Living Prayer to Prayer

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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. 

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Consistency and Change

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Consistency and Change

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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. 

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Size Doesn't Matter

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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.

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When They Leave

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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

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Front Row Seats for the Weary

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Front Row Seats for the Weary

Front Row Seats for the Weary

by Rebecca Burtram

 

While visiting my brother’s church plant, which is approaching its three-year anniversary, I sat in the front row and witnessed all the functions of a church balled up into one morning.

  • There were five baptisms, one of which was a psychic who closed her business when she decided to follow Jesus.
  • Several people raised their hands to make a commitment to Christ and followed up at the “Fresh Start” response table.
  • The congregation of somewhere between 200 and 250 people in an economically-depressed city pledged to give $226,715 to move their church community into its own space to do ministry.

Although this was all incredibly beautiful, the moment that I think really got me was the almost impromptu wedding ceremony that occurred right before the crew was able to finish packing up the church’s supplies (the couple had sent my brother a message on Facebook earlier in the week).

As a young man in construction boots, dress pants, a white button down dress shirt, and a flannel stood beside my brother and waited for his bride, Will announced to those in the room that he was about to perform a wedding ceremony and those who were left were welcome to witness the event or to give the room to the couple.

We took seats in the chairs that had not been packed up yet and watched as a young woman entered with a beautiful gown, tattoos, a pony tail, smiles, and tears.

Everyone quickly whipped out phones and began taking pictures and video. The man in charge of media at the church took out his camera and began taking professional quality photos.

We were all captured by the moment.

My brother Will performed a ceremony that was eloquently simple and sweet. The bride cried, the groom looked into her eyes, and they embraced for a passionate kiss as one of the members of the worship band strummed his guitar.

Every couple deserves a wedding gift. I introduced myself and wished them well, handing them the money I had just received for speaking at an event for the church on Friday night. The bride hugged me and wept while I prayed a blessing over their marriage.

This is just another day in the church planting world.

This brief visit to my brother’s church rekindled something in me.

I LOVE our church of almost 100 people, but we are almost nine months old… and the honeymoon has ended. Just in the last month we have experienced a death of one of our key members, a couple leaving due to offense, and the vehicle we used to pull the trailer failing on a Sunday morning (leading to a 100% equipment free Sunday service).

Our growth has been relatively slow, and people might be losing sight of the vision because we have started to hear from one plugged-in couple about how burnt out they are feeling.

I realized that while I get to hear all the stories and witness the changed lives, not all our members have had that privilege. They don’t see the hands raised during the heads-bowed, eyes-closed moments. They don’t hear the phone calls or read the messages about life-altering moments.

It is time for baptisms, testimonies, and impromptu weddings. Okay, maybe we can’t just do a wedding, but we can celebrate all that God is doing in and through His church.

If you, too, are feeling the weight and the drain of the sometimes-chaos of church planting as trailers break down, people get weary, or tithes are below the cost of rent, remember the honor and the joy of watching someone come up from the water to publicly declare the transformation of his life.

Remember the individual who came to tell you how God is working on her life to break free from addiction.

Remember that your people gather each week to create a space for love to be declared.

This is church planting. And you get to be in the front row watching God do the impossible.


Rebecca Burtram and her husband, Jonathan, are the planting pastors at Redemption Church in Charlottesville, VA. Rebecca graduated with top honors from Evangel University with a BA in Spanish Education and English. She also holds an English MA from the State University of New York at Cortland.

She enjoys ministering in small groups, at women’s events, and for full congregations. Her dream is to make writing and speaking her full time career. In the meantime, she teaches English at Albemarle High School, blogs at rebeccaburtram.com, and writes an occasional post for tworiversblog.com.

Jonathan and Rebecca have been married for 13 years, and they are the parents of three children, ages 13, 11, and 9.

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Highly Favored... and Greatly Troubled

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Highly Favored... and Greatly Troubled

Highly Favored… and Greatly Troubled

by Catie Naranjo
 

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” – Luke 1:28

This was the message Gabriel brought to Mary, the young woman God chose to carry His son.

We all desire that to be spoken over us. We long to walk in the sweet favor of the Lord, and we are quick to assume that we’re not highly favored simply because of outside circumstances.

Maybe we think, “Surely, God would never send an angel to speak favor over my life. Our finances are scarce. The church is facing real obstacles. Our children are acting out…”  And the list can go on – Oh, can it go on!

But note Luke 1:29 – immediately after Gabriel calls Mary “highly favored” and promises that the Lord is with her, it says that, “Mary was greatly troubled” and afraid.

Is it possible to be highly favored and greatly troubled at the same time? Mary certainly was, and, as church planters, we often are as well.

Sure, there are times we can walk outside of God’s favor. However, when we are living life out of obedience and love toward God, He can’t help but smile down upon his children. We don’t have to be perfect – thank God! - but Psalm 66:2 reminds us that God looks on those who are humble and contrite in heart. Just like we should never confuse success with God’s approval, we shouldn’t assume our trouble is the absence of God’s favor.

Perhaps you’re like me and still processing this concept. That’s okay! Thankfully, Luke 1 goes on:

“How will this be since I am a virgin?” Mary asks.

We all have reasons we can point to as to why it should be impossible to fulfill God’s call in our lives and churches. But the answer the angel gives is the absolute best!

“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

Highly favored woman of God, you will get through this troubling and fearful time! And the way you will do it is through being in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Get close and cling to Him. Get so close that you are overshadowed by Him. That is where the miracles happen!

Because, as Gabriel reminds Mary before he exits the building, “No word from God will ever fail.”

May that promise be a gift to you this Christmas. His Word is powerful and more than enough to support His call on your life.

As you are fighting and contending for your community and at the same time ministering to your family and husband, know that you are highly favored and that God is with you.  Rest assured that sometimes being greatly troubled is a perfectly normal part of that calling. Stay in His shadow and His Word will NEVER fail to sustain you.

Merry Christmas, highly favored women of God!


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. 

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