I put two pictures here. The one on the left is from NVC's very first gathering. It was in the same building, for that night only. Afterwards, we moved to the campus of Ranchland Church for a few months before returning to Hidden Valley Christian Church's campus for launch. On the left, we had 16 people. Those pictured comprise pretty much everyone that was there. Staff and their spouses, and a few others. We all fit in the first 4 rows. Last night, we passed 200 in attendance for the first time as we celebrated our start. We are prayerfully hoping to have 300+ this Sunday morning. Some say numbers don't matter. They certainly aren't everything. But, of course they matter. "Numbers" are people, and people matter to God.
So, the engagement phase and the wedding is over. The "reception," if you will, is this Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the Resurrection. Then, comes the marriage–being the church every day growing in our love for Christ and one another. I'm thrilled and hopeful for the future, having watched God move in amazing ways in the just the first few months of our existence.
Here are some random thoughts from last night's launch:
- When a church is birthed, you feel a special kinship with those who have served alongside you. I of course have a unique friendship with the ministers–Randy Armstrong, Peter Wilson, and DJ Iverson. But, I feel an equal, if different, affection for those who have toiled for the Cause. Starting a new church is a beautiful fight, but it is a fight–or at least a journey with volatile weather. Such experiences pull people together and build a special closeness.
- God has used NVC to bring out the best in people. I've watched people who were marginal become core. I've watched core servants become core leaders. I've watched people completely shift there ministry interests, and pick up the basin and towel in ways they never thought they would. I've watched a man who was in prison a couple of years ago become a Christian and remarkable servant. As I preached last night… "The Kingdom of God… is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
- This whole experience has challenged certain convictions I have about ministry, and reaffirmed others. I'm sure as time goes on, that cycle will repeat. These three remain–preaching, praise, and people…not necessarily in that order. Maybe I'll talk about this more in a future post.
- Encouragement has always been the nectar of the gods in ministry. It's just vital. We started with a desire to cultivate a culture of encouragement, blessing, and celebration intentionally. I'm so glad. It's one of our most cherished resources at New Vintage, and one I'm going to strive to preserve.
Lastly, one of the greatest things about starting a new church thus far is having much better access to testimonies of God's work. New churches give people fresh starts. It's just amazing to see how God uses those new starts to do a new thing in people's lives. I'm seeing it from a whole new angle…and am awestruck by it.
What a blessing!
Now, we're on to Easter weekend. We launched on Palm Sunday with DJ Iverson painting the first half of a painting during the sermon. This Sunday, he'll finish the painting we preach the Resurrection of Jesus. I can't wait!
New Vintage is off to a great start. However, we still need lots of things–more funding, encouragement, and lots and lots of prayers. Nevertheless, I have full confidence the God who brought us this far will meet all our needs.