Yesterday in worship, our attendance was 22. Paltry by most standards; awesome by ours. We are a congregation – a church - where a year ago, four to six could be counted on to worship. Today, in addition to the 22 in our pews, I could count eight regulars who were either away or at home or had company or were recuperating. In addition to the 30 regulars, we have a few who come, try us and then either come back or leave. Even if they leave, they have experienced a 21st Century progressive church.
The 22 in worship encourages me no end! The congregants who were missing but remain committed encourage me as well. The encouragement is critical because this past week, I emailed my coach with “I want to quit” this impossible task. He strongly encouraged me to look beyond myself – no wallowing in self pity allowed. At a similar low point, a priest I know told me that it does not matter whether this church is successful or not – what will have happened is that some will have been offered God in a way they had not before. A longing they experience for the Holy will have a new avenue for expression.
Church planting takes far more guts than I ever expected. I thought the congregation would grow just based on my enthusiasm and my continual marketing. A build-it-and- they-will-come outlook. How naïve. When I start thinking that church planting is merely a matter of offering God in a new way, I need to remember the Gallop online test I took, the phone interviews I participated in, the in-person interviews I enjoyed. This church planting is not for wimps. Nor is it for people who measure success by the hundreds of worshipers filling Sunday pews. Nor frankly, does the number of different weekly opportunities we offer measure it. Nope, church planting is a partnership between God and my advisory committee and my two denominations and the congregation who is always willing to step up and help. Church planting is a result of planning, patience and prayers. Lots of prayers.
I thank God for the 22 in worship, for their dedication and willingness to join this endeavor. I imagine I will find other days when I plan how get away from this impossible task; and days I will thank the Holy One for this incredible opportunity of offering a progressive expression to infinite love.