Celebrating one-year birthdays is always fun. Typically, the baby is now starting to reach some fun milestones: walking or nearly walking; feeding themselves (kinda); saying a few recognizable words; being entertained with toys; and interacting with other children. Parents often start to realize their little one is becoming a toddler and with this realization comes a mixture of emotions. Where did the year go? He/she isn’t a baby anymore! Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were bringing a newborn home from the hospital? And it typically hits them that the little one who used to love being held now wants to get down — which means exploring, making messes, slamming closet doors on their fingers and fighting with other kids over toys.
This month we celebrated the first birthday of Redeemer Church. And I’m having some of the same thoughts that I did when my kids had just turned one.
The year has flown by and the changes and memories have been many. We’re in our third Sunday morning location and have welcomed new friends only to tearfully say goodbye when jobs took them away. We’ve grown together through worship, biblical fellowship, picnics, birthdays and sharing tears over painful experiences. Some of us who don’t live in the Lake Nona area are currently packing to move to new houses and re-experiencing the mixture of excitement and loss as the reality of life with a new church sets in. We’ve been challenged and convicted by preaching that has stirred our faith, reminded us of God’s faithfulness and convicted us of sin.
And we are experiencing one-year-old growing pains. While we’re grateful for the Martial Arts studio owners that have allowed us to rent their facility, it’s not in our target area and folks have a challenging time finding us. When the kids blew pretend horns a few weeks back to bring down the walls of Jericho during their lesson, those who were listening to the message all heard and smiled, wondering what the yelling was about. Because the church plant happened so quickly without adequate time to ramp up, many of us still live a distance away and are finding the expense and time of commuting challenging. We’ve been a church long enough now for some of the “newness” to wear off, which means the offenses and disappointments Benny warned us last year would surely come are happening. In fact, this past week someone told Benny they weren’t feeling cared for by us during a difficult season through which they are currently walking. (So sad….)
We are one year old. We’re making progress but our steps are sometimes unsteady. We know where we want to go but aren’t completely sure how to get there. We trip over each other and are tempted to grab friendship and significance from someone who has what we want. When new folks come we don’t always do a good job of being sensitive to them not getting our inside jokes or wanting to feel a part of the months prior to finding us. Yes, our flaws, sin patterns and weaknesses are being exposed. No surprise.
Yet it’s all good. Good when someone at Community Group responds in an unhelpful way to a friend’s confession then humbly asks to be reminded if they do so again. Good when the pastor and his wife don’t express adequate care to a church member who is honest enough to say so. Good when a special needs child escapes from Children’s Ministry again and the church is endeared to him all the more. Good when people realize that participating in this new church is hitting them in the wallet and on the calendar and yet they continue to serve with joy. Good when a married couple is in conflict and they agree to bring up their fight to their Community Group, then leave feeling helped and loved.
Being a part of something new has been fun. Meeting new people and hearing how they found us builds our faith that God can lead people to a little church that meets in an out-of-the-way Martial Arts studio. Watching God knit hearts together for the mission of reaching the area with the gospel makes the money and time and sacrifice more than worth it. Watching little guys stacking chairs and little girls offering to help mothers with their babies to “serve the church” warms my heart.
And soon I will live there. I’ll shop at grocery stores and eat in restaurants with people God has providentially put there along with me and my church family. We’ll join the YMCA and my grandkids will play soccer and football and basketball with my neighbor’s kids. We’ll open our home for worship nights, game nights and times of biblical fellowship over food. We hope to invite neighbors in for coffee and offer to help when we see moving trucks down the street. Children will mess up our yard and stain our carpet and drop our dishes. People we haven’t yet met will be invited to look for the blue roadside signs that remind them that Redeemer Church is here to serve the community. Most of them will never visit but, by God’s grace, some will.
I pray they will enjoy meeting our one-year-old. I love her. This little one is the Bride of Christ; one of the local churches He died to see born. She’s young and immature. Just learning to walk. Making messes. Starting to talk and sometimes not saying the right thing. But so much fun.
Happy Birthday, Redeemer Church! I’m looking forward to what year number two brings for you!