Just One Question


Just One Question

by Catie Naranjo

It was probably not one of the smartest things I’ve done.  Fights were breaking out, the noise level was escalating, and tensions were high – all because I taught the church preschool class how to play “Follow the Leader.”  It’s amazing how three-year-olds have the same innate desire to call the shots that we still have as adults! We may not push, shove and yell to be the leader, but I wonder if it ever sounds that way to God, who hears our hearts?

In Jeremiah 2, God is chiding his people for no longer being willing to follow His leadership. Of the nation He says, “They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’” And even harder, in verse 8 He says that even “The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’”

Please forgive me God for running ahead and not pausing to make sure that I am calibrated to Your will – day by day, moment by moment.

So, this year, I am recommitting to follow The Leader. How? By intentionally stopping and asking just one question: “Where is the Lord?” We all have more on our plates than can possibly be accomplished each day.  But instead of getting overwhelmed or running ahead, I want to take my plate to God and ask, “Where are You in this?,” and “Where are You leading me?”

The answer is not always the same.  

  • Sometimes He is leading me into that difficult conversation with my spouse.
  • He may be ready to help me finally tackle that ministry project I’ve been avoiding.
  • Other times, He is waiting for me at my kitchen table with my Bible and journal.  
  • Maybe today He is on my living room floor, simply playing a game with my kids.  

Moment by moment – where is the Lord in your day?

Ladies, that is how we stay sane on this crazy ride – we concern ourselves with following our Leader and nothing more. Will we live our lives both aware and responsive to His presence? Will we follow His lead?

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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.

Small Church, Big Footprint


Small Church, Big Footprint

by Karen Thompson Blandino

“God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” –Mother Teresa

About five years ago my husband and I made the decision to say “yes” to God’s call to plant a church in the cultural arts district of Fort Worth. The last five years have produced a myriad of celebrations, uncertainties, and emotions.

Some seasons have been phenomenal as we experienced growth and excitement as new believers made 7 City their home church.

Other seasons have been less than exciting.

Although we expect, and maybe even plan for, difficult seasons, slow growth can still take an emotional toll on planters.  Looking at social media can escalate slightly negative emotions into irrational thinking: “Oh great, every church in America is growing except mine!” Friends who like to “inquire” about attendance and then offer their unsolicited advice can also add to the strain. Stagnant numbers can wear planters out.

During an attendance slump, I was sharing (maybe complaining) with a friend about our numbers. Her response to me was so beautiful:

"We can have a small, impactful, healthy church that does more for the Kingdom than a giant mega-church. We have got to stop buying into the lie that growth is about numbers of people. I’ve said it before. I think our church is a training ground for people at a particular point in their life. Our job is to train them to influence culture."

I really appreciated her willingness to listen, her encouragement, and her correction of my skewed thinking.  

We may be considered a small church, but we’re leaving a big footprint. Over the last five years we’ve partnered with five church planters to help them start a new church in the heart of culturally influential cities. We’ve invested in missions, humanitarian efforts, and local non-profits. Dozens of people have found Christ, connected with other Christians, and grown in their faith. Recently, we launched the bravest vision initiative we’ve ever attempted as a church…a vision that will positively impact our church, city, and culture.

It takes many footprints to transform a community.

No single church, regardless of how big it is, can single-handedly change a community. It takes a lot of churches, big and small, leaving footprints. All footprints matter.

Over the last five years, we have learned that just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t dream big, think big, believe big, give big, and love big.

Your “big” might look small to a large church in your community, but size isn’t the real issue. The real issue is how you steward the resources (people, money, time, facilities, opportunities) that God has entrusted to you. If the parable of the talents teaches us anything it’s that faithfulness isn’t defined by how much you have, but what you do with it.

We may be a small church, but our faithful stewardship is allowing us to make a big impact. And it can for you too.

No matter what size your church might be today, choose to dream big. Choose to leave a big footprint by wisely stewarding what God has entrusted to you. As you do, don’t be surprised if God opens bigger doors.

What are some ways your church can leave a big footprint in your community?  

"His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’" –Matthew 25:21

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Karen Blandino is a pastor's wife, Texan, mother, and counselor. She holds a Master's Degree in Counseling from TCU and a Bachelor of Arts in History from UTA. Karen and her husband, Stephen, planted 7 City Church in Fort Worth, Texas, where they serve as lead pastors. Karen is the co-author of Unexpected: What to do when God disrupts your plans. She blogs about healing, friendship and connection at karenblandino.com

Yes, Please, and Thank You


Yes, Please, and Thank You

by Ashley Randleman

Earlier this year, my 3-year old daughter attempted to dress herself. Her growing independence had just informed me she could do it all by herself. I sat and watched as she shoved her legs through the wrong openings of her underwear, struggled to get her legs into her pants, and repeatedly missed the opening of her shirt for her head. Frustrated, she finally found the opening and yanked her shirt down over her head. She punched her fists through the sleeves of her now backwards shirt. She broke down in tears and still attempted to pull her socks up over her heels — to no avail.

“I didn’t want your help!” she cried in angry tears as I came to the rescue. I graciously explained that even though she didn’t want my help, she needed it. I expertly pulled her socks up over her heels, switched around her backwards shirt, took off her pants to fix the placement of her legs in her underwear, and pulled her pants back on correctly.

Although most of us have grown past the difficulties of getting dressed in the morning, our hearts aren’t too far off from this picture.

In life’s difficulties and struggles we often find ourselves frustrated when we feel in over our heads. The very help we need, we either do not ask for or reject when it presents itself.

I have this default setting of, “If you say I can’t, I’ll prove to you I can.” It can be attractive when I’m attempting something noble or inspiring, but is not so attractive when it leaves me in frustrated tears because I’m overwhelmed and wondering where all of the help has gone.

Before we even had our first service, the Lord brought Miss Judy (who must have seen this trait in me) into my life. Having served in full-time ministry for 45 years, she cautioned, “You need to not only train your people how to become a part of the church as workers, but also train them how to take care of you, personally.” She went on to say that if I continually denied the help that the people in our church would offer me, they would eventually stop offering.

I grabbed ahold of that piece of wisdom that day and have since learned the power of: “Yes, Please, and Thank You!” I pray that you will grab ahold of it as well. The next time someone offers to help, I challenge you to:

Say, “Yes!” — eagerly, enthusiastically, and confidently. Resist the urge to refuse. I’ve noticed that as I continue to say, “Yes,” I continue to be offered help.

Say, “Please!” — politely, humbly, and boldly. James 4:2 says, “...You do not have because you do not ask God.” Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. Put your pride aside, and carve out opportunities for your church family to assist, support, and help you! If your hands are full and no one is jumping up to offer assistance, chances are you haven’t asked. Instead of being frustrated, upset, or angry...start asking!

Say, “Thank you!” — always and at all times. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Always say thank you! It puts your heart in a posture of gratitude and paves the way for future opportunities to be offered help.

Since that particular meltdown moment with my daughter, I’ve instituted the saying of, “Yes, Please, and Thank You!” when it comes to this matter. When we are offered help, we accept. When we need help, we ask. When we have help, we thank.

Add “Yes, Please and Thank You” to your vocabulary and watch the Lord bring you the help you want and need.

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Ashley Randleman is a pastor’s wife of ten years and a mother of four (Nathan, Josiah, Lydia, and Titus). 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.

Into the Wilderness


Into The Wilderness

By Rachel Bowman

I am not an outside girl. Air conditioning and cleanliness are my jam. Dirt, terrain, and sweat – not so much. So when God called me into the wilderness my gut sank.

I looked around, hoping He was looking at someone else. I prayed, “Surely I am not your girl for this God – surely.” Nope. His eyes locked with mine and He called me over to Him and whispered, "I made you for this."

My whole body filled up with joy, hope, and downright fear. This is not what I had planned.

The wilderness is isolated, expansive, and you never know what will pop out from behind a tree. It seems dark and dangerous because it is unknown territory. Each step could lead to something glorious or your greatest fear.

Wilderness also makes room for maturity, trust, and faith God is guiding you. My verse of the year reads:

"For I am about to do something new.
   See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
   I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."

–Isaiah 43:19

So, as I step into the wilderness, I must remember God cares more about my character than my comfort. He is delivering us from the lonely expansiveness of it all, step-by-step. It's during the sweat, the terrain, the branches to the face, the allergies, the dirt, the hot sun, thirst, and the wanting desperately to give up that God whispers, "I made you for this," again and again.

He is doing a new thing, making new ways, new roads, and new pathways for me and the people behind me. He is asking me to trust Him and allow Him to provide and protect in a place I did not think was my home – a place I feel out of sorts in, but a place I know is shedding me of myself.

The wilderness is a place with glorious sunlight beating down through the trees to guide me, comfort me, and lead me to who He created me to be: an outside girl, a warrior. He is teaching me to be a girl who treads on mountains and over rivers and keeps going to claim new territory and new deserts because of who God is in me.

Today, I lace up my hiking boots and walk on.

If you are in what seems like the wilderness today – the wild forest of anxiety, the desert of depression, the rough waters of loneliness, the rocky road of a new job or relationship or forgiveness – will you lace up your boots with me?

Will you trust the God alongside me to do something new in you? Something big? Something that will lead to breakthrough? Pray a big, bold prayer today, sister. Let's walk into the wilderness together today and see what kind of glory He has in store around the next bend.

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Rachel Bowman is a mom to four in four years, pastor's wife, church planter, and writer of words. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, a Lego free floor, and encouraging women where they are.  Her and her husband, Paul, are launching Anchor Church in April 2017. 

She graduated from Eastern University and is working on becoming a credentialed minister.  Come for a visit at waitingforbedtime.com after you have survived your kids’ bedtime routine. Honesty and sweatpants required.

Family as a Verb


Family as a Verb

by Ashley Randleman

“I think we should buy a camper,” my husband Jeremiah told me after we spent a weekend with my parents. We were in the second week of a 5-week family series at River Church and creating intentional family time was very much on our radar.

Church planters know that God has ultimate control, but they also know God has given them the task of stewarding a congregation. The survival of the church community they have begun weighs heavily on them. This pressure often makes time management a struggle. In this mix, the family can quickly feel the strain.

I am so grateful for the words my husband spoke. “I think we should buy a camper,” was a statement that became an act of prioritizing the family.

This summer, Jeremiah rearranged his office hours so he was essentially working Saturday through Wednesday — having Thursday and Friday off. He worked hard to have his sermon ready to preach and his notes handed in by 11:35am on Wednesday morning — allowing us to “check out” as a family on Wednesday afternoon for a couple of days.

I worked hard to have the camper stocked, packed, and ready to go by the time he returned home from the office. It was no small task, but as the summer wore on, we settled into a nice rhythm of putting our house in order and locking it up tight so we could all squeeze in tight and do this thing I’d like to call “familying”.

I believe that the word family should be revised in the dictionary to be a verb. When done well, it becomes so much more than “a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.”

When done right, Jesus is at the center and His love never fails. Familying is taking ownership of the family that the Lord entrusted you with and stewarding it well for His Kingdom and Glory. It’s being a family — on purpose, and for a purpose.

This past June thru October has been the most adventurous, intentional, and relaxing summers of my life in my marriage and mothering. We skipped naps so we could skip rocks. We climbed trees and then jumped out of them. We ate one too many s’mores and still had some more. Our children giggled around the fire as we told them our own childhood stories. We got sand in all of the wrong places and got dirt under our fingernails. My husband took up fishing. I began running again.

My oldest caught the biggest bullfrog we had ever seen. Our second caught his first fish. My daughter earned her nickname of “Barefoot Wonder” as I decided to raise the white flag in any attempt of keeping her feet sandaled. The baby became a toddler and I smiled when he signed and said, “Outside,” for the first time. The summer of 2017 will be one for the books as my children grew wings and flew.

We recently winterized the camper and towed it away to store in preparations for Iowa’s soon-approaching winter months. It was bittersweet as we closed the door (literally) on something that has brought our family together in ways I didn’t anticipate or expect. Although the camper will be unoccupied for the next six months, spring will be arriving soon. Until then, we will be busy familying.

Family on, my friends.

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Ashley Randleman is a pastor’s wife of ten years and a mother of four (Nathan, Josiah, Lydia, and Titus). 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.

A Weak Sermon


A Weak Sermon

by Rebecca Burtram

I wanted to write an awesome sermon. It was Mother's Day, and it was the final message in a series on a book that I wrote.

Instead, I struggled all the way through it. I was so disappointed because it felt as though all the time, energy, and emotion I had invested in writing the book had culminated in a last-minute sermon presented by an overworked, exhausted, worst version of me.

I could feel myself bombing. I transitioned awkwardly. I cried and told stories I didn't plan to tell. I was a mess. It was not at all the presentation of the message that I would have done if I'd had the time and energy needed to prepare. I have done so much better. I wanted to do so much better.

Then I realized, it couldn't have gone any other way. 

Church planting ladies might understand multitasking better than anyone else. I didn't just have to write a sermon. I had to run a household, run a church, and keep up with my full-time job teaching. On top of all that, I spent the week leading up to the sermon as a single mom since Jon had to go on a last-minute trip to New York to repair some recent storm damage to our rental property.

Here is how my week of sermon prep went:

Monday- I arrived home around 8:30 PM from the Potomac Ministry Network Council (at which point had already missed Kaleb's soccer practice). I promptly realized Annalyn had a field trip we needed to pack extra supplies for, and Ella needed me to arrange rides for her to honor choir because Jon wouldn't be around to take her in the mornings. I packed supplies, arranged rides, and got the kids in bed. Then, I read the chapter I was preaching from in Our Broken Hallelujahs.

Tuesday- I taught all day, took Ella to ballet and Annalyn to tap, fed everyone dinner at 7:30, helped with homework, cleaned the house, edited a video for life group, ran a background check, sent follow-up emails to guests, and went to bed.

Wednesday- I taught all day, led a church staff meeting, took Annalyn to soccer, led our life group, and went to bed.

Thursday- I taught all day, went to Ella's honor choir concert, fed everyone dinner, helped with homework, worked on editing a video for the sermon and next week's life group, praised God because Jon returned, and went to bed.

Friday- I taught all day, attempted to get some hubby time by going on a dinner date, and fell asleep as soon as we got home.

Saturday- I woke up early to work on the sermon, thanked God for the soccer games being rained out, helped the kids clean the house, worked on my sermon, went to the movies with my family, worked on the sermon, made sweet tea for Mother's Day tea, worked on the sermon, and stayed up late... 

Sunday- I woke up early to work on the sermon...

I walked into our school to set up for service on Sunday morning feeling completely drained and unprepared. I knew that if God was going to use that message, it would be a true example of God using my weakness for His strength to be made known.

I was broken, weak, and tired. My sermon was about God's ability to use our broken hallelujahs. I hadn't planned to be the living example of the point that day. Yet, there I was living it in front of everyone. I was the proof that our broken pieces are beautiful when offered to God for his use.

My main text was 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 (NIV):

Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I didn't feel strong. I felt empty, spent, and ineffective.

Then, a first-time guest came up and said, "That was the message I needed today. That is exactly what I needed to hear for where I am in life at this moment."

I may have felt that I bombed on that Sunday, but I know God didn't.

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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