then start a movement…basically. Also, my Dad gave me this image of the Grand Canyon and how the water broke down the massive land and rock to create this thing of beauty and awe. He was talking about allowing God’s spirit to do the same in a hard place of ministry.
These prayers confirmed the leading I have been sensing. I have been feeling God calling me more and more into time with the Holy Spirit and to allow him to fill our church. My father-in-law had shared a month or two back that he sees a door being blocked when he prays for our church and our city. My bother’s prayer mentioned some doors also. Our city has had church plants come and go for years. It is a hard context.
Between my father-in-law’s prayer about a storm coming and God as a shelter and my brother’s word that we have another hard season ahead, I’m a bit scared… even though the word was that God would be with us and that it would be followed by a release of God’s move. I am Elijah pushing year three on this church and waiting for God’s presence to pour down from heaven. I am praying for Him to show us that our coming to this city in obedience will have a result.
I am sometimes mad at God as I pray for him to show up. I am mad that I have been faithful and sacrificial and willing to do what he has called me to and he hasn’t done what I thought he would. LOL…. I am laughing because I know how ridiculous my anger is. I have no right to it. I am mad because God didn’t do what I wanted when I wanted. I know how absurd it is. I know I am not justified in it. I feel it though. I am weary in my obedience, and I am a child stomping her foot because I didn’t get what I wanted by doing what God wanted.
I don’t have a point to all this yet. I am just trying to process it all. I feel myself on the edge. I am on the edge of a break down or a break through. I am knocking on heaven’s door with a new desperation. I am throwing my hands in the air for the thousandth time since we started this church to say, “I get it God. I can’t do it. It has to be you. So WHEN are you going to do it? Could you please make something change? Could you please change something besides me?”
And weirdly I have a sense that the point lies in that last request… change something besides me. I know he is changing me, and I can feel in me that the change will impact more than me. I know that he is saying I need to be one who will stop saying “Do it like me; I’m a success. You can be a success if you copy me.” I think our struggle is meant to demonstrate the success is 100% God. We are called to be faithful… end of story. He gets to do the rest.
I’m just scared of what another season of struggling and storm looks like, (even though the point of the prophecy is to encourage me that God is present and in control in it all), and I can’t even picture what we will be when it is over.
If this post is the worst one you think I have written, that’s okay. I get it. This post isn’t really for you anyway. You are just peaking into my brain and my heart.
I’ve come to the end of trying to process and figure it all out.
God, take it all. Let your spirit come and move however you chose. Lead me. Use me. Fill me. Pour me out.
The Disillusioned Planter:
A Guide on What to Do When The Church Doesn’t Take Off After You Launch