Tomorrow my church will celebrate its first groundbreaking and its 15th anniversary. Our church’s motto/vision is “Don’t go to church. Be the church.” It’s not original to us, but we mean it.
So let me start over. Tomorrow, the incredible group of stumbling, awkward, joyful, imperfect, hopeful Jesus followers that call themselves “Northstar Church” will break ground on their first ministry facility. It’s also the 15th year since they began being the church together.
I’ve been privileged to be their pastor since July 2009. I suspected when I began serving God by serving them that a ministry facility would be in our future. They began meeting in Blacksburg Middle School in 2003, and due to the grace and kindness of the local school board, we are in our fifteenth year of using the school as our place of worship.
Northstar is not a perfect church. By any means. However, we are a joyful church, and we are intentional about humbly following Jesus. We encourage each other, correct each other, and recognize that we are all at different stages of spiritual maturity. And yet we are committed to loving God and loving others with grace and truth.
A lot of thought went into our first ministry facility design. We wanted it to be a community center. We didn’t want it to be a “church building.” We wanted it to enhance and facilitate relationships, groups, meetings, connections and friendships. We wanted it to useful and use-able. We wanted businesses, civic organizations, community groups and students to want to use it – for meetings, gatherings, conferences, hang outs, parties, weddings, corn hole, and cookouts.
We are excited about the opportunities we’ll have for ministry and for community in (and outside of) this new facility. [You can find out more here.] It’s truly been an incredible journey of faith, relationships, struggle and growth for us as a church.
The scared pastor
I know the Bible has a ton to say about “do not fear.” I know that. Before any of you start preaching to the preacher, please know that I’m simply confessing here. The emoji that best defines me on many days is 😬.
From the first day I arrived in Blacksburg, Virginia from Monticello, Arkansas, this church has given me their trust, their support, and their encouragement. They have allowed me to lead. It’s deeply, deeply humbling to me to get to serve God by serving a group of people eager to grow, learn, risk, and worship, most of whom are way smarter than I am.
And here I am, an imperfect, struggling Jesus-follower myself, attempting to to lead an amazing group of people forward into a future that I have no power over. This project is bigger than all of us, and it’s certainly been beyond my own leadership ability.
What am I afraid of?
Well, we don’t have all the money in hand. We “fired” our fundraising company. After studying us and our financials and our young congregation and “giving units,” they told us we might be able to raise $1 million, and at most $2 million. Since it was a $5 million (which grew to $6 million) project, they didn’t think we could do it. Well, we knew we couldn’t. We were simply confident that He could – through us. To date, He has provided over $3 million!
I know He can provide all of it. Our prayer is that we’ll move into this new ministry center in the next 18 months debt-free. I’m scared/nervous because debt payments have the potential of hindering ministry. We are an incredibly young church (over 200 college students on any given Sunday during the school year) which means we don’t have the financial base that other churches of our size do.
I am not the best leader. I’m a 1 on the Enneagram. I’m an INTP. My StrenghthsFinder results were Activator-Strategic-Intellection-Belief-Achiever. I’m a choleric. What in the world all that means together, I have NO idea. I just know that a lot of time, I feel inadequate, ill-equipped, unable and sinful.
It’s only through a daily love relationship with Jesus that I am enabled to see myself differently. To see myself as God sees me, according to scripture. Through faith in Jesus, I am a very different person, and I’m empowered and gifted to lead and bless a church like Northstar.
What if we build it and “they” don’t come? Field of Dreams was a great baseball movie back in 1989, but its refrain of “If we build it, they will come,” is lousy theology. However, ask any church leader, and most will tell you that when they built, their attendance increased.
Our goal is not for larger worship attendance. Our goal is for more lives touched, for our community to want to use our facility, for this space to be a destination and an enjoyable connection point. It’s not just for “insiders.” It’s for everyone. We believe that in fostering relationships that we’ll have opportunity to share and show the most important relationship any of us can have – a love relationship with Jesus Christ. But one fear I have is… what if we build it, and it’s just “church folks” who use it?
Here we go..
So tomorrow around 10:30 a.m. EST, I’ll be standing in a tent, on our land, with who knows how many people, celebrating what God has done to bring us to this point, both corporately and personally. There will be golden shovels, worship, scripture shared, a message preached, a lunch enjoyed and even bounce houses for the kids during lunch back at the middle school.
Yes, I’ll be nervous and fighting fear with faith. I’ll also be excited, hopeful, joyful and eager.. to be with the Jesus-followers who call themselves Northstar who will be experiencing the same things, I’m sure. It’s a journey. Let’s “dig in.”