Eight weeks ago I became a part of a team of students who moved to Portland, Oregon in the hope of learning what it looks like to form churches in the context of Portland and building genuine friendships with the people here- all in the name of Jesus. Eight weeks ago I could have told you what I thought church planting was based on books I’d read and experiences of those who had rolled up their sleeves and joined the harvest work. But eight weeks ago I had never tried to start a church.
In my last blog I opened up about what I have learned the church should be and how the church, the family of God, should embrace the fact we are the recaptured image of God on earth. A broken image that finds beauty in the fact its Artist is not broken, but whole and beautiful. As I have established more gospel-centered rhythms this summer, such as redeeming the Sabbath and learning to love people just for the sake of loving them, I have seen how God is building His church here in Portland and how I can be apart of it.
This summer my team was assigned the task to put together, based on the knowledge we acquire and observations we make in 10 weeks, a church planting prospectus. In other words, a model for a church someone could come and form in our area. At first this task didn’t seem quite daunting. Surely at the end of ten weeks I will have learned enough about the area I’m in that I could cast vision about how a church would work here. And in some ways I have. God has opened up beautiful friendships, conversations, and opportunities to see how His spirit is moving in the area of southwest Portland. But in some ways I haven’t. God has humbled my spirit time and time again and reminded me that I am always in a posture of learning. In the moments I believe I’m shepherding those around me He lovingly, graciously reminds me that HE is the Shepherd, I am the sheep. While He is allowing me to gain insight on the people and place I am in, I never have the perfect plan. He has invited me to be apart of His plan, to participate in the sharing of His grace to this world but not before I recognize the great need of His grace on my own life.
Now fast-forward eight weeks and my team is two weeks away from sharing our model with a group of 60 plus people. We have walked through identifying people, inviting them into community, investing in their lives, and increasing our family. We have wrestled with how to love one another, love the people we have formed relationships with, and love Southwest Portland in the way Jesus modeled. We have realized coming up with a plan is hard. Writing mission statements, forming discipleship plans, and creating ideas about how to practically meet as a church is hard. But thankfully we have realized the significance of when God says to His people, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” HIS grace is sufficient. When we admit our weakness and the fact we will never plant a perfect church, never have the best model, God’s power is perfected in us. His perfect kingdom is coming and in the meantime we hold fast to the joy we have in walking with Jesus and being apart of His plan.
I am so grateful for this truth and pray as this summer comes to a close and I continue to walk with Jesus in this life I am challenged to commit my ways, thoughts, and plans to the Lord. Realizing I know the voice of my Shepherd and I can follow Him in any season, anywhere because His grace is sufficient for me, always.