I’ll be honest, when I am given the opportunity to contribute to this blog, my mind immediately begins to catalogue each of the many difficulties of church starting as potential topics. Rather than celebrating the beauty and growth in our community, which is apparent, I tend to gravitate toward the obstacles, the negativity, the criticism.
I don’t know what to attribute this to. I love pastoring. I love teaching and preaching, planning and dreaming. I love meeting with people (most of the time) and attempting to disciple them well. I am captivated by big theological and ministry-related questions. I am passionate about pursuing justice, fighting for those on the margins, and providing a different image of Jesus to the community. The people of our church offer accountability and support and encouragement. They are true partners in sharing the Gospel of Christ. I am proud to serve with them, and I love what I get to do.
But the past year has been hard. And somewhere along the way, it has become easier for me to replay the stories, not of celebration and success, but of hurt…the families that have left (and not in the hoped-for, “we’ve found a new church, and we feel called to serve them” sort of way), the perceived or, at times, very real lack of support from other local churches, the unfair sermon critiques and the accompanying theological exile that has been imposed on me and our church by the powers that be, and the ongoing, internal battle of legitimizing a “calling” in the midst of stunted growth or giving that is going the wrong direction.
I think about these things a lot. Probably too much. (No, I know it’s too much.)
As I was contemplating them this morning, one of our leaders sent me a text message. She told me that she had a terrible day at work yesterday, maybe one of the worst days this year. She was drained emotionally and spiritually, but it was Thursday, and she and her husband lead a small group on Thursdays in their home. She wrote, “I almost bolted the door last night, but I changed my mind because it was our last small group. I’m so glad I did. It functioned just how we would hope. It was a bunch of people doing life together, supporting each other, building one another up. And laughing. A lot. We are doing something right.”
It was just a meal in a home shared by a few new friends.
But for this leader, on this particular Thursday, it was the true embodiment of the family of God.
When I read her message, it provided a subtle confirmation…we are doing something right.
Maybe one day, my skin will be thicker. Maybe one day, I won’t gravitate toward the obstacles and the negativity and the criticism. Maybe one day, I’ll be more inclined to write a blog about the beauty of church starting, because when you get beyond yourself, the evidences are manifold.
In the meantime, I’ll simply hold on to the words of my friend, and in the face of the obstacles that come our way, I’ll whisper to myself, “We are doing something right.”
-Josh James, pastor, the restoration project