Ah… naptime (well, for the busiest one of our family anyway…) I wanted to finish writing about the other major happenings in our lives this year: Converge Community Church. Now, I should probably preface this post by saying that whatever comes out while I type is my own opinions/story… this is not from the church as a whole – so I take responsibility for my words (I can’t seem to think of the proper lingo for saying all that 🙂
When Seth and I got married, we were attending a lovely lovely home church in Three Rivers, Michigan. I simply adore the families there. Once Seth got a job in St. Joe, it became apparent that us living in Kalamazoo, going to church in 3 Rivers, and working in yet another city was too difficult. We struggled to care for people and have people care for us. By Christmas of 2009 we decided that though we still were crazy passionate about church planting, we had to consolidate our lives a little bit. February 1, 2010 we moved back to my hometown of Sawyer and took up residence in the upstairs room of my grandparents old home where my older sister and her family were living. It was super fun actually. I highly respect my big sister and she happens to be one of my top favorite people to hang out with in the world… so this was not a hardship. My sister and her family moved that June to Australia where they were missionaries for the next 2 years (a whole other story). So Seth and I stayed in the wonderful old beach house… moving back was not a difficult decision for us. Both of us loved our home church of Sawyer Highlands. My Grandpa was on the team of people who actually started Sawyer Highlands over 60 years ago! My mom grew up in this church, and so did I. Seth and I met in the youth group (though we never really talked… but again – another story for another time). We also knew that Sawyer was always talking about planting more churches. They had already planted one back in 2005 in Paw Paw, MI (click here to check out Freshwater Church – I love this place too!) We realized that Sawyer was a part of who we were and that we would love to maybe plant with them in the future.
After being home for a year and just doing our own things. A particular ministry kept popping up “Lakeview Worship”. The truth is: we weren’t super impressed with it. It was an outdoor summer service in a town that was 10 minutes away from Sawyer, where there was no where to park close to where the service was. To be completely honest, I never really liked the town They were my high school rivals and when I wanted to go there for coffee, parking was always an issue… and the summer crowd felt very, well…crowded. We had been praying about where we should invest our time and were a little resistant to the idea of working with Lakeview. As we thought about it more – we felt that instead of complaining about it, we would see what we could do to help. After all, we wanted to be church starters right? So we figured this would be good practice for when “someday” Sawyer would plant. We had NO clue what God was going to do just around the corner!
Two summers went by and man, did God change our hearts. Lakeview moved locations due to scheduling conflicts and was now meeting on a patio of a hot dog/Ice cream restaurant right down town New Buffalo. Every Sunday morning we arrived, cleared the patio of picnic tables (always fun to watch guys try to lift picnic tables over the fence – yikes!) set up tents, a band, and about 100 chairs. We had coffee and baked goods in the sidewalk to offer the passerby… It was such an awesome way to worship the creator God! OUTSIDE! Some days were cold and cloudy, others scorching hot… Not once has it rained on a Sunday during the service ( in 3 years and counting!) The best part was getting to know the city which would soon become my home town (definitely did not know that at the time). I got to talk to so many people: locals, second home owners, vacationers… through these conversations, God started warming my heart to this little town with literally hundreds and hundreds of people who pass through. New Buffalo happens to be a destination city for many looking for some rest and relaxation by the most beautiful lake Michigan (wanna see what’s happening in New Buffalo as a city? click here.)
It was not a surprise for us at all when the leaders of Sawyer announced that they were praying about making lakeview an all year service. Sawyer Highlands was getting pretty packed… so we knew that something needed to change. Rather than expanding the building in Sawyer, or adding another service… we were going to start another service in New Buffalo!
Seth and I seperately decided that we liked the town of New Buffalo enough that we wanted to look at houses there. That way, when Sawyer started a church we would be living in the town where we went to church. We still did not know that it would all happen in the same year! We did find a house – by God’s grace – in our price range that was close to the highway for an easy (though pretty long) commute to work. We instantly fell in love, and with a baby on the way got right to work! I still am amazed at how supportive our families were as we prepared our home for our growing family. Despite some differences of opinion and timing, they trusted us and God enough to make sure we were well taken care of. And we still love it here!
Back to church though: when lakeview ended last summer (2012) we had one more month at Sawyer before launching the new site that would be called “Converge Community Church”. Coming up with a name for the church was definitely harder than naming our own two children… cuz in our family it was only Seth and I having to agree. Starting new things with a big group of people turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds! It was in these months of meeting after meeting where I was secretly grateful that we were not on the leadership team.. and also when I honestly started praying regularly for the pastors and elders of our church. I really wanted there to be a church starting in New Buffalo, personally. It seemed natural for me since I was on the team of people who each week saw more and more people who would most likely not make the drive to Sawyer, interested in what was happening on the streets of New Buffalo. I would hear the hearts of those more conservative of change in the meetings… and I understood… things were moving much faster than I had anticipated as well. But all I could think was.. “if God is moving… we should move with God” I would be reminded of God with the Israelites when he lead them in the desert… when the pillar moved… so did the people. This is how it felt for me. Ah… so much I could say on that…
October 2012 was the first service for CCC meeting in the local high school cafeteria. It felt weird, I’m not gonna lie. All the sudden, though we had been preparing for this day… it was like going to a family reunion where you didn’t know any of your cousins. Now this was going to be church? It didn’t help that I was struggling with what I now look back at as “postpartum depression”. I was once energized by people. Those first few weeks/months of the new church, I would look at the sea of people and want to be invisible. Where was this coming from I wondered? Spiritual attack? Praise God for community though! He knew what he was doing when he called us to be part of the body of Christ (the church). A small group of women began meeting in each others homes and praying. Prayer changes things I tell you. Prayer changes me. I’m not exactly sure when it happened… but I remember one time working the check in table for the childrens area – and looking out at the people as they worshipped. and I felt it: home. Another time I was singing with everyone and realized that it didn’t matter where we met or who we were meeting with: when God shows up… it is worship!
Now a year has gone by. Wow! What a full and amazing year. I now love love love the church that I attend. Both sites actually 🙂 I am overwhelmed by how good God is. Here is a photo from the crazy wonderful one year combined service we had to celebrate our first birthday.
I have taken much comfort and strength from psalm 37. Here is part of it:
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.[b]
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
Many people have incorrectly quoted this I think, in hope of God giving them the desires of their heart. Look rather at the verses surrounding that promise:
“befriend faithfulness” “Commit your way to the Lord” “trust in him” “Be still”
I have always wanted to start churches… I feel so blessed to be married to a man who has the same heart. I am blessed to be part of a church that is not afraid to do the hard work to share the gospel. It has not been an easy year for our church my friends. It has been stretching each person past the point of uncomfortable. It is difficult for our leaders, for our budget, for our families… but Jesus reminds us….
21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
I Have Overcome the World
25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.[a] 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will havetribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”