What a Difference a Year Makes

At 8:00 am on Sunday, September 15, 2013 (1 year ago today), I sat in front of Yellow Creek School Center in Middlesboro, KY, as a nervous wreck.  I was waiting for the gates to be unlocked, and I was going into the school cafeteria to begin setting up for an informal meeting that had two purposes: One was to introduce the new location for Middlepoint Christian Church, and the second was to talk about the huge vision God had for the church and the city of Middlesboro.  I was excited, nervous, scared, hopeful…all kinds of things wrapped into one sweaty guy.  My wife joined me a little bit later, accompanied by her parents.  They helped finish setting up the cafeteria at Yellow Creek, and we waited for people to start showing up for the 10:30 experience.

At 10:20, I was starting to get a little concerned.  No one had showed up yet, but I was confident.  People will be there.  Just give it time.

At 10:25, I started walking outside of the school, making sure people weren’t parked somewhere else and to guide people into the right parking lot.

At 10:31, I walked back into the cafeteria, silent.

At 10:45, we had everything packed up and ready to leave.  We stayed just a few minutes longer just to see if anyone would be a last-minute straggler.

A few minutes before 11:00 am on Sunday, September 15, 2013, I was crushed.  I didn’t know what to say or do.  I mainly stayed silent as we worshiped with another church down the road.

September 15 was a big deal to me.  That was the perfect date, in my mind.  It was mid-way through September, which is a prime church-launching month.  It was a nice even date to remember, and it marked just over 3 months since Amy and I had arrived on the field to plant this church.  I prayed about it and I felt strongly that September 15, 2013 was the day that Middlepoint launched publicly.

It didn’t happen that day.  It didn’t happen in October.  Or January.  Or April.  All these dates were prayed about, but nothing happened.  It wasn’t for a lack of trying, either.  I was a broken record about the church.  I unashamedly talked to everyone about it.  But, nothing happened.

If you would have told me on Sunday, September 15, 2013, that I’d be living outside of Florence, KY and the church plant would be shut down within a year from now, I would have laughed.  That was impossible.  I’ve prayed.  Audaciously.  I had asked God to do something huge like making the sun stand still, as it might be heard in Christian circles today.  But the sun set.

To be honest with you, I’m still dealing with this.  I think about Middlepoint everyday.  And I know that my wife and I were in Middlesboro for a reason.  Even if I can’t see that particular reason now, I can realize that we learned a ton about God, faith, and how to pray.  Maybe that’s the whole reason this happened.  Maybe not.  But there are some simple truths that I’m reminded of as we’ve moved forward.

First, God is still God.  I haven’t doubted that.  I’ve argued with him, sure.  But I haven’t doubted that simple truth.  God really is in control, as much as I hate that sometimes.  He’s also in control, as much as I love that sometimes.  The first time I heard this was in chapel at KCU.  Some events had just taken place that had shaken the campus family, and our campus minister, Larry, got up and simply told us that God was still God.  I remembered that for some reason.  I repeated it to myself often while in Middlesboro.  I’m thankful for this simple truth.

Secondly, our mission was to make Jesus known.  We did that.  It just didn’t produce a church.  So in this sense, maybe Middlepoint isn’t considered a failure, after all.  People who didn’t know Jesus or who had a twisted view of Jesus met, hopefully, and maybe for the first time, the Jesus who loves them and wants to meet them where they are.  We were (and still are) passionate about that.

Finally, I have to remember that successes and failures do not define us.  The fact that we are masterpieces of God Almighty defines us.  As a matter of fact, I was listening to a podcast recently in which Bob Goff, author of Love Does, talked about the things that went wrong in his life.  He alluded to the mindset that he entertains; that things do not necessarily “go wrong” or “go right.”  They just go.  They happen.  And that’s life.

And I’m thankful that Jesus is in that “life” business.

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Real Church for Real People

Church planting is never definite.

I mean, hopefully the church that is planted is definite.  But a major part of church planting is change.  Actually, a major part of effective ministry is change.  I’ve learned that.  What was church planting in the late 1990s is now an archaic and ineffective thing.  I’m not being harsh or judgmental; it’s the truth.  That is why church planting books, conferences, and planter themselves constantly talk about new methods.  The message never changes, but the methods must change.

That’s a completely different blog post, though.  What I’m really saying is that I have experienced a ton of change while planting Middlepoint Christian Church in Middlesboro, KY.  My wife and I moved here, not knowing anyone in the city, and said, “Let’s start a church.”  I looked at all the other church planters I knew and all of their experiences.  I learned a lot from them.  I found out methods and ways to do things.  Then, I started to slowly implement it in Middlesboro.  Funny thing happened, though.  It didn’t work.  I mean, some things did.  But a lot of it didn’t.  I was confused, crushed, perplexed, and a bit discouraged.

I hit failure, face-to-face.

It was weird.  Let me rephrase that: It is weird.  Church planting is not definite.  I’ve readjusted, retooled, rethought, and just about any other re- word you can think of in Middlesboro.  But let me be clear: We haven’t failed.  In fact, Middlepoint is quite the opposite; we’re very much alive.  We’re very real.

Things have happened, some things didn’t work, other things did work, and here we are.  We have rejoiced, cried, been encouraged, been discouraged, stood on the mountaintops and trudged through the valleys.

Church planting is not definite.  We didn’t stay on the mountaintop, nor did we stay in the valley.  We didn’t stay discouraged, and we didn’t remain encouraged.  It happens, and we embrace it.

I said earlier that Middlepoint has become very real.  This is sometimes met with a negative connotation.  I’m not sure why, though.  We’re a real church.  This means that we look to Jesus every single day, because we know that each day brings enough “stuff” on its own.  Without Jesus, we are nothing.  We’re made up of real people, walking with a real Jesus, in a real world.

Simply put, we’re a real church for real people.

This is, for a lack of a better term, our motto.

We’re a real church for people who are hurting, who have problems, doubts, and fears.  We’re a church that embraces the “luggage” the people carry with them.  We celebrate and rejoice, and we also cry and be silent.  We’re a church for people who, just maybe, don’t know where to turn.  We’re a church for people who have given up on church, or have been out of church for so long that they don’t know where to even begin to get involved again.  We’re a church for people who searching, and also people who have found something that they just can’t keep quiet about.  We’re a church for, you know, real people.

Simply put, we’re a real church for real people.

We realize that Jesus was around real people all the time.  The sick, hurting, dying, lame, separated, sin-covered, and stained were the crowds that surrounded Jesus.  Jesus extended grace and mercy to them, while being the truth of God.  He ate with sinners, people who had no one else but themselves.  Jesus was around real people, and so are we.

Why should we, as a church, be any different?  We walk closely with Jesus, so we do what Jesus did.

Simply put, we’re a real church for real people.

If you’re in Middlesboro, KY, or in Bell County and this is something you want to know more about or even join up with, visit our website at middlepoint.org.  There, you can find out more about the church, contact us, or join our Launch Team.

After all, we are a real church for real people.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Support Middlepoint

Why should you financially support Middlepoint Christian Church?  Take a look at these 10 reasons below and realize that God is up to something HUGE in Middlesboro right now!  This is your time to jump on board!

We have set audacious goals.  We believe that God calls us to be good stewards of our resources.  However, many churches use that as an excuse to stay in the safe and not do anything courageous.  We do not do this.  God has called us to specific audacious goals.  We feel that God is leading us to meet in our local movie theater, so that people might come to a familiar and safe place to know about Jesus.  We also want a space in our local mall so that we can be available at a cultural center of the city as much as possible.  Guess what we need in order to do that?  Money.  God has called us to do this, and he might be telling you to give towards this, so that other people (in your own backyard) might know Jesus.

The days of putting up a sign and waiting are over.  In the 20th century, we could have started a church by renting or purchasing a small building, putting up a sign, and then waiting for people to file into our doors.  Believe me, I wish it was that easy today.  But it isn’t.  The days of putting up a sign and waiting are behind us.  We must meet people where they are.  Guess what that takes?  Money.  In order to show people that we care, we must have the financial resources available to meet needs, wherever people are.

Partnering with a ministry is an opportunity, not a burden.  Some people ask how I can seemingly and unabashedly ask for money for Middlepoint.  It’s because of two things.  First, God is leading us to start this church.  There’s no questioning that.  I’m passionate about it, so I will ask people over and over to give to this worthy cause.  Secondly, it should be a magnificent opportunity to partner with a church plant like Middlepoint financially.  You have the privilege of giving to a movement of God that is changing lives, and you can visit it anytime you want!  Also, it shows that you care about what happens in your own backyard.  There are many worthy causes to give financially to, and this church plant is no less worthy.

We rely on your financial support for the time being.  Unlike an established church, we do not have the faithful tithing of church members.  So everything we do is relies on you, the faithful supporter.  Some might say that they will wait until we launch, then support us.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for you to do that.  But we need financial support now for all of the start-up costs and up-front prices for things.  To just rent a space for worship experiences and have adequate equipment to facilitate the experience puts a church into thousands of dollars budget range.  So, we need your support!

We don’t have a national organization paying for things.  Many church plants are planted through regional or national networks, which is great.  I have many church planting friends who are doing that, and that particular network takes care of much of the cost for planting.  Or, if they don’t have that, they have a combination of a network and a mother church.  Middlepoint does not have either of those things.  Although we have a network that coaches me through the process of planting, all of our support comes from faithful people like you.

Every dollar counts.  Some people are hesitant to give because they think that their financial help won’t even make a dent into the need.  Trust me, it will!  We are thankful for every cent that comes in to help plant Middlepoint Christian Church.  Every dollar that you give goes towards the ministry of making Jesus known in Middlesboro.  What other mission could be better to give your money to?

It makes a kingdom impact.  If you’re a Jesus follower, then you know how important the Kingdom of God is.  There are plenty of great organizations that exist to give your money to.  However, only a handful of those great organizations make a lasting kingdom impact (as in, they promote the words and news of Jesus Christ).  Many parachurch organizations are making a kingdom impact.  So are we.  We are a church, in every sense of the word.  We are seeking to create a church where unchurched people may encounter God.  That’s a great thing to give financially to.

Community outreach costs.  We have some great ideas already running wild through Middlepoint about how we can best reach out to our city.  But guess what these ideas take?  You’re right – money!  Even something as simple as handing out water at a festival or coffee to the early morning Black Friday shoppers (I’m excited to do this, if we get the financial help) takes money.  And the more elaborate ideas cost even more.  Here’s the good news, though: YOU can partner with us to make sure these things happen.  Just think of the lives that will be changed just because you decided to give!

Resources cost, and things break.  You may not know what all is involved in a church start-up.  You know all the things that your established church has that helps facilitate the ministry that happens?  We would love to have all of those things.  Just think, if we decide to just meet in a big room, then we’ll need the following things: Sound equipment, staging, seats, tables, signs, Bibles to hand out, bulletins, and printing costs.  That’s just naming a few things, and we’re not mentioning the storage space we’ll need to rent to store these things during the week and the trailer to transport them to our meeting space!  As you can tell, all the things that established churches kind of take for granted, we’ll need to buy as soon as possible.  You can make that happen.

Church planting isn’t a “fad.”  It’s been around for thousands of years.  Church planting has proved to be successful ever since it was made famous by Paul.  Giving your money to a cause and a ministry like this is the equivalent of you saying that you want to get behind this life-giving ministry opportunity!  It’s not some kind of new “thing” that is so risky that it isn’t worth it.  Church planting has proved to be successful, and you can be a part of this process.

I am extremely passionate about what is going on in Middlesboro.  I have no problem asking for financial help from you because I know that God is up to something so wild and crazy in Middlesboro, that all we can do is grab on and wait for take-off.  Call me crazy if you want to, but God has been preparing the hearts and lives of my wife and me for a time such as this.  God is going to do something great in Middlesboro.  Now is your time to stand with us and support what is happening.  If you want to support us, go to www.middlepoint.org/support-middlepoint.html and click “Donate” or email me at middlepointchurch@gmail.com to find out how to send us a check.

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