No one told me, or if they did I didn’t listen, that church starting has the capacity to be an extremely frightening endeavor. I didn’t anticipate the sleepless nights, the fear of failure, the anxiety of who might show up or be a missing person on Sunday morning. I never knew how important the loss or gain of one person or one family might be. I never ever thought that I would agonize so intensely over each person who didn’t show or who didn’t stay at MercyChurch. I never realized how intense the highs and lows of church starting actually are.
Certainly, for the church starter, it is good to remember that the bible speaks equally to both faith and fear. One of the stories in the old Testament that has offered great encouragement over the past year stars Caleb and Joshua. Remember that they were two of the twelve spies chosen by Moses to scope out the Promised Land. In Numbers 13 & 14 the bible tells us that 84% of the espionage reports were both fearful and negative. They are giants, we are like grasshoppers, they are many, we are few, they are seasoned warriors, we are slaves, they have weapons, and we have nothing. Their report was all gloom and doom. They made it clear that they were not crossing the river Jordan under any circumstance. They would rather choose slavery over what they considered certain failure. Caleb and Joshua, however, sang a different tune. They saw the same challenges and circumstances. They, too, looked up and saw the overpowering strength of the giants. But, they remembered that their God had always been faithful. They remembered the 10 plagues that guaranteed their freedom. Caleb and Joshua remembered how God had parted the Red Sea and insured their safety and also devoured their enemy. They remembered how God had dropped Krispy Kremes (Manna) daily from the sky to provide nourishment. They had seen some amazing things!
Thus, the giants were of no consequence to them because Caleb and Joshua realized that God was way bigger than their enemies. Their perspective was “if God is for us, who can stand against us?” Their report made it clear that they were ready to cross the Jordan and claim what God had promised His people. But as so often happens, the negative voices were louder and the prophets of doom won the day. Perhaps you remember that the Israelites wandered aimlessly for forty years in the Sinai Desert as a result. Sadly, they never got to experience God’s plan and God’s portion for their lives.
We have found this truth to be applicable at MercyChurch. Over the first eighteen months there have been many who warned of failure. Others have jumped the ship; still others remain and constantly point out our missteps and hardships. The path has sometimes been rough and often it would have been easier to give up and return to an established congregation. A congregation with adequate funding, a beautiful campus and a lengthy membership roll. At times, it seemed like the giants and those who feared them would have the loudest voice. But thank God for His constant reminders of His presence and His prolific acts of grace! Every time we needed a boost, encouragement or inspiration God has provided them. He has blessed us with an adequate amount of Calebs and Joshuas. MercyChurch has not only survived, God has allowed us to thrive! Church starting remains, in year two, a fearful venture. Sleep is often still evasive and anxiety strikes without notice. But the grasshoppers are catching up to the giants. We know that the battle for what God has promised will end in victory.
It strikes me, as I write this, that even more fearful and risky is doing anything BUT what God has called you to do. So, sleep well fellow church starters. The calling is real and the results will come. God has proven Himself to be faithful and He will reward our efforts!