The first few months were a blur.
Starting a new church is a lot like having a baby. You work really hard to get the space ready. You gather the supplies you need. There’s a lot of planning that needs to happen ahead of time. Your friends and family get all excited. You send out announcements.
Just like having a baby, you have no idea what your new church will look like. Jesus chooses that. He brings people and assembles the community. Even with the amazing technology of 4D Ultrasounds, I still can’t tell what my unborn son will look like.
And… then there’s the BIG DAY!
Our day was September 9th, 2012. We had 243 people in attendance that first day; many of our friends and family drove in to support us. More importantly, fifteen of those people gave their lives to Jesus.
Just like having a baby, on the ‘big day’ you meet something you fall helplessly in love with. The day we brought my daughter home from the hospital I sat in my home office and cried for about twenty minutes. I realized how much of my life I’d spent on meaningless stuff. God used her to teach me a little bit more about what really matters.
When you bring your child home from the hospital you get to change a lot of diapers. Actually, between feeding and changing… that’s pretty much what you do. You get really busy and you don’t sleep very much.
I guess that’s why those first four months were such a blur… we had a newborn church, and I was constantly working to provide care and direction to her.
It’s amazing to me that on that first day some people showed up to check out this new church and in the last year they’ve become some of my closest friends. These people didn’t show up at Vortex because I was some kind of big name preacher, they just wanted to find a church home for their families. They’ve served and given and invited their friends to make our church something special.
Over our first six months we averaged 128 people in attendance each Sunday. Since we’re in a small town, we had a lot of traffic in and out during those months. I guess people wanted to see what the new church in the movie theater would be like. The most miraculous thing is that during the first six months of our church thirty-nine people committed their lives to Jesus.
Our church felt different during those months. It felt like good a first date, interesting and awkward all the same time. That’s what it takes to forge a sense of identity, the persistence to move pass the awkwardness of unfamiliarity and start to identify what really matters.
In those first six months there were many volunteers that worked tirelessly, most without a single Sunday off. And as we approached the six-month mark, that started to show.
Studies show that 80% of the people that sign up to help you start a church will leave in the first 18 months. There are a few reasons for that, but the main reason is this: it’s hard work to take ground from the enemy.
As our sixth month came to a close we hit our first major crisis, and that was the exit of several key volunteers that signed up to help us start but were not called to carry the burden the whole way. I’m eternally grateful for their sacrifice and commitment over our first six months. We couldn’t have started without them, and they served Jesus well.
In the middle of that, God did something in me that I wasn’t expecting:
Jesus taught me that He always has a plan.
As we walked through that small season, I learned that when our plans fail, we need only to look to Jesus. He is the author and perfector of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He always has a plan. I’m am confident that God’s plan will always be better than mine.
And… over the next few months He did something amazing to teach me that.