To say I've been consumed with Lillian over the past couple of weeks would be an understatement. To be honest, I think I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession over this little girl. I was quite possessive of Jake, too, when he was a newborn, and I think it's due to the fact that I could literally just sit, hold, and stare at my little ones all day long. And Lilly is such a cuddlebug and such an easy-going baby that it makes it even easier. So between caring for the both of them and spending my "free time" completely captivated by my new daughter, not much else has gotten done. And then I realized that she has also taken over the blog, too... not that anyone minds I'm sure.
So today I am sitting down and finally updating you all on what we really moved here for... our church plant! I know many folks are wondering how it's going, what's happening, etc. so hopefully I can find a way to put it all into words without writing a novel... hitting the big points if you will. And the scary part is that our story starts back in March...
Well, to be technical about it, our story starts so very long before that as Josh told me when we first met that he wanted to be a church planter, but as you know, our journey first took us to Small Town, Illinois. But last winter/spring, we felt like the time was drawing near and Lexington continued to pop up on our radar. Every time we came to Lexington to visit my sister and her family, we just felt something special, like it was home. We took a couple of trips just to explore the area and stumbled upon the area that we felt had the greatest need, and therefore offered the biggest opportunity to make an impact and lead folks to Jesus. Essentially, it's a neighborhood that has thousands of homes, most of which are owned or rented by young families. Between there and the town north of it, there are 100,000 people and only five churches. Yes... five! And they aren't five large churches either, so needless to say, there are thousands of families in this area without a church home. And perhaps they just stopped looking for one if they ever were in the first place. Something had to be done. It was during these trips and our conversations at home that the vision and details for TurningPoint Church, our future church plant, began to really take shape.
On that same trip we also drove by those five churches, just to get a feel for what was in the area. The closest one to the neighborhood was a little bit off of the main road leading in and the building was in a very industrial area. Josh was actually able to go in and meet the receptionist even though it was after office hours. The receptionist took him for a quick tour of the building, assuming that he was interested in coming to church there, and I stayed in the car with Jake. He was very impressed with the building, especially considering that it looks pretty small from the outside, and was disappointed that the pastor was not there. Little did we know that we had really stumbled upon our future that day.
During subsequent visits, we again visited area churches. Our friend, Zach (whose family will be joining us here eventually), came with us on one trip and we decided to drive by this same church again to show him what was in the area. Again, we didn't go in, and in fact if I remember correctly, Jake got sick in the car... on me. And in my purse. Oh the joys of motherhood! But despite that, there was something about the place that kept drawing us in. I can't explain it, but there was a strange level of curiosity about the place, even though we had never been to a service or met the pastor. We were still moving forward with our plans to plant our church based on the vision and big picture that we felt God had given us. So as you know, in August, we moved to Kentucky full-time.
Being a church planter has its busy and slow seasons, just like any other job. While my job ramped up (mainly because I was working extra hours to make sure my office was set up and prepared for my maternity leave), Josh's days slowed down a bit. He went about the business of setting up appointments with local organizations and trying to meet as many people as he possibly could, but it's tough when you don't know many people in the area. He made sure to meet with local pastors as well, making sure that they understood that we were coming here to join them in serving the kingdom, reaching people who did not already have a church home. One of these meetings was with Alex, the pastor of the church right down the road, and to say it went well would be an understatement. I don't think either one of them expected to hit it off the way that they did, but Josh came home that day and told me that he felt that they would be friends for a long time. It was a little weird, but I could tell that he was excited. Josh gets along with everyone, but there was certainly something different going on. He also told me that he wanted to start going to church there until we were up and running, and that we should do what we can to help serve his church and help them grow in the meantime. Apparently the church was about seven years old, but had stayed pretty small since its doors opened. After going to my first Sunday service there, I told Josh that it certainly wasn't small because of Alex's preaching, which was awesome by the way, and I could kind of see what Josh meant about us being able to help. With our experience and training with the Association of Related Churches, the changes they needed to make to grow were pretty minor, but would make a big difference.
About a week after their first meeting, they met again, and this time Alex asked Josh what he thought about maybe doing this church plant together... as in, we would take our vision for TurningPoint Church and launch it with Alex's help, in his building, utilizing his congregation as our launch team. Now let me just go on a tangent here and say that this just does not happen to church planters! Church planting is generally a pretty lone-wolf endeavor, and finding a launch team is one of the biggest challenges. The launch team is essentially a group of people who learn about the vision and become invested to the point that they volunteer wherever necessary to make the vision come to life. They plug in everywhere, being greeters, working in kids ministry, and doing a lot of the behind the scenes and administrative stuff to make the machine go, as there is really no paid staff at a church plant. Josh and I always said that if we could put together a launch team of thirty people (or preferably families) then we'd be in good shape, so imagine our surprise when Alex proposed this to us! He was basically talking about us having a team of at least one hundred folks if not more and a building on top of that! We had planned on meeting in an elementary school or gym, or anywhere that would take us really! It was a lot to think about.
In the weeks that followed, Josh and I talked a lot about the possibility. He sought council from other church planters and pastor friends, most of which told him that co-pastorship really just doesn't happen. We met Alex's family for dinner one night, still uncertain about what the future held for our churches, and everything continued to click. We all got along famously, and the possibility continued to get more and more realistic everyday. It wasn't long before both families went with intuition and we decided that we were meant to do this ministry together. As Josh and Alex continued to meet and plan, we continued to attend on Sundays, getting to know the families in their congregation, and joined their small group to continue to grow our relationship with their family. Small group by the way is now the highlight of my week... God has really put some wonderful people around us during this time of transition and He continues to confirm our decision to move here over and over again. As you can see from all that I've written already, this entire process has been perfectly orchestrated by Him and it gets more and more exciting everyday as His plans come to fruition. I am in awe.
Three weekends ago, Josh preached as a "guest" at Alex's church. His message was about whether we were servicing the kingdom or servicing the machine, or more simply put, our church home. Are we making decisions to keep the people that are already in the church happy or are we doing things to find those who are lost and bring them in? Jesus' entire message was to seek and save those who are lost, but churches can so easily become inwardly focused that they make newcomers feel unwelcome sometimes. He did a great job and I think a lot of people left thinking about things in a new way. The following week Alex preached a message on taking ownership for actually living out that mission that Jesus put before us. What are we doing as individuals to make this happen? He then talked about what they were doing as a church to make this happen. He did not reveal too much, but he did announce that Josh and I would be coming on-board and some changes would be taking place. There would be a follow-up meeting on the next Wednesday night and he encouraged everyone to attend.
The Wednesday night meeting would be what I would consider our very first "launch team" meeting for TurningPoint Church. Josh and I had been thinking about this day for months, and once again, God blew our socks off. We had about 60 adults attend and Alex and Josh did a phenomenal job of laying out the vision of what could be if we made some changes to really reach out to those families who are not in church. They reminded us all that it is not about getting more people in the seats, but about teaching those "more people" about God's love and helping them find their purpose. It's about restoring relationships, seeing families grow stronger, spouses growing closer, parents teaching their children how to love better, and serving those around us. Jesus simply told us to love one another and to share the good news with others... it's that simple. And I think we forget that as we sit in our pews week after week. It was nice to be reminded. This past Sunday Josh preached the message again, but not as a guest, and it was very well received. We also had our first "Next Steps" class, which is essentially a series of membership classes, and we had about forty people in attendance, several of which signed their membership agreement for TurningPoint. What was once just a vision and a dream is now becoming a reality, and I am humbled and amazed to be even a small part of it. I've said it before, but God is so very good and we are so incredibly blessed.
Phew... I knew I wouldn't get away with a short post on this! But with all this being said, we are still planning our official launch of TurningPoint Church in February 2012. It's a work in progress, but you can check out our website here. You can also like us on Facebook. We still have a lot of work to do (and that only picks up after we launch) but seeing the momentum build and putting some of our plans in place gets more and more exciting everyday. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us since this whole thing started. We've had our ups and downs, but it has been such a great journey thus far. The way everything is unfolding is definitely making this the most unconventional way to plant a church, but it just reminds me that it truly is God's plan and not ours that takes precedent. If we just get out of our own way, He can do wondrous works all around us. We will keep you all posted on what is to come in these next few months, but in the meantime, I have to get back to cuddling that sweet baby girl of mine.
We're sending all our love from Mauneyland.