One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain

Comment

One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain

One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain
(And No Breakthrough in Sight)

by Catie Naranjo
 

“There is no backup plan. God is going to stop the rain.”

We had scheduled an evening service in the park. We imagined the huge crowds normally at the park on Sunday evenings. All the people would stop and listen to the worship and be compelled by the message. Maybe they would even stay for the food afterwards, and we would invite them to church. It was a perfect plan – but we all know how those normally go!

The week before the service, the forecast called for rain – and a lot of it! The normally sunny skies had a 100% chance of rain during our service time. 

All week we received calls and texts asking what we planned to do about it.

“Um… pray.”

We had already cancelled our rental for the school activity center. Plus, we were preaching on Gideon trusting God in the midst of insurmountable odds. It was just like God to make us practice what we preach!

As the rain poured all through Saturday and into Sunday, we prayed… and then we questioned… and then we had faith again.  It was all very exhausting! 

We packed up our car and drove up to the park just as the rain turned into more of a cold drizzle. We set-up and got ready for this warm, dry service we truly felt God had promised to us.

Then, about 20 minutes before the service, right at the last minute, the clouds parted and sunshine broke out - only on the park! Literally, people left their house where it was pouring rain to find it dry and warm at the park. 

The entire service was a perfect temperature and an hour after we left, it began to rain again.

This is not an original miracle. We know of times in the Bible and we have heard other churches share of moments when God has altered the weather for His purposes. Maybe God has done this for you as well.  

For our church, adults and kids shared how this service encouraged their faith and strengthened their prayer life. Even though the park wasn’t crowded with people, we made some great connections with those who were there. 

God’s plan was better than ours.

The greatest lesson I learned from that day is that breakthrough can happen in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected moments!

To be honest, I really expected God to turn the weather before Sunday morning.  We were praying for the rain to stop by midnight – but it didn’t. Then, we were praying for the rain to stop by breakfast, and then by lunch… but it only rained harder.

Do you ever feel like that in church planting?

“THIS is going to be the week He breaks out in our worship!” – but, it isn’t.

“THIS is going to be the outreach that opens doors into our community!” – but, it isn’t. 

“THIS is going to be the year the church will be financially stable!” – but it just gets harder.

Why did God have to wait until 20 minutes before service to part the clouds? Because He wanted to teach me something: He is faithful to His promises, and none of the circumstances around me will change that truth. 

Has God given you a promise for spiritual growth in your community? Nothing can make that less-true. People leaving the church, conflict in your leadership, or anything else. Your job – church planter – is to pray, encourage the team around you, and hold on!

Don’t forget, if you are waiting for a breakthrough in your life or church, you aren’t alone.  It may be at the last possible moment and it may not be the way we expect it to play out, but God loves a dramatic entrance!

After all, this is His show.


Catie Naranjo.jpg

Catie Naranjo and her husband, Jeremy, planted Summit Church in Anthem, AZ in 2015. They have two amazing kids, a grumpy cat, and are honored to be called by God to build His church. 

Comment

Donkey Kong and Diddy

Comment

Donkey Kong and Diddy

Donkey Kong and Diddy

by Ashley Randleman
 

I’m tired, but my heart is full. We are just about ready to finish up two weeks of 5-days-in-a-row-of-Homeschool, and I’ve been putting four kids to bed by myself the past couple of weeks as Jeremiah caught the flu last week and is still recovering. I’m amazed at myself and God’s goodness and grace.

There have been a slew of long days, late nights, and let-me-at-least-kiss-you-on-the-cheek-before-you-get-out-the-door type of mornings.

On Donkey Kong, when the character Diddy can’t quite make the jump or throw the barrel, he gets to do an amazing thing - he slaps Kong in! They trade positions in their quest of getting through the tunnel, forest, or cave, and Diddy happily follows instead of leads. That’s my Friday.

But, today, it wasn’t. I led.

Jeremiah came home briefly while we were doing school and snuggled the kids a bit and laid on the guest room bed. He had a wedding rehearsal to lead at 5pm with a meeting beforehand at 4pm. It was 3:42pm, and I sweetly asked him what time he needed to be at the church. He responded with an, “4… 4:15 at the latest.” My Kong was wanting to stay. (Insert dreamy eyes.)

He got up to go freshen up and change. As I was occupied with Nathan’s schoolwork, I didn't realize that Lydia, my near-3-year-old, also left the room to go freshen up and change. She came back with her tutu on and her Frozen slipper shoes in hand. She was wanting me to help her put them on. She left before I could assist her. The next thing I knew, Jeremiah was carrying her into the school room as she was sobbing with big crocodile tears running down her cheeks saying, “Daddy won’t let me go with him.” Heartbreaking.

So, I took her into my arms and consoled her. I told her that I miss Daddy too and that I was sorry she couldn’t go with him. I told her that we were going to pray for Daddy and that she was going to be ok. And so we did. We prayed for Daddy.

We prayed for us as well. We asked God to give him and us the strength and grace for yet another evening without him. Today I learned that when you can’t slap Kong in, there is extra strength for Diddy.

Pray for your husband. When you miss him, his smile, his laugh, his touch, pray. Pray for his day and not just your own. Pray that you would keep a good heart and attitude towards him through the long days and late nights and early mornings and everything in between.

When you see his fatigue - love harder - and make him a cup of tea. Encourage your kids to pray for their Daddy. To lift him up in their prayers. They miss him too. Don’t be surprised when their “miss” shows up in various forms: clinginess, fits, sensitivity, sneakiness, defiance, and simple disobedience.

Love hard, dear momma. Brush your teeth and touch up your hair and makeup before he gets home. Have a hot meal on the table. Bake him his favorite dinner or dessert...or both.

Your husband is amazing. Tell him. Show him how much you appreciate him. Be the loudest cheerleader in his arsenal. Remind yourself, that this is only a season. It hasn’t always been this “dense” nor will it always remain at this pace.

And so, dear Diddy, hang in there. You will have more long days and late nights. You will continue to meet each other coming and going. The next time, you may be the one crying the big crocodile tears and watching him back out of the driveway. But, if you keep praying and asking God to help, I promise, you will win.

Sometimes, the things you want the most and can’t have are the very things that God uses to refine you, perfect you and discipline you with. So, cheer up! Wipe those tears away. Remember to pray and know that help is on the way.


randleman.jpg

Ashley Randleman is a pastor’s wife of 10 years and a mother of four (Nathan-6, Josiah-4, Lydia-2, and Titus-1). She and her husband, Jeremiah, planted River Church in February 2014. Ashley has a heart for the mothers and women in her life and church. She pours into them on a weekly basis from the comfort of her living room carpet over strong coffee and meaningful conversation.

Comment

Living Prayer to Prayer

Comment

Living Prayer to Prayer

Living Prayer to Prayer

By Debbie Adamson
 

We are studying The Circle Maker on Wednesday nights. I have to say, chapters 10 and 11 were especially challenging for me – challenging in "wow, this is a challenge" (yikes!) and partially in "wow, I wanna take this challenge!"

I am pondering some of those concepts today and asking God for some of those truths to really sink in to change my heart-perspective on prayer and holy complications. I want to develop a deep, total dependence on God that is present in my life all the time, regardless of circumstance.

Today as I was in prayer working on being thankful for my past and present journey (which hasn't always been a fun one deserving giving thanks for, present days of late included, lol), I was reminded of a particularly hard time when my husband and I were called out of a ministry situation. This left us with no main income, and we were both doing everything we could to make ends meet.

My husband had several jobs, and I was able to bump up my hours. However, the stress of it was terrible. We sold stuff and emptied all of the bank accounts we had – including an Edward Jones wedding fund for our girl, Bethani. That account had enough money in it for a really nice future wedding, y'all! You know how it goes when you get financially desperate.

Of course God provided even in the midst of our faith-o-meter being as low as our bank accounts. With no tangible resources, we had to rely on God. We had no other options in this realm. I didn't enjoy that time at all, and quite frankly, I have never wanted to live like that again.

Until now.

In light of what I am learning these days, I am working to be at a place where I want to rely on God in all things. No matter what.

Did I just declare this publicly? Yep, I think I did.

As I was journaling about that difficult financial period our lives, I wrote about how we were living paycheck to paycheck. I started thinking about how many of us say, “living paycheck to paycheck.”

We need to live, instead, prayer to prayer.

Saying living paycheck to paycheck puts the emphasis on the money, on the provision. Saying living prayer to prayer puts the emphasis on God, the provider and our providence. It turns our eyes, in prayer to prayer, to the One who controls the provision anyway (and everything else in our lives, for that matter).

I am not talking about living prayer to prayer in a desperate way that parallels the attitude of the paycheck to paycheck method – offering prayer in hopelessness, stress, begging, worrying, etc. – but in a true, reverent, expectant, trusting, faith-strong, relational way.

The latter gives us peace because we are looking to God while implementing his promises that are true as the foundation for our finances and life. That is solid ground for sure.

Happy prayer-to-prayering today everyone!


Debbie Adamson is church planting wife and administrator at Abundant Life Church in Pengilly, MN. 

Comment

Consistency and Change

Comment

Consistency and Change

change.jpg

Consistency and Change

by Lisa Boyd
 

We are just over four years old in our church plant, and there is literally no one left from our original launch team. I used to be very upset by that thought. However, I have realized how much things have changed in the past four years.

God is taking our church in a different direction.

Our "why" is still the same, but our "how" has changed a lot!

In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek encourages readers to know what their why is. He says, "By why I mean what is your purpose, cause, or belief? Why does your company exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?"

The culture in South Florida shifts very rapidly. Our community is not the same that it was four years ago. Tons of high rise apartments, new plazas with trendy restaurants, and large hotels have been put up since our launch.

Many of the team members who left were stuck in the old mentality of what Boca once was. They didn't want to change with the community. Although it was tough to lose people who are so dear to us and were such a huge part in our beginning stages, we knew it was necessary for them to go in order for us to move forward.

One thing I know that is always constant in church planting is CHANGE!

We are constantly changing our methods, constantly changing our decor, constantly shifting in every area. There are a lot of things that are ever-changing, but we never compromise the message. We remember our why!

We should always be re-evaluating our methods to make sure that we are being effective in the Kingdom of God! It's all about how to reach souls.

Your how may change, but your why remains constant.


Lisa Boyd works alongside her husband Rob at their 3 year old church plant, Salt Church, (a CMN church) in Boca Raton, FL. She also serves as a section women’s representative in the Pen Florida District. Lisa is currently attending Global University online to become a credentialed minister herself. They have 2 sons (Bobby-13, Liam-11) and an adopted daughter (Katrina-6) whom she is homeschooling. She enjoys reading and making soap in her spare time. 

Comment

Size Doesn't Matter

Comment

Size Doesn't Matter

Size Doesn’t Matter

by Becky Swartzendruber
 

Okay, so we have been on this The Venue journey for a while now – a year and a half total, but six months since launch. Launch day we had our record attendance of 51. We are in a small rural community of about 13-15k, so that’s not bad really. Of course I was hoping for more. But, hey, people came!

Since then we went down to around twelve faithful, including my family of four, but we are starting to grow again. We average about twenty right now.

When our numbers dropped drastically and people on our launch team left, it hurt... and it was discouraging.

We know the calling God has placed on our lives. We know the vision that God gave us. So why aren’t we seeing it?

We have had Sundays where I was leading worship to an empty auditorium because everyone that showed up was on the worship team.

We have had people turn their backs on us, spread untruths about us, and try to hinder God’s plan. We have struggled to make ends meet. We have wondered where the money for rent was going to come from. We have even struggled to find the money for the essentials, like God’s true holy water–coffee.

God was shifting and sifting. He kept reminding me that even though we only had 8-12 there for a few months, those people are our rocks. They are growing, and we are growing as a church family. That means something.

So many times, we as pastors get wrapped up in the numbers game, but we have to remember that it’s not the size that matters. It’s about the lives that are changed, including our own.

Michael’s speaking skills are growing, and my confidence in my calling has grown exponentially. People who haven’t stepped foot in church in many, many years are coming and becoming part of our family.

These things are important, so very important.

Why did we get into this gig in the first place? To show Jesus’ love and be his hands and feet. If we can do that, then we are doing what he has called us to do. The people will come when the time is right.  

Until then, I will keep pressing forward–loving people no matter what.


Becky Swartzendruber is a pastor's wife at The Venue church in Levelland, Texas.

Comment

When They Leave

Comment

When They Leave

When They Leave

By Rebecca Burtram
 

“A painful reality of the early days of church planting is that core team members leave. Many planters report discouragement resulting from the loss of good friends from their core team. Losing half of the planting launch team within the first years is common. Planting is hard work. Weary volunteers can end up searching out existing, stable churches to call home. The planter should be emotionally and spiritually prepared for relational losses.”
-Ed Stetzer in Christianity Today


The idea of being prepared to lose team members sounds great in theory, but it is incredibly hard in practice.

Everyone told us we would lose many of our launch team members, but it has still been difficult to see them go.

I found myself crying last night as I updated the contact lists for the next session of Life Groups. I had to delete one of our launch team members from the list because he lost a very short and hard battle with cancer.

We are almost a year old, and here is how we have had launch team members leave:

  • One couple broke up, and neither person got the church in the split.
  • One couple moved.
  • One member was hired away by another church.
  • One couple felt underappreciated and worn out.
  • One couple left when their daughter and son-in-law felt underappreciated and worn out.
  • One couple had committed to drive over an hour to help us each week for a year, and their year is coming to a close. 
  • One member died.

It is expected and normal to lose launch team members, and we have to process the losses in a healthy manner or we can become discouraged and weary.

I learned this after a brief season of being discouraged and weary.

I had to work through the process of loss in order to stay focused on the vision of what God called us to do. I had to be reminded that church plant is God’s not mine and cling to the faith that he would in fact grow his church.

I don’t think there is one comprehensive approach that will work for everyone, but I can provide some guiding principles that helped me process the loss of team members.
 

1. Gratitude

We can be bitter about losing those who have inevitably become close to us as we pursued a shared vision, or we can be grateful.

As we have spoken with many planters during training, in the launch phase, and post-launch, we have repeatedly heard launch teams referred to as scaffolding. The launch team is there to build the church, but scaffolding comes down after it has served its purpose.

This mindset is particularly helpful in maintaining a perspective of gratitude. When you view a launch team member’s departure as a completion of the task she came to do, it is easy to simply thank her for her service.

No matter how or why a member leaves, you can choose to be thankful for what was gained by your time together rather than what is being lost.
 

2. Grief

Although you are grateful for all your launch team members have contributed, it is 100% normal to feel sorrow at the loss.

As I mentioned earlier, there are many reasons for a team member to leave, and each of them can cause you to mourn. When you work alongside people, share a common goal, and pour your time and energy into them, it is painful to separate.

It is important to allow yourself time to feel the loss. We are often quick to try to rationalize the loss and move on. However, we must allow ourselves to process our emotions rather than pretend they do not exist.
 

3. Grace

Not all team members leave well. Some people will place blame or share everything they think you should have done to create a church they could have stayed at.

To maintain your own health, you will need grace for yourself and grace for the individual leaving.

There is a distinct possibility that the complaints have some validity in them. As a young church, there are going to be many things you simply can’t do yet. You are also going to make mistakes. You must own that and move on. If you strive to always honor God by giving him your best, you have done all you can at the moment. That won’t always be enough for everyone, but it is enough for God.

Take an honest look at the criticism and use sound judgement to determine what needs to change, what you can change, and what will have to be okay for now.

There are also those who will present reasons you have failed them that are just wrong. You know they are wrong, but it hurts to be accused and blamed. This can cause you to become angry with the individual leaving. We have to extend grace to these people as they go. We hurt ourselves when we hold on to offenses, even those that are justified.

It took me a few days of holding on and internal struggle before I was able to accept that it isn’t my job to prove the person in the wrong was in fact wrong. I wanted to call or email and explain her error. However, when I finished grieving and focused on gratitude, I was ready to extend grace. I sent an email thanking the couple for their service and released them with my blessing and a genuine desire to see God’s best in their lives.

I don’t want to lose any more team members, and I highly doubt losing people will ever become easy. However, I am determined to practice the principles of gratitude, grief, and grace.

God is in control, and he brings the people we need when we need them. We must learn to trust him and remain in the peace that comes from following the one who ordered the stars.


Jonathan and Rebecca Burtram planted Redemption Church Charlottesville on Easter of 2016. Rebecca is the author of Our Broken Hallelujahs and blogs about grace and imperfection at rebeccaburtram.com. She is passionate about helping others know that they are not alone in their struggles or their triumphs. If you have a church planting story to share with other CMN women, contact her at rebecca@redemptioncc.com

Comment