Four Things I Am Learning About Church Planting
God continues to advance His gospel and build His church here in Winchester. Let me just share four things I have been learning.
1. Church planting is sweet.
Every time we gather for worship or for fellowship, I am struck by how sweet this experience is. When I say sweet, I am mostly thinking about the God-exalting and Gospel-centered love and unity that we are experiencing. By God's grace, we continue to experience unity on many levels --- doctrinally, philosophically, and relationally. I hope that never changes. Sometimes, I just stand back and watch the interaction among our people. The room is abuzz with chatter -- and not necessarily between old friends. Often the conversations are between people who are still getting to know one another. As a pastor, I rejoice when I see members intentionally reaching out to visitors or to people they do not know very well. That is being others-minded and that is sweet. Church planting has not gotten old or routine yet. Folding and stapling bulletins every Saturday evening and then packing and unpacking our SUV with all of the equipment for our worship services each Sunday is definitely getting old. But that is about it. I still take mental pictures of all that is happening with a sense that we are part of something that God is doing.
2. Growth is slow.
Somewhere in this update you might expect me to say, "Church planting is hard." So far, it has not been. For now, the hard part about planting a church, at least for me, is the slow part. However, I am confident that the slow growth we are experiencing is healthy growth. I think, to a person, there is a sense that we are all growing through the exposition of Scripture. I am not talking about my ability as a preacher. Rather, I am talking about the consistent transformation that is happening in us as we study God's Word together. Above and beyond anything, God seems to be using the exaltation of Christ through expository preaching to define and to grow our church. As for numerical growth, we currently have twenty-three members and on an average Sunday, we have about fifty to sixty people worshiping together. We are thankful for eight adults who are currently pursing membership. One of the couples pursuing membership recently posted this on Facebook: "We are seeking membership in a wonderful church in Winchester, VA. We absolutely love this little church plant. I've been praying for a church like this for the last six years (as long as I've been saved), and it is obvious that the Lord has heard and answered those prayers." Sometimes I feel like we are not doing enough and I wonder where the people will come from. Two Sundays ago a young couple and their two little boys showed up out of nowhere -- they found us on the Internet. Yesterday, we had four new families attend our church. Three of them had no connection to anyone. Where will they come from? God will bring them--slowly but surely.
3. Outreach is relational.
Every family is an outpost for the gospel in their neighborhood and we are all charged with the responsibility to display the love, glory, and gospel of Christ through our lives and in our conversations. Corporately, our church is involved in two outreach projects this month. First, we are serving the Winchester Rescue Mission by providing the money and man-power to help remodel one of their main bathroom and shower facilities. We also do a chapel service for them one Saturday each month. Second, we are throwing an End-of-the-Year Party for the entire staff at Millbrook High School. We will serve Chick-Fil-A biscuits, fruit, cinnamon rolls, muffins, juice, and coffee to 130 staff members on June 18. What a privilege to serve these two great organizations in our community.
4. Partnerships are wonderful.
I am sitting here just shaking my head in amazement at the goodness of God through the generosity of His people. At 3:45 this afternoon I sent the email update to our partners sharing several praises and one request for help purchasing some sound equipment that will cost around $2,500. At 4:35, less than one hour later, I received this email: "I am blessed to hear the Lord is doing a good work (He always does good) through WBC. Regarding the equipment, I still have $2K parked in my mind and in my account for WBC. I would be blessed to send that to you towards the equipment, and you can send a followup email that only $500 more is needed." At 4:55, praising the Lord, I sent out the notice that $2,000 has been given and only $500 remains to purchase this equipment. By 7:00 I had two more people offering to help with the need, one giving $100 and one giving $500. I thanked both and gladly told the latter donor that only $400 was needed. All I can say is, all glory to God and our sincere gratitude to these generous friends who partner with us for the gospel here in Winchester.
For the gospel and the glory of Christ,