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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