During my years of preparation for church planting, I spent a considerable amount of time studying and reading books that pertained to church planting. Like most guys prepping to go plant I read the stories of statistics, failures, struggles, triumphs, and successes. Typically I day dreamed about triumphs and success and not contemplating the failure and struggle side of church planting. One specific area of my dreams was in regard to a gathering space.
Our church spent the first year meeting as three community groups around Portland. After the first year we perceived that it was time to begin meeting corporately. God provided a perfect space for our group, so we launched a once a month gathering. The location had everything that we needed, and by all accounts was cool. Soon we were meeting twice month and before long we had made the giant leap to every Sunday. All the while our space was amazing.
Roughly seven months into meeting on Sundays I had a sit down with the pastor of the church we were renting space from. The discussion started fairly normal. We discussed our backgrounds, passions, and your typical ministry related topics. Then it all changed. We began having some serious differences when it came to theology and philosophy of ministry. I brought another of our pastors’ into the meeting that day. We both listened and conversed. The conversation ended with me suggesting we both go back to our leaders to pray and think about how to best move forward.
Our meeting had been on Tuesday, but by Sunday I overwhelmingly sensed God tell me we needed to leave our current space. With great fear I stood in front of our church and told them this would be our last Sunday meeting in our current location. With that announcement, our fledgling church was effectively homeless. I was optimistic that one of my pastor friends would feel the tug of God’s Spirit Monday morning and call letting me know that for whatever reason God put on his heart to let me know about an incredible building we could meet in. Monday came and went. Tuesday came and went. Wednesday was the same and Thursday was not looking good. We were just a few days away from Sunday and had no where to meet and nothing that we considered a prospect.
By Thursday morning I had given up on a meeting place before Sunday. Our church would call it quits. Dramatic, I know, but that is how I was feeling. I sat down in a local coffee shop that I visit frequently. The shop owner, who isn’t a Christian, approached me and asked how the church was. I told her things were going well, outside of the fact we had no where to meet on the quickly coming Sunday. She said she and her husband had recently spoke about wanting to help the community more. I told her her the shop was awesome and would be a cool space for a church to meet in. I left the shop and she told me she’d talk the idea over with her husband. Not thinking this would work, I still planning my next career move.
Thursday night came and the shop owners texted asking if we could meet. Friday morning we sat and discussed what it would look like for a church to meet in a coffee shop while it was still open for business. By God’s grace we came to an agreement and on Friday afternoon I emailed our church and told them we had a place to meet this upcoming Sunday. The excitement was palpable.
That Sunday we had a home. Albeit a coffee shop, but a home. For the next four weeks we met every Sunday night in the coffee shop. It was hard on our church. The coffee shop was further than our other location, it didn’t have space for our kids, and occasionally hearing an espresso grinder go off made it challenging to hear the preaching. Even though God came through in a miraculous way, it was apparent this wasn’t going to be a long term solution. We began to pray…again. Asking God to provide a new space for us…again.
At that point I had tapped out and told God to send us wherever He wanted to and we would follow. So He did. After four weeks in the coffee shop a new space opened up for us. However, instead of meeting at 5pm we would have to change our gathering to start at 10am. It was also not in the geographical context we had originally thought we were going to plant in.
In the last two and half months our church has gone from great location, to homeless, to coffee shop, to new church building. We have had no kids space, had to change our meeting time, pay more money, and the list goes on. After reflecting on all that God has done, I have realized that I’m a moron. I’m not trying to self-deprecate here, i’m just trying to be honest. I thought because of my training, gifting, and experience our church would be the exception. It wasn’t, it isn’t, and I praise God for that. Our church is seemingly stronger than it ever has been, we are optimistic about the future, we believe that God hears and answers prayer. We believe it is our job to be sensitive to His Spirit and move wherever He tells us to. Even when it seems asinine. All in all I wouldn’t change what has happened. It needed to happen.
I thought because of my training, gifting, and experience our church would be the exception. It wasn’t, it isn’t, and I praise God for that.