How Long Has It Been?


June 12th, 2016 we had our first interest meeting. (You can check out some of the pics here). It’s hard to believe that was a year ago. It feels like yesterday, but it also feels like we have had this church for 5 years already. Strange how time works on you like that.

Our team had dreams of what that day would symbolize in the beginning phases of our burgeoning church but none of us really had any clue what would ensue. To tell you we saw what was coming would be a lie. We prayed big prayers, but I for one didn’t expect such big things to happen.

The City is in Need
One thing I know is certain: the city longs for churches they can call home. Many people speak about the ‘millennial problem’. We are leaving the church in droves, have no respect for the generations who came before us, and do not care about spirituality outside of our yoga mats. Time and time again I find this narrative to be false. It was false when I led in college ministry. False when I led youth ministry. False when I led a church through revitalization. And false still in this church plant.

The Holy Spirit has not abandoned his work among the hearts of young people and the church at large is full of adults that are leaving Sunday expressions for the same reason young people are. The culture has moved on from our methods but longs for the everlasting message of the Gospel to be made real to them.

Gospel Made Real
Our city is lonely. When Jesus befriends the woman at the well, tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and hangs out at Zacchaeus’ house he does a simple yet powerful thing. He shows constantly what a friend looks like. Extending friendship to people you just met or do not know is game changing in a world where ‘friends’ hardly care about us. Often times our pastor has just been our boss and not our friend.
I’ve heard a million times growing up that leadership is lonely. It doesn’t have to be. It is if you choose it to be. It’s possible to be friends with people and lead them. Leadership becomes lonely when we think leadership is portraying an outward image. When it’s about control. When it becomes about position above people rather than a place of service to them.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to let people in to see our failure. To lay down control and steward rather than own. And, to go to the people instead of making them always come to you.
The city needs community. Authentic friendships that show care, support, and love in the inconvenient times. And if that does not come from the top, the example setters, it will not come at all.

Our city has talent. It’s just an honest fact. It means we can all tell when something doesn’t have it because we are constantly surrounded by things that do. We live off other people’s ratings of of it (yelp, google, and travelocity reviews). Our eyes and minds are trained to dismiss or accept things within seconds if it does not live up to a standard. It happens whether you know it or not.
So when our churches are behind the curb on it, it shows. We need to grow our definition of evangelism to include a great website, on point social, and the environment people meet you in. Again, this isn’t a millennial thing. It’s a 21st century thing.
It’s why we put creativity front and center. We do not value it above character, but we value it as part of our core. The city needs voices that will speak it’s language in a time when the church as a whole speaks a dialect that isn’t recognized anymore.

Our city needs truth. And grace. And we will only get it through deep learning relationships that pry past the layers of facade that we have built over the years. It happens over meals. It happens over prayer. It happens over books. And it happens over time. It’s called discipleship. It was Jesus’ great call to His people before He ascended. The thing that he constantly modeled during his life in ministry.
It is the piece of the puzzle that if we do not have, everything else is for nothing. Who cares if we have great community and are really creative if people are not falling deeply in love with Christ and bowing down to Him more each day as King? It encompases preaching, worship, membership, baptism, and friendship. It is systematic and organic. It is the great commission. When Jesus prayed before he went to the cross, it was the thing that he prayed for most.

What Just Happened?
I honestly did not intend to write what I just wrote. I thought I would talk about all the great things God has done in the past year. There have been many. But I guess the thing that still weighs on my heart a year later is the people in this city. The ones who are homeless and haven’t found a church. The ones who are seeking and do not know where to turn. The ones who are lonely, and need a group of friends. The ones who call this city home.

I’m thankful to the incredible people who have been helping me since this day a year ago and the people who have come along since. I’ve never made so many friends so quickly. Since last year Heather and I have had another baby, went through 3 phases of church planting that should have taken 3 years, have been supported by long-time friends, and have made some long-term friendships.

The thing that is always evident when we look back is God’s hand at work. We sure know that what has happened wasn’t us. At this point, there is no denying it was Him.

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Author Justin Mattera

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