Yesterday morning my kids went back to school. As hard as it is for them to believe, even at my advanced age I still remember how that first day back to the school routine felt after a couple months of summer vacation. So I wasn’t surprised to see them all sitting in the living room, dressed and ready to go a full 40 minutes before they had to leave, anxiously talking about what awaited them on the first day.
This year maybe more than most years in the past I identify with their anxiety because this year I’m on the verge of a “first” of my own. Beginning this Sunday, for the first time in my nearly 14 years leading New Life Assembly, we will move from one Sunday morning service to two. That may not sound like a big deal to some of you, but to me it’s as daunting as that first day back to school was for my kids.
In fact, the questions are remarkably similar. My kids, after a summer away from school are wondering if they’ll still have all the same friends and be in the classes with kids they like. I’m wondering if everyone at the church will be happy with the transition, and if not, if they’ll be upset with me. My kids have questions about what the new schedule is going to look like at school, and I’m wondering about whether or not we’ve thought through all the transitions that will need to happen to keep everything moving on Sunday.
And in a perfectly balanced response to my fears, I can quote to myself everything I told the kids as they prepared for the first day of school. Namely I can tell myself, as I told them:
“You’re not alone.”
Most importantly I’m not alone because in the midst of my uncertainty, I know God is walking with me. Every leader I know faces moments of self-doubt and indecision, but the ones I respect and who have made an impact on my life are the ones who kept walking forward despite their doubts and fears, trusting that God was calling them to follow and therefore would walk with them through those uncertain times. I am once again learning to trust that God is walking with me as I step out into a future that I can’t see perfectly. But in his grace, I can hear God speaking to me, reminding me that even if I don’t know the future, he does, and if I’m following him, I don’t have anything to fear.
But secondly, I’m not alone because there are others walking with me. The number of folks who have stepped forward to volunteer to serve in new roles at the church has overwhelmed and humbled me. From people who have only been part of the church for a few weeks to those who have been here for a long time but are working in places that are outside of their comfort zones, I have seen God working through my church community to remind me that we are truly walking through this transition together.
Every year, when I went back to school I found new opportunities waiting for me there. There were new things to be learned, new friends to be made, even new challenges and problems to learn to overcome. I feel much the same way on the verge of this new season for our church. Together we’re about to step into territory that is unfamiliar to us, but we’re going to do so because together we believe God wants to keep using our church to help change the perceptions people have about Jesus and the church in one of the least churched areas of our country.
I’d be much more comfortable staying away from the new things. It would be like staying on summer vacation forever – sleeping in, relaxing, rarely meeting new challenges. But that’s not where God is leading us. And the reason he’s not letting us stay on vacation is that there’s still work to be done. There are still lives to be transformed by his grace and his gospel. You have friends and family members who you would love to see sitting next to you at New Life one of these days. So as we open up those seats by moving to these two services, let’s be sure we do the work of inviting those folks in to find out what we’ve discovered for ourselves:
Following Jesus changes everything!
I’m looking forward to seeing you Sunday, either at 9 or 11:15. Bring your excitement, your joy, your love for Jesus, and hopefully a couple friends and let’s get this thing started right!