Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 Is Here - Are You Ready?

As another year comes to a close, we can't help but look back. For some of us, 2008 was a difficult and challenging year. Some of us experienced setbacks and even life-changing tragedies.

For others of us, 2008 was a stellar year. Some of our dreams came true — those we hoped for and some that we didn't even expect. Most likely, however, 2008 was a mixture of blessings and challenges.

For us, we started 2008 in an atmosphere of uncertainty and burden. God had laid on our heart a passion which we had not seen pursued. A passion for the disconnected and un-churched of our generation. I saw young adults in their 20s and 30s that were disengaged in the life Christ had for them - and I began the year with a burden on my heart to do something about it.

I've said before that God places within us the ability to see “broken things” in areas that we are passionate about. God is not calling us to complain or fret over these “broken things,” but to let them serve as fuel for action based on His leading.

We acknowledged this burden and earnestly sought God's desire in prayer for many months. I can honestly say that it was an uncomfortable journey. After all, we were at a pretty comfortable place in life. We had been greatly blessed serving in worship ministry at a growing church in Helena. We had made many friends and really just begun to build this ministry.

Through all of this, God was speaking a deeper passion into our lives - the vision and desire to connect people with Jesus. Specifically what we call “this generation” and “those who are far from God.” We desperately resonate with those who are not familiar with or who do not connect with traditional church models — who see traditional church as lacking or irrelevant at best, and repelling at worst. And we want to be able to help the true, authentic Jesus become real in their lives.

As I said before, God was calling us to an uncomfortable place. We asked why He had thrown us this "curve ball" asking us to embrace a journey seemingly full of risk. Rick Warren says that “neither past nor future generations can serve God’s purpose in this generation.” What we’ve realized is that God has been preparing us for such a time as this. He's given us not a new vision, but a broader one encouraging others to worship God not just with song, but with their whole lives.

Our catalyst for planting a new church in Helena developed out of talks to form a strategic partnership with North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, and begin a journey into church planting. While talks looked encouraging, we eventually came to an impassible wall – our leading to reach young adults specifically in Helena, Montana. Had we been led to plant in a larger metro area somewhere else, we very well may be planting as a strategic partner with North Point.

But the need for a high-impact, relevant, and missional faith community in Helena overshadowed the ease of partnering with North Point. Our burden was clear and so as one door closed, we began to look for other open doors of partnership to plant Encounter Church, Helena.

While investigating church planting networks, we also presented our heart to our home church in hopes of partnering with them to reach an overlooked and un-reached group in a way that Hannaford has never attempted. We are still hopeful Hannaford will choose to act upon their spoken to desire to reach all of Helena in and effective and relevant way.

We also attended the ARC Church Planter Round Table to find our more about our compatibility with their initiative to plant 2000 churches. We were then invited to their select ARC Church Planter Assessment — resulting in ARC's recommendation of Andrea and I as church planters with their respected organization - a great encouragement.

Finally, we began talks with another church planting network – one with experience and ties here in Montana. I can say that Andrea and I have discerned God's Spirit moving in this relationship bringing their vision to plant high-impact churches in Montana together with our vision to build a relevant, missional faith community in Helena.

This new year brings in a whole new emphasis for us. These first months will solidify our church plant partnering relationships and we will begin to communicate God's vision for Encounter specifically with individuals. We will begin to build our Church Planting and Launch Teams. And by the end of the year, God will have prepared us to launch out into our community to touch lives like Helena has never seen.

We know that God has already begun to work in the hearts of those who also desire to see this generation grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. There are those who will be taking their first steps in exploring faith, those who will be finding out who Jesus is, and also those who will be making a deeper commitment.

Our challenge to you is this. Imagine what God will do in 2009. Imagine how He will move and change you. He may even make you uncomfortable this year and ask you to step out of your comfort zone. And I am challenging you to be recognize that going out on a limb with Jesus is really the best place to be.

As Mark Batterson says, "Jesus didn't die to make us safe. He died to make us dangerous." Are you ready? We are!