“I GET to do this another year!” This is how I feel as another year church planting lies before me. I feel in my heart a sense of gratefulness and surprise at God’s sustaining grace in our church plant here in Naperville: Cross of Christ Fellowship. (I often feel surprised at the beginning of the new year by the fact that we as a church plant are still going. So many church plants do not make it past the 2nd year, but we are in our 5th year! The work of planting Cross of Christ Fellowship has certainly been a LONG and SLOW process: it has been much harder than I expected, and much slower than I thought. And though we are not as numerically large as I thought we would be at this point [we have around 40 people in attendance on a Sunday morning service], I praise God that by His grace we are healthy, faithfully proclaiming the gospel and making disciples, bearing each other’s burdens, and raising up new leaders).
While the work of church planting is difficult and at times painful, it is also JOYFUL. It is a precious privilege to be about the task of planting and pastoring a church. Here’s a few of the joys that come to my mind:
There is a joy in seeing God work in my own life.
I am learning how to be a pastor—this is my first pastorate. God has been faithful to me. God is carrying me, even when I feel overwhelmed and stretched beyond my limits and abilities. God is teaching me how to be a pastor and to remember that my life and identity are in Him, and not ministry “success.” God is sustaining me, growing me and watching over me. I can’t believe that some of my weekly tasks include preaching, prayer, evangelism, discipling others, shepherding and leading the congregation, developing leaders, and studying. I find all this a joy—though there are certainly heartaches and pain too.
There is joy in seeing God work in the lives of those in our church.
I get to see members sharing their faith, members looking out for each other sacrificially, members praying for each other and giving sacrificially, members serving each other and those in the community, members stepping out in faith for big things like adopting babies from overseas. I get to see husbands loving their wives and wives respecting their husbands. I get to see parents teaching their children the gospel. I get see singles striving to live out their faith in Christ. I get to see members using their gifts and talents for God’s glory and building up the church. It is joyful to be part of this and pastor a congregation where there is so much visible evidence of God’s grace. It a joy to remember that in 2020 we will look to God for more of His grace.
There is joy in ministering to those outside the church.
At our Christmas event last month, we were able to share the good news of the gospel with unbelieving friends and family members in attendance and collect an offering to support victims of domestic abuse. In our monthly discussion group ministry we regularly share the gospel with those disconnected and far from the church. Sometimes we get to have follow up conversations those who attend: this week I had coffee with a Muslim man and was able to share the gospel with him. We get to serve regular at a local retirement home where we sing hymns, share the gospel, and build relationships. Some of our members help out a Feed My Starving Children—a organization that packs meals for impoverished children around the world. All of these things and other more informal ways of ministering to the community bring joy to my heart.
There is joy in trusting God for the future.
We don’t know what 2020 holds, but we pray that more people will hear the gospel, more will be discipled, and that we would be faithful in whatever God has for us as a church. Yet, it is joy to know that God knows what lies ahead in 2020 and beyond. The church plant is in His loving and wise hands.