One of the most defining seasons of life for me was when Randy and I were in our first year of ministry 19 years ago. We planted a church with 7 families in a little north Georgia town. There was no “sending church or mother church”.
Well everything was awesome until 5 of the 7 families left at once over a church membership issue. Like wanting to add some things like “you can’t……” and “you must……” and Randy was 100% unwilling to make those terms. Yeah, like it’s not really a good thing to add to Jesus’s requirement of becoming a part of his family. He wants us to put our trust and believe in Him. Period. And that’s when we become a part of His family – the universal/global church. Of course there are incredible guidelines all through scripture that help us live life in a way that reflects we are Christ followers. Sometimes those things get fleshed out quickly after salvation as the Spirit works in us and sometimes it takes longer. So to say someone can’t drink, smoke, look a certain way, go to movies, etc. and be a member of a church is putting higher expectations on someone than Jesus does for membership in his family. (I know, I know…..where do you even find “church membership” in the Bible. A blog post for my husband to address on a rainy day.)
At the time it was devastating when those families left. Randy had to go to work for six months at a builder supply store in town in order to make ends meet. We were forced to rethink everything we thought we ever knew about church. Everything. Like why do we meet on Sunday or Wednesday? Can church happen outside a building? Is there room for liturgical elements in a Baptist’ish community church – is that even allowed? Won’t the church police give you a ticket for that?
I will always remember this time like it was yesterday. I remember the one last standing elder & his wife in our church bringing over Moose Tracks Ice Cream and sitting at our kitchen table saying, “I know it’s hard but God will get us through this.” And God did get us through.
I’m still so proud of Randy for standing up for what he knew and felt in his heart was the right thing to do according to scripture. It brought on hard circumstances at the time but it was the right thing. Having to think through so many things was worth it all. Within six months God brought new families our way and financial provision and Randy was able to go back to full time pastoring and has ever since that time period. I thank God for that.
Looking back on 25 years of ministry I see God’s hand of shaping, molding and making us into the ministry team he has designed. And I love Him for it.