We asked church planters, “What is ONE story from the early days of your Church Plant that affirmed you were called to plant a church?”
Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories from Vineyard Pastors about their experiencing the affirmation that God wanted them to plant a Vineyard Church. We hope there stories will help you see how others with their hearts for Church Planting heard it was their time to lead in growing The Kingdom.
In ’04 God brought those stirrings I had first experienced three years earlier. Since I was kind of dragging my feet about starting a church, he brought the idea to the forefront in ’05 during a Vineyard National Leader’s conference in Columbus, OH. The speaker on the first night of the conference was Rev. Floyd Flake. God used his talk to seriously shake up my life. He based his talk on a story about Israel’s first king, Saul. Saul was a tall, handsome man. And by all outside appearances looked the part. You know, how some presidents look the part, they look presidential. They look intelligent or stately. And some just don’t. They look dull, dopey, or unintelligent. Well, according to the story, Saul looked kingly. He looked like a king should look. Whatever that means!
But there was a problem. On the outside Saul looked like a king, but on the inside Saul was anything but a king. On the day he was to be crowned, they couldn’t find him. After searching for him, guess where they found him? They found him hiding in the baggage. Apparently, the moment got the best of Saul. This moment was too big for him. He couldn’t handle the moment, so he hid.
So, after talking some more, the Rev. Flake started his ministry time. He talked about people being in the conference who have God’s call on their lives but their hiding in the baggage. I was definitely one of those people. As I like to put it, I was running from God. I was doing my best Jonah impression. The magnitude of starting a church and pastoring was too big for me.
So when he called people to the front for prayer, I basically ran up up the stage. There I was pushing people out of the way and knocking them down because I really wanted to get to the stage.
So, I get to the stage and I assume the position. Just in case you don’t know, at Vineyard conferences when you go up to get prayer you have to assume the position. It goes like this. Now everybody does it, so if you don’t assume then chances are the Holy Spirit will by skip over you and go to someone else. So I assumed the position because I didn’t want the Holy Spirit to skip over me. So I’m up by the stage and waiting for someone to pray over me.
Well, one of my friends touched me on the shoulder and I was wrecked from that moment forward. The presence of God bum rushed me and all I could do was weep. So here I am, this tall black guy leaking all over the place. I mean, I’m standing there crying, my nose was running, and I was drooling all over the place. I was a hot mess. That’s a pretty image…huh? Me being totally wrecked by the presence of God. Experiencing God in that moment was life changing. I haven’t been the same since that fateful night in Columbus.
That night I fully submitted my life and my plans to Jesus. One of my biggest fears with submission is not knowing if he’ll be there for me when I need him to be there. I know I’m the only here this morning who struggles with trusting Jesus with every area of my life, especially in the area of him being my provider. Because I often wonder, “Will he provide everything I need? Will he provide the things when I need it? Will I have insurance for my kids when they get sick? Is my mortgage going to get paid?” Over the past few years, I’ve discovered that church planting and pastoring is the ideal way for me to get over my trust issues. That these are two great ways for me to experience Jesus by allowing him to be my provider. These may not be the best for you but they were the best for me.
I think with this past plant, Seacoast Vineyard, it was when I looked out at one of our first gatherings and saw so many of my non-Christian surfing buddies, and musicians in the group. The message, the Gospel, has always been the instigator of any passion to plant for me. I have to preach the Gospel, and I want to see people grow up in their faith (better husbands, wives, moms, dads, students, kids, business people, etc. the way Christ intends). The local church is the only tool I know that can do that, and do it well.
At that first public launch I looked out and saw an old friend who is an internationally known musician, a skeptic at heart. Not only did he listen, and support me by showing up, he bought us our first computer, screens, drums, amplifiers, and donated money to get us up & going.
Sitting on the front row was the wife of the friend who has been making my surfboards for over 30-years; an alcoholic, a sad woman. She cried through that whole first service.
Then there was the owner of the local music store who not only loaned me everything I needed to have a band and PA, but also played in the worship team (though I’m not sure he was a believer at the time…don’t tell anyone I had him play in the band, breaks the rules you know ;-).
I could go on and on, but 15 years later people like that still show up, even this past Sunday. Without these stories, it would be very difficult for me to continue. I took it as affirmation, still do.