Yesterday, New Vintage Church celebrated 6 months of ministry since our “official launch.” We did so on a day we also welcomed some of the former Hidden Valley Christian Church to our ministry and celebrated the gifting of their facility to New Vintage Church. It was an amazing act of generosity that will go a long way toward helping New Vintage serve Christ more effectively. For that gift from God, we couldn’t be more thankful.
200+ worshipers gathered to say thank you to God, celebrate the Table, and study the fourth chapter of First John. Joy was palpable and unity won the day. During the sermon, I read short words of blessing that had been sent in by church leaders from other parts of the country, and NVC reemphasized the importance of the indwelling of God’s Spirit as the source of love.
I got home and flopped on the couch for a brief moment, before attending to life again. During my flop time I spent some time thinking about the journey of New Vintage thus far. I grabbed a notecard on which I had written the challenges that faced NVC as we started. I realized that New Vintage Church has faced enormous challenges, but God has been faithful through them all.
We’re still just getting started, but it appears right now our fledgling church is going to make it…and even do better than that. After ten months since our first unofficial gathering and six months of ministry since launch, I’m pausing to do some thinking about what God’s teaching me through the process.
Here are some takeaways thus far:
- Church is about God working through and in people. A spiritually strong, servant-minded Christian is God’s joy and the building block of every great church in the world. In my years of ministry I have never been more thankful for people.
- Today’s culture is fertile soil for starting a church–though doing so has increased challenges associated with it. This isn’t a great time to plant a heavily programmed church or one that requires enormous amounts of funding. It’s also a time in which new churches have to work even harder to get the attention of the community they’re trying to reach. If you can keep it lean programmatically and be innovative in how you get your name out there, it’s a great time to plant a church for those called to do so.
- There are certainly “best practices.” However, there is really not one way to start a church. We’ve done many things “wrong” from a by-the-book standpoint. Yet, God continues to bless us with growth and, more importantly, health. I don’t take that for granted, and remain convinced that church health trumps nearly everything else. It’s always good to listen to conventional wisdom. There’s a reason it’s conventional wisdom. But, it’s also OK to challenge assumptions when you feel God is leading you to do so.
- Church planting is a spiritual journey of many kinds–especially trust in God’s provision. To an extent, all church starters must do this (and most established churches as well), but NVC has survived on manna alone–little more. On a few days we’ve even awoken to find no manna on the ground at all. On such occasions, we’ve declared it a day of fasting and thanks to God. Our way of starting is one of radical dependence on God not just spiritually, but financially as well. Through it all, He’s been faithful. My hope is our journey will make us a thankful people who live generously and remain dependent on God. If you cannot function emotionally or spiritually without financial security…don’t plant a church.
- Who you work with makes all the difference. I can’t imagine doing this working alongside people I didn’t believe in, didn’t like, or didn’t trust.
- We need a lot more new churches around the world. Watching NVC’s ability to impact the lives of non-believers and ex-believers simply because we are new, energetic, and focused has taken me off-guard. There are people plugged in at NVC that may never have plugged in anywhere else. More than ever before, I’m thankful for the variety of churches in God’s Kingdom, and realize that “new churches for new people in new places” is vital to the long-term future of Christianity in the world.
New Vintage Church still needs financial support. Click here to give securely online. Or, you can send a check to New Vintage Church, 1300 S. Juniper, Escondido, CA 92025.