January 16, 2011 was a monumental day for us at Grace Fellowship Church. It was our first Sunday together officially holding a Sunday worship service. As of this past Sunday, June 17, 2012, we have met on 75 Sundays now. I simply cannot believe how gracious God has been to us.
Here are some of my reflections.
God clearly loves his church …
He must. He continues to build it. We have seen slow, but steady growth through the entire time. And almost every person that comes has a story that makes me think, ‘Wow, God must be in this.’ We’ve had young people, single people, married people, young families, middle-aged people, and even retired people, from all different races join us. God is building this church as only he can.
I can’t describe or quantify what God has done or what we have felt in planting this church other than saying that we have sensed the divine smile every step of the way. Even when we’ve had to do hard things. And it’s not that we’ve done everything right; it’s just because he loves his church and he wants to prove it over and over.
… and he continues to bless …
One of the ways I’ve most clearly seen his love for the church is his persistent desire to bless. He has blessed materially. Many of our members have been blessed with employment, many others have received promotions, or have known success in work, and some have been able to retire because of his awesome provision. He has provided for us corporately. We set a budget that was projected to have a huge deficit for our first full financially-independent year. But six months in, we’ve almost broken even. This is God’s provision.
We have also seen God’s blessing as individuals have grown pretty profoundly in their maturity in the faith. I could tell story after story of time when I’ve seen God bless people with insight into his word, conviction concerning sin, or new desires for holiness. It’s remarkable to watch how he blesses his people.
… through his word …
Through all the variables, however, one thing is constant: If God blesses, it is always through his word. The more we have learned to focus on his word and draw insight and direction from the Bible, the more we have sensed the genuine presence and blessing of God.
In my own heart and in the lives of those I’m ministering to, we have had our faith in the Bible bolstered again and again. I still just can’t believe I’ve been blessed with the privilege of studying and teaching the Bible every week. How awesome!
… even though I still have no idea what I’m doing …
And God’s blessing has to come through his word, because it certainly can’t originate with me. I’ve never been less confident in my own natural ability to lead a church. I’ve never made as many mistakes as I have this past year, and I’ve never had to apologize as much as I have recently (except for perhaps the first year of my marriage).
I just keep failing and letting people down. But here’s the cool thing: I know our people love Jesus because they’re willing to forgive me quickly. Through my failures God is making sure that our people only have Jesus on a pedestal and not their pastor. I’m thankful for that. Even if it is humbling.
… so that his people love him more …
If I had to summarize the net result of the first 75 weeks of this church, I’d say that by God’s grace, I’ve seen people grow in their love for their Saviour. I love that. Isn’t love the aim of our charge (1 Tim 1.5)?
I know that our people have grown to love their God more because I have seen them grow in their boldness in evangelism. Each week I hear from our people how they are joyfully sharing the joy-giving news of Jesus with friends, family, and neighbours. They have been well-equipped by Paul McDonald, and well-motivated by love for God.
I also know that our people have grown in their love for God because of the urgency with which they seek our God in worship & prayer. Week-by-week our people come eager to sing praises of adoration to our God who is living in them and working through them. There is a genuine sense of vitality in the songs of God’s people at our church, and it is the fruit of a growing love for their Saviour.
… and we long for more.
More recently we have corporately sensed (again, through the word) an increasing burden to pray and earnestly intercede for our city. We long for the word of God to increase and for the number of disciples in Toronto to multiply greatly (Acts 6.7). And we are labouring more and more in prayer to that end.
So that’s 75 Sundays. I don’t know what our God will do next, but I do know that I speak for our church when I say that we are longing for more.