Along with the challenges, problems obstacles and puzzles of planting a church come unexpected delights. Here are two and they are related:
Most of you who've begun an enterprise from scratch be it a band, an affinity group, or some sort of business might relate easily to what I experienced recently. Your effort starts as an inspiration, prayer or intriguing idea. You do all the work of conceptualizing what it might look like or achieve. You put together strategies and structures to define how it will operate. You gather resources and finally get the word out. Depending on your enterprise, people show up or you hire them.
For me, it's been imagine/Northampton.
Some wonderful folks who didn't move here from Simsbury have joined up with us. Lately, I've heard them refer to imagine as "my" or "our church." To think that something which started as a tugging thought morphing into a series of conversations, then a call has become a valuable reality where others find meaning, identity and purpose is richly fulfilling. I used to wonder in Simsbury what it would feel like when people actually became a part this new church. To know God used me and the team to provide a community where others valued the mission enough to throw in their lot and commit, makes the struggles we've encountered very worthwhile.
I've begun things all my life, including ministries which affected many people, but imagine/Northampton stands out to me because it's a church captivated by a compelling mission to open the redemptive Kingdom of Jesus Christ to people who can't see him (from the heart) as its singular purpose. To end my days following this mission is, in my mind, the most important way I could spend my remaining days. That others want to take up the mission as well is simply amazing to me. I'm not overstating how I feel about it.
Secondly, I can't adequately describe the pleasure I have when I see the team or new people step up to do the work of being imagine/Northampton. I know it takes most everyone a while to get their bearings in a new group, but when they eventually say, "What can I do?" (especially taking responsibility for something), it never fails to ignite gratitude and a feeling of shalom, in the sense of "this is the way it's supposed to work." I never take it for granted when someone wants to help shoulder what we're doing. People stepping up and using their gifts without being coaxed or shamed into it inspires greater faith in me to dig in. I'm fueled to keep after the mission where I've taken responsibility.
I hope on my watch I'll be privy to a myriad of such pleasures as others use their gifts to glorify Jesus in the mission we've all been summoned to. One secret longing I have is, down the road, God will raise up spiritually stalwart individuals and couples in our midst to plant imagine/Brattleboro's, imagine/Portsmouth's, or imagine/Santa Fe's, or imagine/Asheville's, or even imagine/Prague's. Maybe God's opening us to help Native Americans (a largely forgotten people to most of us), would lead to an indigenous imagine/Pine Ridge or imagine/Tesuque. I don't know, but God does. Wouldn't it be amazing to see people get involved in those pursuits helping people discover the God who is more than they imagined because a thought and conversation took place in Simsbury almost 4 years ago?
What an unexpected pleasure that would be to me!
I hope to live to see it.