On Saturday we had our last ever meeting for Reconciled Community, the church plant I’ve been working on for the last few years.
I sent out an email a few days ago to some of our supporters explaining what was happening and why we made the decision to shut it down. This is what some of it said:
It has been over five years since I first decided to set about planting a church after hearing what I felt was God’s call. Over the years this dream grew to be few families and Scott Daniels, as my co-pastor, meeting together to plan and pray to prepare to plant this church. As you probably know, we had a crazy dream to plant a church with three pastors in The Ponds and Schofields. We are very passionate about seeing church done well, people come to know Jesus and a church’s local community blessed.
Last year we decided to begin meeting weekly in the area and were blessed by the experience of gathering together and doing church together. We decided to call ourselves Reconciled Community, or Recom for short, because we wanted to be a community whose identity was firm in the reconciling work of Jesus.
Unfortunately since our initial group was fully formed in 2012, we have experienced no growth as a church planting team. We have had very few people visit us, and none of the families, couples or individuals we have invited to join us have been called or able to. In our search for the third pastor we have been entirely unable to find someone suited and able to fill the role, despite extensive searching, advertising and prayer.
This almost complete lack of success led Scotty and I to the realisation that we need to seek God’s will for our church. Last week, after much talking and prayer, we both independently came to the difficult decision that it is time to end the Recom experiment. This decision did not come easily. However both of us feel, out of our commitment to God and his kingdom, that we need to release ourselves and the others in Recom into more fruitful areas of ministry. Were we to continue with Recom out of a stubborn commitment to the vision, we both felt we would be unwisely not using our gifts and experiences to their best use in growing God’s kingdom.
It’s a strange thing, wrapping up a church that never got off the ground. I had all these ideas about how the church would happen. I had ideas about what it might become, or if it folded, why it might fold. I never envisaged that the most basic part of our plan, to have a church with three pastors, would be the biggest thing that would stop us from ever getting going. I figured we’d at least get our three pastors and after that, it would become more difficult.
But I was wrong. About many things I was wrong.
Perhaps what’s been most significant about all this is realising I’m allowed to fail, I’m allowed to be wrong. God never calls us to success, he calls us to faithfulness. Whatever God did or didn’t say to me back when I first felt called to plant, this plant is the most faithful I could be. We did what we thought God was saying and we did everything in the way we thought was most God-honouring. I am only disappointed that things didn’t go the way I had hoped.
Whether you know you’re allowed to fail or not, failing is hard. You don’t want to be the guy who turned his life upside down chasing an empty vision. After all the time I spent explaining and defending the church plant it’s now embarrassing to be proving the critics right. I’m not upset with the people who thought it was a bad idea or had criticisms, but my pride would have preferred to invite them all to our spectacular launch and then our even more spectacular 10th anniversary.
But this plant was never meant to be about my glory. It was always about God’s. And if there is anything we see with God it’s that human failure is never a barrier to his glory. In fact if he chooses to save the world through his naked and defeated Son, of course I have no right to my own success even if I have been the most faithful follower of Jesus who has ever walked the earth (I’m not).
While I never would have liked to have been defined by my success as a church planter, I now can’t allow myself to be be defined by my lack of success. I am defined as God’s servant and God’s child. As his servant I go where I’m called and I serve where I am. As his child I know that my acceptance is not based on grades, KPIs or any other measure of success, it’s based on relationship. Jesus has made me his brother, God calls me his Son. Wherever I am, I’m always home.
So as servant and child, I may go on to bigger and more spectacular failures, it’ll hurt and it’ll be confusing. But I’ll be safe, and I’ll be a success because I’ll still be with Jesus, he left failure in the grave, he’s all the success I need.