Thursday, January 31, 2008

Life 101: my church planter training started in the streets.

I'm really getting into this whole facebook/blogging thing. I've been at it for about a month now. Actually, the blogging venture started about a year ago, although I was posting rather infrequently and wasn't quite seeing the value of the whole deal. Although there was no $$$ involved, I had this belief that I was spending way too much time on the internet (actually I do spend too much time on the internet). Over the past month or so I have seen the blogging light, so to speak, as I have been reading scores of entries from other bloggers. It seems like everyone is blogging these days and that everyone is also on facebook--great way to connect with people of similar interests.

I am a church planter and lead pastor of a new church plant located in upstate, N.Y. I have found this new facebook/blogging venture to be a great tool for connecting and networking with others who are engaged in the church planting conversations that are stirring around us. As such, I have purposely reached out to others who are involved in some facet of church planting. One of the common realities I am encountering is the fact that the majority of those I have met are half my age or within a few years of that range. Not that I am old, but, if I go by average life span figures, I have passed the halfway point. Yeah, I'm about to cross the half-way bridge from 40 to 50, on my way to the fifty yard line.

As I look at some of the profiles of some of the church planters and pastors I have met and realize most of them are age 25 or younger, I think back to when I was that age. I certainly was not pastoring a church, nor did I have any interest in starting one. In fact, I rarely set foot in a church in those days. My twenties were spent on the streets of the same city I am now planting a church in; actually, in the very neighborhood I lived in as a kid, and again as a young adult, and now again as a middle aged husband and father of two active young boys.

God must really have a sense of humor because the church building we inherited from the former Sixth Ave Baptist Church is the same church building my cousins and I used to throw rocks at when were kids. I can remember an older, gray haired man yelling at us a few times as we hurled rocks, aiming for the church steeple. Legend has it that the reason there are now screened frames on the outside of the stained glass windows is due to the fact that three young boys used to throw rocks at the building back in the early 70's.

As I think back to my twenties phase, and further back to my boyhood days, I recognize that all of that was a part of God's plan for my life. The same streets he rescued me from are the same streets He, in His sovereignty, has sent me back to. While I often find myself envying guys that are half my age, who are starting and pastoring churches, I am also becoming more thankful to God for those years I spent on the streets. Someone once said that we are more likely to reach those we are most like; well if that holds true, and I believe it does to a certain extent, then I am most likely to reach men who spent their young adulthood wandering the streets, or men that are now in their young adulthood, who are wandering the streets aimlessly, trying to find themselves and getting lost along the way.

My point is this: We can't count out what we may consider to be the bad years of our lives, because God most likely planned for those years to happen.

As Joseph declared to his scheming brothers in Genesis, "What you intended for my harm, God intended for my good." Paul later wrote in Romans,

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28) NLT