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.