One year ago I officially began the process of starting a new church. At that time I wrote a blog titled "Ask for Wonder." In it, I shared how I wasn't making a New Year's resolution for 2016. Instead, I was making a New Year's request. My request was simple. I prayed that God would amaze me this year by what he would do and how he would do it. I asked for wonder. I wanted to be blown away by God. I wanted to be in awe of God.
Looking back on it, that was by far the most dangerous prayer I've ever prayed. When I made that request, my wife and I were still living just north of Dayton, Ohio with no intentions of moving out-of-state. My wife was still working as an elementary teacher in a local school system with no intention of leaving her job. We only had one child at the time with no intention of having another anytime soon. Moving back to Fort Wayne, Indiana was nowhere on our radar. Yet, all of those things came to pass.
Now here we are one year later, and I can say without a doubt that God has answered my prayer. All throughout this journey God has continued to give me wonder. Here are my top 10 examples of how God answered my prayer this year...
1. Early on we felt God calling us to change direction when it came to the location of our church plant. We were originally going to plant in the Dayton, Ohio area, but God had other plans. We knew it would require way more faith to move away. The same week we said yes to God about moving, someone offered to buy our house... and it wasn't even on the market. On top of that, they bought the house for about $10k more than we would have listed it for on our own.
2. Moving away also meant we had to go from fundraising a modest salary for myself to fundraising a full salary with health insurance, benefits, etc. Once again, God came through and we were able to be fully funded this entire year through the generosity of faithful people just like you. This enabled me to pursue this opportunity full-time all year.
3. A year ago we had a very surface-level relationship with Pine Hills Church. We knew a little bit about them. They knew a little bit about us. We had no clue that God would bring us together to start this new church. Yet here we are now, leading Pine Hills City Church in the south side of Fort Wayne. The kind of relationships we've formed with this church in such a small amount of time are only explainable by God.
4. In order to launch a new church, you need a team of people. My goal was to build a launch team of 50 people for the church by the end of our 12 weeks of launch team training. We were at 50 adults by our third week of training. Not only was I in awe of the amount of people who joined the team, but also by the caliber of every individual on the team. I often say my team is so good I'm going to have to find them a better pastor!
5. We identified the 07 neighborhood in Fort Wayne as our target community for our church, and then we went on the hunt to find a location. I probably looked at somewhere between 25-30 different locations, and each one came up short for one reason or another. Some places were way too expensive. Some places didn't have enough space for kids or for parking. A lot of places simply said no. We were exactly one month away from our launch date for our new church when we finally nailed down our location: the City Life Center. When I first approached their director about using their space he told me that he's had this request many times before and he always says no. Yet for some reason, this time around God led him to say yes. Just another example of God coming through in a way that only he could.
6. Not only did we need to raise a salary for ourselves, but we also needed to raise around $75,000 to launch the church. Once again, God blew us away through the generosity of Pine Hills Church giving the full amount to help us launch the church debt-free. This is so rare for a new church that it's almost unbelievable.
7. We launched our church on Sunday, November 13 of this year. We honestly had no idea what to expect. We had done a lot of hard work letting the community know about the new church, but we really had no clue how many people would show up on day one. We ended up with 343 people in attendance on that very first day. We had so many people that we ran out of chairs and had to pull out some bleachers in the back. It was an unreal first Sunday.
8. Since our launch Sunday we have averaged around 200 people each week. This includes two Sundays where we had some serious snowfall that would keep a lot of people away. Not only have we had a strong turnout each week, but there has been an amazing amount of consistency as well. I'm starting to get to know a lot of new friends and we are really building some community together. The majority of the people attending are from the neighborhood, which is another answer to prayer. We are a church of all different people from all different backgrounds, and it's beautiful.
9. On top of our launch budget, we also have a weekly budget that we need to meet in order to be sustainable long-term. My prayer was that we would be a self-sustaining church from day one. And yet again, God continues to amaze me because we have met or exceeded our weekly need every single Sunday so far.
10. To top it all off, our son (that we weren't expecting or necessarily planning on at the beginning of this year) was due on December 20, but he showed up five days late, on Christmas day. I feel like God did this one just for kicks. I do believe God has a sense of humor, and I think it's possible God was having a little fun with this one. In my year of wonder, the grand finale is the birth of a son on Christmas day. It doesn't get much better than that.
Even though it was one of the most dangerous prayers I've ever prayed, it was also one of the most fulfilling. I feel like that's how God often works. So now it's your turn. What's your new year's request? What are you asking God to do this year? Whatever it may be, allow me to encourage you with these words from the Apostle Paul. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we all ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen."
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