Confessions of a Church Planter (Pt. 2): The Upside of Prison

Since the first entry of my “confessions” I’ve been overwhelmed by the responses. I’ve received encouraging messages on the blog, Facebook, email, texts, phone calls, and in person. Thank you all for your love!

I’d like to start part 2 by recapping how I ended the first post:

Perhaps it’s because I still have a pastor’s heart that in this moment I still hope to help others.

Despite this failure, I have a hope, excitement and optimism.

In my next blog, I hope to share with you all where this hope comes from and why, despite losing the church, I am more excited for what’s next than I’ve ever been.

This is that blog.

A weird thing started happening early this week. On Monday while I was at work I was reading one of my favorite books in Scripture – Philippians. 

Philippians was written by the apostle Paul and it is a book filled with joy and hope. That’s why I love it.

In chapter 3 verses 13-14 he says this “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine).

Here’s why that passage took my breath away more than the first Star Wars VII trailer did: Paul not only has hope, but he’s excited for what’s next. He’s reaching for it.

That may not seem like much until you know the context of where Paul was writing from: prison.

That’s right, while in jail he was hopeful, joyful, and looking forward to what’s next.

What would it be like to be in prison? Let me quote the first part of this blog series and see if that fits:

I feel lonely. Lost. Without my identity. Like a loser. A failure.

That seems more like prison feelings.

Paul was imprisoned wrongfully and for doing the thing he was asked by God to do, Paul could have felt the same way I felt.

Yet instead, he was excited for the future and what God would do next and that had nothing to do with anything he had. He was in prison! He had nothing!

In fact, he wrote that he’d had an abundance and he’d been poor and in both he could be satisfied and then he wrote these words (maybe the most often taken out of context words in all of Scripture next to Jeremiah 29.11)

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (4.13).

If that meant literally being able to do anything then I would be able to dunk. Right now. At 38. Oh! And fly too. I’d really like to be able to fly.

What it means is through the successes and failures, we can endure it all for the cause of Christ.

And we can be hopeful for the future because whatever position we are in, no matter how many ticks we have in our personal (or the world’s) “wins” and “losses” column we can keep moving forward with hope, with joy, and with Christ.

This is the second major event like this I’ve gone through. The first was when the singing group I was a part of (think “Christian boy band…but really southern) ended its run.

I was devastated but that is what prepared me for pastoring. Ultimately, that “failure” prepared me for the next thing.

And now, I believe pastoring has prepared me for more discipling and creativity.

Discipling is what has me heart right now. I hope to make that one of my next blogs. Part of the Pursuit’s lasting legacy will be how much joy I have in the way some of our church’s people have become disciples of Jesus! Seriously, I can’t contain my joy over these people! All of them have stories about how God changed them through their time at the Pursuit and they could never go back to the way things were for them before. That’s real and lasting change and discipleship.

I’m excited to have the blog back up (and hopefully returning to “normal” content soon) and I hope to add a podcast to go with it in the next month or so.

I can see him showing me ways to be creative (something that will forever be a must for me), ways to disciple people towards Jesus and I love that to do these things we’re breaking new ground and trying new things.

For better or worse, I’m a risk taker. Sometimes that leaves me feeling like a loser when it doesn’t work and sometimes it makes me feel better than I should when I win.

But I’ve learned “in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

That’s the lesson I’m learning. Sometimes I’m fully on board. Other times, I still struggle.At this point, I miss preaching. I likely always will because I love to communicate in person.

But overall, while the end of our location hurts and didn’t become the thing I thought it would I have a hope for the future and that’s good enough.

It’s better than that. It’s a reason to keep moving forward.

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