I want the world to know (more like the few who read this blog) that I am the proud lead pastor of Grace Community Church. And Grace is NOT one of Outreach Magazine‘s 2014 100 fastest growing churches in America! Although, for three years past we have been.
In 2011, Grace
achieved accomplished received the honor. I heralded it to the world through Twitter, Facebook, and the like. I reveled in this sudden and surprising identity as the lead pastor of such a church.
In 2012, we received the honor again. That’s two years running (in case you missed it). We were listed in the top 40 to boot. All my bone marrow wanted to declare this to the world! I felt even greater worth and value as the leader. I felt I mattered. I felt important. And I sort-of wanted everyone else to feel it too. But I kept the news in-house that round. Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to go public again. Yet Christie, my wife, asked me a very simple question that stopped me in my tracks and got me wrestling with my heart: “What good does it do?”
In 2013, we received the honor again. The same battle and the same feelings returned. I specifically remember seeing our name again in the magazine and asking myself: “What will happen when Grace is no longer mentioned? Will I feel like God is done with us? Will I be crushed? Will I panic? Will others think less of me? Will Jesus be enough?”
It’s 2014. We are not listed in the magazine. In fact, we are no-where close to being one of Outreach’s 100 fastest growing churches this year. Strangely, I rejoice.
No, I don’t rejoice that we are not growing as we once were, for whatever reasons. Here in the Northeast, specifically New York, there are hundreds of thousands without Christ. My heart aches for them to hear and believe in the gospel through the people of Grace! We will never cease to pray for revival in the Northeast! We will never tire in our mission to reach Orange County, New York, and beyond, for Christ and make fully devoted followers of Jesus!
But I do rejoice for the churches that are the top 100 fastest growing in America. I am grateful for their lead pastors, their staffs, and their volunteers, especially. It’s not the lead pastor but the team of staff and volunteers who trust the leader’s heart and carry the church from victory to victory. What a thrill that people are being reached with the gospel in such mass and fast rates! In addition, I rejoice for the churches that are not one of the fastest growing, but whose lead pastors, staffs, and volunteers are faithful. Thank you for your example.
But most of all, I rejoice because I wasn’t crushed when I got the magazine two days ago and saw that we were not listed. In fact, I smiled. I was relieved. I celebrated it on date night with Christie, last night. See, no matter how much I prayed in the past and declared to God, myself, even Christie that my identity was not wrapped up in such recognitions, how did I really know? Now, thank God, I do.
I’m grateful if God grows us like he did in the past. I’m grateful if He doesn’t. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Nothing comes unless given from heaven anyway (John 3:27). So I just want to faithfully pray, love, preach, and lead with all my heart. I want to faithfully lead our church to be passionate for Christ’s mission and Truth. That’s all. And that’s how I know God is not done with Grace Community Church, or me. The outcome is His. And regardless of that outcome, Jesus will always be worthy… and worth it.