Friday, October 3, 2008

Healer of the Hurt

Planting a new church is not easy.  When Frank and I decided to jump into the vision of HealingPointe Community Church, we knew that it would take some sacrifice and some work and that it seemed to be an opportunity that God was leading us to.  Right before starting the church, my former pastor's wife, who planted a church 10 years ago, gave me this advice.  "It will be the hardest thing you do, but it will be the best."  Her words have echoed in my mind many times since then because they have proven to be so true.  This week they have been echoing once again.

One of the inevitable questions that come up when talking to people, especially Christians, about the church is, "How many people do you have now?"  I suppose the number of people a church has is in many ways a strong indicator of how healthy or successful a church is.  Good things multiply, right?  Look at the early church in Acts and how it exploded with growth despite the persecution against it!  For HealingPointe, though, this hasn't been the case lately.  We have been in a season of huge personal spiritual growth for a lot of us, myself and Frank included.  We had our first baptism service last month and there are people at our church that have had their lived completely transformed!  As Frank put it, "God is obviously in our church."  But our actual numbers have shrunk.  Some of this has just been people entering a new time in life.  They graduated or got a new job and had to move somewhere else.  I miss those people, but I'm excited about what God has for them in their new place.  But in the past few weeks and months, key people in our church have left for other reasons- they don't agree with our pastor or where we're going as a church.  This boggles my mind sometimes because our pastor goes at things directly from the Bible.  I think he considers and prays over his actions more than any other pastor I've met.  So in my mind, disagreeing with him on the big stuff is pretty much disagreeing with the Bible. (Of course, he's not perfect and we all disagree sometimes on the small stuff...)  And if I've learned anything in the past two years, it's how to cling to the stories and promises and messages in my Bible and how listening to the Holy Spirit is easier the more time I spend in the Bible.  It is THE vital way to know how I should conduct my everyday life.  If I don't dig into it daily, I just kind of guess at what I'm supposed to be deciding and pretend I know what God's next step for me is.  The guessing and pretending is a bad place to be, and I am so much happier doing it God's way.

So I guess the "honeymoon" of the church is over.  We seemed to do so much learning and building and serving in our first two years;  It was hard sometimes, but I always felt like we were a great team of people.  Now it seems we have to start all over, or even start a few steps behind the starting line.  And I will be honest.  People leaving HURTS.  It makes me angry and want to do stupid petty things that definitely aren't of God.  And it's doubly hard because circumstances are such that we will still have contact with some of the people who left, even if they aren't in the church.  That's just awkward and weird and I never know what to say when I'm with them.  I want to be everyone's friend still.  I love them!  Sometimes I want to beg them to come back.  But if they still disagree?  Well, coming back and having people constantly disagreeing with their pastor will just tear the church apart.  I remember my parents being in similar situations when I was a child and there are few people in church that haven't been hurt by this kind of thing.  Many people leave churches and never come back and they leave God in the process.  But I've come to a point where I know being seeped in bitterness and self-pity and blaming God for "taking away my friends" will just result in deeper hurt and a stunted ministry.  Keeping close to God and continuing to put Him first is the way to heal.  When we depend on people to meet all of our needs, they will always let us down.  Always.  Even my husband who I love more every day lets me down sometimes.  I'm sure I'm the let down for many as well....  

So I pray that God will take away my gut reactions to fight Him and sulk and do all the wrong things.  I pray that we get past this thing quickly and the people in our church unify to do great things for Him.  I pray that we are humble enough to give God total credit for every good thing that comes out of our church and that when we look back we see the divine and just hand of God working in our church and in our city.  It certainly is a city that is in desperate need of the Healer of the Hurt.


katdish said...

Hi Beth. I saw your comment on SCL(Empty Room Lessons) and it caught my attention because I'm also part of a small church plant, having recently left a pretty large, well established church. We're still in "pre-launch" mode, and no one has left (yet). My kids still attend Awanas at our old church, and while everyone is outwardly supportive, it hurts to know that some in leadership did not want to support us financially. (We are completely self-funded, so every bit counts.) Especially considering that we were in leadership for most of the 10 years we were there and supported the church financially when times were not so good. I am so petty for bringing that up, but there it is. Anyway, whenever I run into one of the elders at the old church, the first thing they ask is "So, how many are you running?" This makes me want to smack them in the head, because while we are growing numerically, that's so not the point.

Well, before I begin a full throttle tirade, I'll close by saying that I have really enjoyed reading your blog so far.

Side Hugs and Leg Drops,


Beth said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, katdish! I'd contact you directly...but your profile is blocked. Ahhh....self funding. We know that well. We were the last church plant our denomination somewhat funded before they disbanded the church planting organization. And thus stopped the somewhat funds. But we have had some generous monetary support and time invested from people and churches in our denomination! Do you know when you're launching yet? What state do you live in? It's nice to make friends who are "there" with you. I'm praying for your new church!

Pam said...

Hi, I also found your blog via SCL, this part [And then we'd have to bring the cougar to church with us because the neighbors would complain about it "eating their dogs" if we left it at home.] completely cracked me up! So, I came over and started reading from the first one and I tell ya the part about "that's not me anymore"- that really hit home for me and then I start reading about the issues you've had in your church and lo and behold- our church was/is going thru a crisis too-- anyway just wanted to let ya know that I've enjoyed reading your blog and I like your perspective on stuff, keep up the good work!