As most of you know, a few months ago my family and I began a journey to plant a new church. At the beginning of this church planting adventure I was given some advice that has not only proven to be absolutely true, but has also proven to be the most important thing I've learned so far. Interestingly enough, I wasn't told this from just one person. It came from everywhere. Every article I read, every church planter I spoke with, and every training I watched or attended said the same thing. If I could sum it up into one sentence, here's what they said...
"Hold on tightly to the vision God has given you, but hold on loosely to your plans for that vision."
Early on I didn't think much about this advice. To be honest, even though I heard it from so many different directions, I really didn't think it applied to me. Or at least, not yet. I thought it might come in to play later on down the road. I had no idea it would be so important so early in the process.
When we first set out to plant a church, the vision God gave us was to reach people who don't know Jesus and introduce them to his grace, his love, and his truth. Our plans were to plant a new church in a nearby community that would help us work toward that vision. As we set out on our way, it wasn't long before God began to change our plans. Specifically, we realized he was calling us to plant a church in a different location than we originally expected. At first, we didn't know where. We simply knew that he was calling us away.
There's an account in the New Testament book of Acts where Paul was on a church planting journey, and he was headed to this place called Bithynia to preach and start a new church there, but the passage says that the Holy Spirit wouldn't allow him to go there. That night Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him to come there and help them. Therefore, that's where Paul went.
For us, we felt like the Holy Spirit was doing the same thing. We had a plan to plant a church nearby. We had a lot of positive momentum heading in that direction. To change course wasn't going to be easy. But just as the Holy Spirit constrained Paul from going to Bithynia, we felt the Holy Spirit was constraining us from planting a church here. So after some serious wrestling, praying, and seeking wise counsel, we said o.k.
Now I'm about to be brutally honest with you for a minute. Six months ago, when I first said yes to God's call to plant a new church, if I would have known that it was going to cause us to move away from our home in order to do so, I probably would have said no. I realize how that sounds, but it's the truth. My wife just landed her dream job as a teacher in her dream school this year. She worked for six years to get this job. We live in a beautiful, historic home in one of the most amazing neighborhoods in our community. We have so many incredible friends who have become like family to us over the last seven years. If I would have known that we were going to have to give all of that up, I would have probably said no. And I think this is why God didn't reveal the whole plan from the beginning. Early on, all we knew is that he was calling us to plant a new church. We honestly felt like it was supposed to be in the nearby city of Huber Heights. But as we stepped out, plans changed. It's like he called us to take our first big step of faith so that we would have enough courage to take another, even bigger step of faith. It was the first step that gave us the faith we needed to take the next one.
So from there we began to pray and seek where God was leading us. Now I wish I could tell you that God gave me a vision in the night of where we were supposed to go. In this case, he didn't. But through a series of circumstances, we felt clearly that God was leading us back to Fort Wayne, Indiana. For those of you who don't know, I grew up in Fort Wayne, and Madison and I both attended college there as well. It's where we met, fell in love, and got married. So we've both got some history there. On top of that, the organization we are planting with (Fellowship of Evangelical Churches or FEC) is headquartered there, with a handful of churches in the area.
One of those churches is Pine Hills Church. I've known about Pine Hills for the last several years. It's an incredible church in Fort Wayne that is really committed to the idea of church multiplication (planting new churches). Through the FEC, I began a more intentional relationship with them and found that we have a great chemistry together. Our hearts beat the same. They came alongside us early on, before we knew we would be leaving here. They were committed to helping us plant a new church regardless of where we planted it. So when we felt God leading us back to Fort Wayne, they continued to rally around us.
That leads us to where we are now. This June we will be moving to Fort Wayne to continue chasing the vision God gave us to reach people who don't know Jesus and introduce them to his grace, his love, and his truth. The plans have changed, but the vision has stayed the same. We'll be partnering with Pine Hills Church to plant a new church somewhere in the greater Fort Wayne area. Our goal is still to launch the new church by the end of 2016.
What we are talking about here is no small task. We are talking about leaving everything we know behind. My wife submitted her resignation to her school to leave her dream job at the end of this school year. There is no guarantee she will find a new teaching job in Fort Wayne. Financially, this is a huge leap of faith for us. We are preparing to possibly live entirely off of financial support for at least the remainder of 2016 and potentially even longer than that. On top of our personal budget, we need to raise somewhere close to $100,000 just to launch the new church. I don't know about you, but that is a pretty big sum of money to me. We will also need to grow a launch team of somewhere between 50-60 people just to get the church started. All of these things are way, way bigger than us.
But allow me to be brutally honest with you again. That's exactly how I need them to be. I need this to be much bigger than me, because at the end of the day, this isn't really about me. It's not about what I can do. It's about what God can do. So now we are in a position where if God doesn't show up, this will be a disaster. But if he does, it will be a miracle that only he can take the credit for. That's where I want to live my life, in the tension between disaster and miracle, where my only hope is that God does what I can't. While we are on that subject, let me share a couple of miracles that have already happened.
Several months ago, we discussed moving to the nearby community where we initially planned to plant a new church. So we listed our house on Zillow's "make me move" feature back in January. It's for people who aren't trying to sell their home, but would be willing to move if someone made them the right offer. For the first few months we had no activity on it at all. Then, the same week we said we would leave and go wherever God leads, we got an offer on our house. The offer was good. Real good. Like, significantly more than we would have listed it for. It will give us a great down payment for a home in Fort Wayne.
On top of that, Pine Hills happens to own a house in Fort Wayne. The people who are currently living there just happen to be moving out in June. So we will be able to stay there temporarily until we identify where we are going to plant the new church. No headaches, no hassles, no concerns. It's a really great home, much bigger than the one we currently own. I joked with Madison that we will have to put one piece of furniture in each room just to keep it from looking empty.
With every big step of faith we've taken, God has shown up in ways that have blown us away. We are only a few months into this church planting journey, and it has not been easy, but it has been totally worth it.
So here's where you come in to play. I would simply ask you to do three things.
1. Pray for us. Seriously. Set an alarm on your phone. Put a picture of us on your fridge. Do something that would remind you to pray for us every day. It's the single most important thing you can do for us right now.
2. Support us. Seriously. The truth is that we need to raise more financial support. We have moving expenses. We are going from two incomes to one. We will need health insurance. This doesn't even include the $100,000 we need to launch a church. But I believe God will use people just like you to help us get there. I know many of you already are supporting us, and we are so grateful for you. But if you haven't had the chance to support us yet, consider doing so now.
3. Come with us. Seriously. Some of you may be led to move with us and to join us on this journey. So pray about it. God may lead you to come for a season. He may lead you to come indefinitely. But I believe it's possible he's calling more people than just us to go and plant this new church. So pray about it, and if the Holy Spirit leads you to, then come with us.
If you would like to support us, there are a few different ways you can do so, but the easiest way would be to make a check out to "Pine Hills Church" and write, "Freeman - Church Plant" in the memo line. The address is:
Pine Hills Church
4704 Carrol Road
Fort Wayne, IN 46818
Finally, thanks for taking the time to read all the way to the end. It's an honor for me to share how God is leading us in this adventure. If you want to keep up with us on this journey, you can subscribe to my blog by clicking here.