Anyone who has driven many nails in their life, has likely hit their thumb with a hammer. It hurts. It throbs, gets black and blue and sometimes it even costs you a thumb nail. At the moment the hammer strikes, after you have bit your lip so you don’t curse and have fought the urge to chuck that hammer as far as you can throw it, you are left with a decision. You are in pain but the project is not done. The dog house still needs to be built. The roof or the fence still needs repair. There are more nails to drive. The question is, will you pick up the hammer again, knowing how much it hurt the first time? Planting a church hurts at times, especially in the beginning.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of the greatest joys in my life have come while being involved in planting. I have worked side-by-side with people who have become life-long friends. I have seen lives radically changed, dead hearts reignited, and baby Christians growing up into mighty men and women of God. At the same time, it’s hard. Everything that we all love about an established church doesn’t exist in a church plant. I’ve been confronted by drunk and belligerent people in the middle of a sermon. I’ve looked into eyes and heard the voices of those who were obviously not alone in their body. I’ve drug my wife and kids to places where there were no clean or safe restrooms because that’s where the needs were.
Through all of that, God has done great things. We have seen Him building His kingdom. My family has ministered together. We have been blessed. By His grace we have made it through the most difficult times. The church we helped plant almost three years ago is hitting its stride. It’s not perfect, but they are believing the gospel, building community and on mission together. That’s why we were so surprised when the Lord began speaking to our hearts about a new plant; about starting over. He was calling us to pick up the hammer again, just when the thumb nail had begun to grow back.
I won’t bore you with the details of how it all happened. Just know, He made it crystal clear what He wanted; so we went. This time was a little different. We were planting in our home town, in the suburbs and starting in our living room. That meant that most of the challenges regarding safety and hygiene weren’t there. However, there were and are plenty of new challenges. Actually that’s what I want to talk about before I wrap this up; how surprisingly different everything was. The things we thought would go well didn’t. The people we thought may not even come to the first core team meeting, turned out to be church planting Rock Stars.
The support we received came from unexpected places as did the opposition. I will take just a moment to explain and to give props where they are due. First on the list is obviously the Lord. He has knit lives together as only He can and formed an amazing core team from a group of people who barely knew each other. He has blown doors open that others have found impenetrable. That’s all Him.
There are also a handful of people who have shown up big in our journey, and they have come from unexpected places. Pastor Kurt and Robin Fuller lead the Warehouse Foursquare Church in Whittier. They planted that church about seven years ago in the same city God has called us to. Not only did they not complain that we were planting too close to their church or others (which is what we sometimes hear rustling in the trees), they have embraced us. They have loved us. They invited my family to their church campout simply because they knew we needed rest and fellowship. They have also welcomed my teenage son into their youth group, knowing that we don’t have one. In short, they cared more about us and the kingdom of God than the possibility that one of God’s kids may choose to fellowship at Impact Church instead of the Warehouse. That is brotherhood.
Just a couple more shout outs: to Jeff and Lynn Brown, who should have turned and run for the hills when they first heard this crazy plan; but didn’t. There’s no way this would have happened without you. To Peyton Jones my friend, coach, sounding board, and fellow theology nerd; I look forward to many more kingdom victories together. To Don Overstreet, Church Planting Catalyst and God-sent supporter, thanks for everything. To my wife Julie, and my boys Ethan and Zion, sorry for all the times you were neglected because you were the only ones who were willing to take “no” for an answer. You have forgiven me for all the mistakes and sins; and loved me through it all. You are nothing short of amazing and a living demonstration of God’s grace.
So would I do it all again? Would I pick up the hammer again? With some pause I say, “Yes I would.” I pause because I have counted the cost, and it is high; and because,for the moment, He has asked me to serve the church He planted, not to plant another one. But if He did ask again I would say ‘yes’ because Jesus is worthy of all I have and all I am. He has showered me with grace when I deserve judgment. He has taken my punishment and given me the rewards He earned. Only in His kingdom can I bow as a slave before my King and embrace Him as my closest friend. Yes, for Jesus and His kingdom, I would do whatever He asked; including planting a church.