Sometimes I hear the news and almost lose hope in the world. Between school shootings, ISIS, poverty and war in the world, and the financial situation of our country, it seriously makes me wonder if there is anything good in this world anymore. But as soon as my brain goes down that gloom and doom road, I am almost always immediately reminded, somehow, that God is in control. He has not given up on us, nor will He ever. And today's reminder looked something like this:
500 churches. 500 NEW churches. And all of this has only been in the past 12 years or so, with the bulk of them being in the past 5. Josh and I went to our very first Association of Related Churches (ARC) training as newlyweds before launching our campus in Illinois. We were probably one of 20 other couples, the "training" was more of an opportunity to hang out with other people who were crazy enough to try the same thing, but the people that we met, who were on staff and who had already planted a church before us, well, they're what got us. By far it was one of the friendliest, authentic, most joy-filled, encouraging group of people we had ever been around. I grew up in churches where I mostly felt judged (was I wearing the right thing? Did they look at me and think that I had ever messed up or was I playing the role of perfect daughter/sister/friend/Christian perfectly? Did they know that I went out partying last weekend or did I hide that well enough?), but this particular group of Christians was just so real, down-to-earth, and genuinely wanted to know us... about our hopes, dreams for this church, why we were going to go plant, and what our fears and struggles were. Yes, they wanted to know the good AND the bad, so that they could truly help us and be there for us. Special. That's what these people were.
When we felt that the time had come to plant TurningPoint (about 2 1/2 years later), it was a no-brainer that we wanted to partner with these wonderful people again. And they have been there for us every step of the way... good and bad... to once again encourage us, answer questions, and connect us to other people on this same journey. Real people who just genuinely cared, without an agenda or expectation of anything in return. And with their help, we became number #252 on February 12, 2012. It's been quite a journey, but our church would not be what it is without their help, love, and support. Honestly, I would not be the person I am today without their leadership and authentic love for us! And three years later, we are still growing, thriving, and seeing hundreds of people say "yes" to Jesus and an eternity through our church. Hundreds of people who walk in our doors broken and lost, and walk out filled with hope, restored, and wanting to share this newfound love with others.
Today we are taking a quick trip to Birmingham for the dedication of the new ARC office building, named after the founder of this great organization. The Billy Hornsby Center for Church Planting will see hundreds thousands more church planters come through its doors to be trained, equipped, and sent out in the coming years. And with every church planter, and every new church, I am reminded that there is still so much hope in the world. As a younger generation re-discovers the Gospel, or gets introduced it for the first time, and learns to live a life of generosity, integrity, honor, love, and so much more; for them to find that they are made on a purpose and for a purpose; for others to realize that there is so much more to live this life for than just ourselves- hope springs forth anew. And so I cannot watch the news and be depressed. Sure, there are things that sadden me, and there always will be. I will always have compassion and hurt for the brokenhearted. But I will continue to keep in mind that He isn't finished yet, and His promises are always true, and never broken.
Today as well celebrate, I am so incredibly honored, proud, and humbled to be #252. I am in awe of what God can do through an ordinary person who just decided that living selfishly and doing life her way was not fulfilling (and wasn't working), and so she said "yes" to what seemed to be a crazy dream of her husband. I am amazed by a God who promises that your past can be left behind and you can be a new creation in Him. He knew my sins and my path and gave me a husband, children, and partnered me in a ministry that I do not (nor ever will) deserve. He makes all things new, and these 500 churches are just the start of the newness that is cropping up all over the country. And they're only getting started...
[Galatians 6:9] Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.