This past week we celebrated our first birthday as a church, having launched services April 23, 2017. So much has happened in this past year that I never could have seen and that is clearly God’s doing. Here are a few of the ways I see God’s hand working, and for which I give God glory.
- God is working in people’s lives in clear and powerful ways. I see people hungering to learn and mature in their knowledge of God; I see people making sacrifices to serve and engage God’s church that make no sense from a worldly perspective; I see people suffering well, trusting God and staying engaged with community; I see people hungry and excited for God’s word and seeking to apply it to their lives; I see people inviting others to come join us, and joyfully welcoming guests when they show up.
- We are a diverse group united around the gospel. This has been my prayer from the beginning: that we wouldn’t simply be a group of best friends that would gather together for any reason whatsoever, but that we would be a group drawn in and changed by the gospel and committed to each other because of the gospel. And that is what God has done, and is doing: We come from a diverse array of ages and life stages, we have different backgrounds (church and otherwise), we like different things, we look different. But we are united by what God has done for us in Jesus, and are committed to each other because of that.
- We are taking the initiative to love and serve one another. For the most part, we are a group of people that didn’t know one another very well a year ago. Which means that if we are going to be a encouraging and edifying church, it’s going to take intentional efforts to get out of our comfort zones to pursue and welcome others. And that is happening. I see people going out of their way to reach out, get to know, and love others in the church. When people pursue those who are different from them and welcome those with whom they may never become friends, it testifies to God’s pursuing and self-sacrificing love for us.
- God is meeting our needs.
- People: God continues to amaze me with the various ways he brings people to the church. A family on an unexpectedly long furlough from the mission field, a family moving back to the area from Ellensburg, a family from Snohomish with a dream to establish a business and farm in this area, an extended family that all happened to move north from Seattle around the same time, and many other families and individuals who either got invited or just showed up one Sunday. A church needs people, and I couldn’t be more thankful or excited for this group that God has brought together.
- Space: The space we gather in Sunday evenings at Stanwood United Methodist Church is amazing. It’s warm and welcoming, it’s centrally-located, it’s got a fully-stocked nursery, it’s got room to grow for both the service and kids classes, and we get to store all our equipment there. Many new churches meet in schools, which require equipment to be lugged in and out each week and which often charge 4-5 times what we are paying. I am extremely thankful for this space. In addition, God provided a great space for a church office and mid-week meetings. Not having a building of our own, this space gives us some visibility in the community, a place to store supplies, books, files, etc., and a place for men’s/women’s studies, Roots 101 classes, and more.
- Finances: Many new churches and their pastors have to spend a lot of time and energy raising support. Sometimes financial uncertainties can cause young churches to feel unhealthy pressure to grow quickly, no matter the means. I am super thankful that God continues to provide for our needs and that we are not in these positions. Through the regular support of the North American Baptist (NAB) denomination, a couple churches in our 3Strand Network, a couple one-time gifts from other churches, plus the faithful giving of Roots congregants, we are in a very healthy place financially, and I (Derek) can focus the vast majority of my energy on preaching, teaching, discipling, praying, counseling, and the like.