blog checkers, below is the prayerletter for West Valley PCA, where i am growing up as the planting pastor of a church that God has richly blessed in both exposure to his glory/goodness and exposure to our need/sin/dependence. Would you pray for us?
“Jim, do you think I’ve made enough progress in my journey to join the church and receive communion?”
It’s not about progress. It’s about righteousness from God given to you in Christ.
“It just sounds too free. I must be missing something. It can’t be a free pass.”
“But what is to keep me from living however I want?”
Now I think you understand grace.
“Can I still wrestle with my questions?”
A man once said to Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.
“Sounds like me.”
“Jim, can you recommend the names of some biblical counselors?”
For a friend, or for you?
“For us. I think we need some deconstruction and rebuilding our marriage on the gospel.”
“Jim, someone just came into church. He wants to see you.”
Jeff, is that you?
“Yeah, its me. How do I look?! I’ve been clean for 90 days, since the trip to the hospital. Like my new glasses?”
You look great Jeff! Like the man of the tombs resurrected. Where are you living?
“Still at the homeless shelter.”
The above fragments answer the question: What is church planting like? Maybe you’re not asking that question. But I did. Almost every day (before we started) I asked myself: What will it be like? Sure, it will be like vision casting, like demographic and sociographic research, like searching for a facility, organizing teams, setting up a unique historic-indigenous worship service, preparing contextualized sermons, marketing and praying and networking in our community. It will be like trying to learn how to lead a group of gifted and diverse people. It will be vision REcasting again and again. It will be like small group formation over and over! It will be like setting up of an office – with all the administrative hoopla.
It has been all that. BUT.
More than anything church planting has been an exercise in repentance and faith – realizing and repenting of my duplicitous fear-of-incompetence which somehow manages to coexist with excessive-self-reliance. It has become a daily exercise to believe in the glory of God to rescue sinners not once at their conversion, but daily in innumerable ways according to his sovereign mercy that is ALWAYS undeserved. That’s the gospel! It has been the complicated world of trusting the Spirit to restore marriages, to rehabilitate the homeless and addicted to a place of sobriety (even in the suburbs). It has been the pleasurable discovery that God is at work breaking the calcified in his church, and rebuilding the contrite. It has been the experience of watching an intellectual skeptic bow the knee to Jesus Christ in the most existential of experiences – his Creator’s converting his heart!
What am I saying? I think I am saying that church-planting has been like… well, church. In a sense, I am coming to believe that we are not a church-plant, but the CHURCH in fullness (just recently planted)! As I leaf through the pages of Acts, for the first time I am recognizing a connection between my world and that of Philippi, or Thessalonica, or wherever. This summer I have preached through the Acts of the Apostles (aka- the Acts of the Spirit) and we have discovered an uncanny connection to kingdom/church then and now. We have asked the Lord with expectation to define our experiences like THAT… that church in that day with that God!
Robert Coleman, in his work The Master Plan of Discipleship writes:
Getting into the book of Acts is like opening a window in a stuffy room. The wind of the Spirit blows through it. HERE IS REALITY. Feeling its emerging freshness, we should neither try to excuse our spiritual ineptness, nor relegate its vitality to a bygone era. The apostolic church, not the prevailing mediocrity of our religious community, sets the norm. Where we perceive our shortcomings, in all honesty, we should seek to bring our lives into conformity to the New Testament standard.
Is it happening? I think so. I need so. I want so. I surrender so. I pray so. I die so. Whatever church planting is… whatever the stories above are… I can’t help but think that, well – we’re a church now. HERE IS REALITY.
at home: Please praise God with us for our family growth and maturity that coincides with his work at West Valley. By God’s grace (and ashamedly for the first time in my life), I want to lay my life down over and over and over for the love and beauty of Kori. Then the kids. I want to do it more today than yesterday. Through a painful and disciplinary year of trials and ‘ministry’, the Lord has brought his kingdom of righteousness and mercy to a home that I had subliminally and self-righteously pervaded with gospel-less standards of performance and happiness. HERE IS REALITY.
On the homefront, please pray for our homeschooling of Lina and Meggie’s adjustment to Kindergarten in our local school district. Pray for Nate as the footprint of the “torNATEo” is expanding as he grows and participates in family! Pray for Kori to find an excellent set of ear plugs, as she needs the quiet moments to be the strategic and beautiful gospel-loving mom that she is.
at church: For West Valley, pray for our continued facility needs, for the establishment of discipleship and digestion strategies (i.e. small groups and theological/worldview training), for staffing considerations (sounding way ahead of myself, I know – but as we grow, this is REALITY!) and for a sacrificial conformity to the norm of the early church!
Even more, please pray for our financial situation, as the Lord has seen fit to grow the church numerically in a way that has increased our expenses above our income. I have been commissioned by our session to seek to raise Twenty-Thousand dollars, Lord willing, to supplement ministry and vision. Would you prayerfully consider partnering with us and/or honoring any pledges you may have made in 2008? We are at a key phase of ministry and identity confirmation, and we need the resources to grow into what we are – a Jesus Christ celebrating, culture engaging, brokenness renovating, gospel declaring, community invading church! HERE IS REALITY.
Much love to you all, and may Christ expose your REALITY and need for his mercy! -jim
Should you desire, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or send any gifts to West Valley Presbyterian Church, 326 Main Street, Suite 1 – Emmaus PA 18049. All gifts will be tax-deduct and a year end statement will be provided.