We Do Hard Things

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So, we are church planting. It’s a big deal. And we are still trying to wrap our minds around it. I’m sure some of you remember the day when you finally announced it, and all of a sudden, it became more real. Well, that is what happened to us this week. In the midst of processing this big news, we had our dear friends, who are more like family, over for an impromptu dinner. It was a fun, laid-back night of laughter and encouraging conversation about the future. Life was simply happening together as our little girls frequently ran through the dining room, up and down the steps, giggling and playing together. It was not the coveted scene of a sit-down dinner with completed conversation, but it was so good for us to be in the chaos together discussing our hearts and desires to live for Christ’s glory.

We commenced the evening with a dance party to Moana songs (because that is what you do when you have all girls). When they came down from the high of dancing to Disney songs to the low of cleaning up the living room littered with scattered toys, we got the normal kickback, “Oh, we don’t want to clean up, please, no”.

It was then that my friend’s husband answered his daughter with, “yes, but this family does hard things” as he entered into the cleaning with her. [quote]Yes, but this family does hard things.[/quote] My husband loved this teaching moment and small phrase that packed such a truth-filled notion. Now, I have heard this phrase everyday since, as my husband who shares in the same battle with his little ones, longs for them to understand that not everything in life is easy. So, yes, “The Woods do hard things” is now a rebuttal heard quickly on the tail of the incessant, “but mommy” comments of the day.

It is hard to send out beloved church members to plant new churches.

It’s hard to grow to know someone and invest in a friendship from Bible study or care group knowing that they are leaving. Wouldn’t it make more sense to guard our hearts and make friends with the church members who are staying? Left to ourselves, that is exactly what we would do. We would play it safe, settle in where things were comfortable and familiar to live our lives, together. The church is called to live life together, right? Indeed we are, but we are called to live life together for His Kingdom’s purposes. This necessitates a sending out of those you love to carry the Gospel to Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world. As we are constantly living this out, together and sending and going, together, we are doing hard things, together.

This is what I have seen modeled and this leaves my heart indebted to my sending church as I am sure most of you feel the same way. Church planting is hard. I am embarking on doing hard things, but sending churches, you are doing hard things too, and I understand that you may be weary. I have written this letter as an encouragement to you…

Dear Sending Church Member,

I will miss you greatly when I go. It is less than a year away and my time to go will be here before I know it! I admire your faith so much in being faithful to continue sending. I want you to remember these things in the coming months that we have left together.

Remember that the Father sent His only son.

Remember that in sending you are taking part in going and multiplying. Sending church planters out seems to be the forgotten side of going. I will not soon forget: ⋅ Your faithful discipleship ⋅ Your steadfast examples of ministering to our community ⋅ Your smiles as you greeted me with a bulletin each Sunday morning ⋅ Your servant hearts as you came early to pray and stayed behind to help stack chairs and clean up ⋅ The hospitality you consistently modeled in opening up your home to me for care group ⋅ Your talents and giftedness in leading me in worship ⋅ The way you welcomed my children with all their needs and took care of them as if they were your own ⋅ Your faithfulness to give generously and financially ⋅ The way you spoke truth to me and you weren’t afraid to talk about sin ⋅ The way you welcomed my guests and became friends with them, genuinely and sincerely

Sending takes a strong faith and I admire your faith and diligence in sending. I aim to exemplify this at our future church plant. You have done it so very well and now I am eager to go and do likewise.

Much like a kid going to college, we are eager to be set free and watch the Lord move. We are excited about what lies ahead. You are much like that parent, letting go. It demands of you: ⋅ Open hands ⋅ Trust of the Father to cause us to be fruitful ⋅ The letting go of those you love most in order to love others unto going ⋅ To remind me of sacrifices you made financially ⋅ To tell me of the prayers you are praying on my behalf ⋅ To remind me of where I have come and why I am going on those days when I have lost my focus and lack faith

Letting go and sending demands yet another sacrifice. That we keep in touch and that we clearly communicate with one another. This necessitates a deep friendship now, knowing that I am soon to be sent. Please do not shrink back from genuine fellowship with me. I need you more than ever and have to believe by God’s design, in some way I am good for you too. I am sad to leave you, but so excited to go love on others the way you have loved on me. Don’t be afraid of Him calling you to the same task, he already has. If you are to go one day, His grace will bring you there.

One day I hope to be much like the psalmist in Psalm 125:5&6, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him”. I will be faced with the same task; to selflessly send the ones I have so faithfully taught and loved. I will be calling on you, expressing my desire to sit down over coffee and have you teach me what it was like to love with open hands. I will sit across from you and tell you ”thank you” for teaching me how to send and we will be sharing the “sheaves” of Gospel harvest with one another, rejoicing!

Soli Deo Gloria, Your Church Planter

As those who are sending and being sent, let us be gracious and intentional with one another as we do hard things together. The One whom was sent is always calling on His church to send. His mission is not yet complete. We have been entrusted with a great commission, all pun intended.

Lately, this notion of doing hard things is truly following me everywhere. We are entering into the last year before we are sent as team members to plant a church in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even as I type this I am tempted to lack faith and fear of the unknown. Here at home in Raleigh, I am very comfortable at my job of 10+ years with coworkers that feel more like family than colleagues. I have grown to love my house that rests in a cul-de-sac where my kids often play. I love my church. I mean I really truly love the people that make up my church. I have come to love many women this past summer and hope to grow in deeper friendship with others in the year to come. My pastor’s preaching is life giving and is Biblically sound. Life is good. I am comfortable. Life here fits us so well. I imagine Christ could have said the same thing before he left Heaven to come to earth.

Andreas Kostenberger in his study notes on John 3:17 reminds us that, “being sent (in the case of both Jesus and his followers) implies that the commission, charge and message are issued by the sender rather than originating with the one who is sent." Kostenberger goes on to point out in his notes that, “John’s favorite designation of Jesus is that of the Son ‘sent’ by the Father”.

Church, this thing called “church planting” that we have been tasked with as His Bride is no easy task. I take heart in the fact that it is a duty that originated with a Holy God who was the first to send. We are called to this task together as the ones who are sending as well as the ones being sent.

It is hard to send out church planters, but the Lord often accomplishes much through hard things.

With all of this in mind, my simple plea is this…Church, let’s do hard things together.