The first 18 months of our church planting journey weren't easy, but they weren't hard either. God's amazing grace was there the entire time to help us everytime we ran into a snag. We could see His hands in action everywhere we looked.
Well last summer I felt God speaking to me about our church. It was as if He was saying, "The grace you've been walking in is about to change." It felt as if we were the Israelites on the edge of the Promised Land. Everyday they experienced a fresh supply of manna. They didn't have to work for it. They didn't have to even pray about it. It was just there... every single day! That's exactly what it was like for us.
But God was telling me that we were getting ready to enter the Promised Land. That this "no-work" blessing was going to change. He was clear, though, that we were going to be entering "a land flowing with milk and honey!" But we would have to work for it. The land would produce what we needed... even an abundance. But there would be effort involved.
Let me tell you... He was right! Since the beginning of the year (2012) it's been a real struggle. Our staff and many of the members of our team and our church have had some real battles. I had forgotten something about the Promised Land... there are giants there. And we've seen them raise their ugly heads. At times we've felt like quitting, and it's been really tough to stay on task. But we know what God has called us to do... and we're determined to do it!
These past few months have been a real time of soul-searching for our staff, our team and our church. It's almost as if we've come through the spiritual Winter season. There are beautiful sights to see in Winter (snow, etc), but it's cold and lonely... it seems like it will never end. But while on the outside everything seems dead, on the inside, things are getting ready for Spring. Without Winter there can be no Spring.
The good news is that we've seen God's blessing increase. More people are coming to Christ, more people are making fresh dedications of their lives to Him, more people are being filled with God's Spirit. And our influence is growing as rapidly as our attendance. Our Servolution and our Easter Egg Hunt opened the door for a local school to ask our church to help them rebuild some of their playground equipment. (This NEVER happens in Germany!!!)
I guess I'm writing this as a catharsis. Honestly, we're in a good place. It's been a tough, but good process. These times really force you to see where your faith is centered. Is it focused on "results" or finances, or is it focused on the One who called us to plant this church in the first place?
If you're a church planter, be encouraged. There are tough times all along the journey. But God is there every step of the way. There will be marvelous opportunities to give up. But don't even allow yourself to entertain the thought of quitting. If you'll just stay the course, you'll see the prize!