There is tremendous pressure on a pastor to be the agent of bringing a vision to reality. He feels like he needs to prove to those watching that he really knows what he is doing. He wants to convince those who have bought into the vision that we are really going to achieve that vision sooner than later. More practically, he wants to be sure there are going to be enough people joining the church so he can feed his family. So the pastor works feverishly to study well, teach well, smile often, and shake a lot of hands.
From the outside this can look like a diligent pastor working hard to love his people. But most often it is a thin veneer covering up desperation, anxiety, shame, and (really) faithlessness.
Yesterday was our first gathering in becoming Redemption City Church. It was an exciting milestone at the beginning of this journey together. The voices of those gathered sounded incredible acapella. We were delighted to meet two new families who walked in the door without any previous contact. We counted 17 kids (ages 9 and under) and had to catch our breath when we realized that there were another eight from families who couldn’t make it. And we ended with a bountiful feast of delicious food.
But I drove home with an unsettled stomach resulting from God serving me a huge helping of humble pie. I was exhausted. Setting up the building to welcome people in, managing kids, trying to welcome people in the door, leading music, preaching, shaking hands, engaging in conversation, and cleaning up left me feeling more tired than I have ever felt on a Sunday.
My mind was swirling wondering what everyone else thought of our time together. Where were the few other families that said they were coming? Will our visitors even come back? How in the world are we going to take care of so many kids? I have so much work to do to make next week better. I need to call those who couldn’t make it. I need to meet new people.
Then despair started to creep in. I don’t think I’m made for this. What am I getting my family into? I can’t do this. I’m not a church planter.
And then God convicted me that I will not be the one to build this church. I can not. I am not smart enough, wise enough, eloquent enough, hospitable enough, and organized enough to grow a community based on my own charm (God help us if people want to join a church because they think I’m charming).
I was trying to be the Holy Spirit. No wonder I was exhausted from the evening. I was trying to do the work that only God’s Spirit could do: delight people’s souls, change their hearts, inspire worship, and convict them of their mission. My responsibility of sowing seeds are so much lighter and joyful, but instead I attempt to make growth happen by making the sun shine, causing the rain to fall, and injecting nutrients into the soil. God has control of these things and I should be able to sleep much better at night knowing he has better control of them than I could.
Thankfully the humble pie had settled in my bowels before lying down to bed and I did sleep well. I woke up today thankful that his mercies are new every morning. I am glad our name is Redemption City Church so I can be reminded every time that I say it that God delights in using messed up people to accomplish his work. What glorious kindness the Father has shown us in Christ that he would use me as an instrument to gather and feed his people. And what kindness to show me early on that I cannot do it on my own, that his intention is to use a diverse people and all their gifts to make this community a family together in Christ.
I am looking forward to seeing how God is at work in each one of the people he is bringing into this family so that his glory may shine in their weakness too.