This coming weekend is an anniversary of sorts for Mary Kay and me. Sunday morning, December 14th of 2008 was the first day that we invited a few others to join us in our living room to worship together. That gathering eventually became Church Requel. A few of those folks are still with us, but not many. One year later, 164 video Bible studies later, and 52 weekend sermons later we still will gather this coming weekend. Our location will be Mid-Ohio Conference Center instead of our living room and we'll have around five dozen folks instead of one dozen.
After one year I think I can conclusively say that launching a new church has been the most difficult thing I have ever attempted in my 52-year-old life. You may say that I haven't attempted many difficult things. And that may be true. However, I have had the experience of leaving a secure sales position (I worked as an account executive for Merrill Lynch and Prudential-Bache in my younger years) to start a new business from scratch (Pierce Financial Planning). While that was tough, it was nothing like what Mary Kay and I have experienced this past year in launching Church Requel.
When we started the business back in 1990, we maintained all of our close friend relationships. Then, as is also true now, our close friends revolve around our church experience. So when we started Pierce Financial Planning, we still saw all our friends every weekend. For the pastor launching a new church, however, the dynamics of the friend relationship is infinitely more complicated.
The dear people who joined us at our home one year ago eventually had to make the decision of whether or not they would continue to worship at Church Requel. Thankfully some of them have stayed with us. But most, understandably, have decided that friendship does not include the obligation to help launch a new church. On top of that, many of the people who we thought were friends have not had any contact with us since leaving our former church and starting this new church. In other words, for Mary Kay and me the sacrifice of launching a new church has included the sacrifice of leaving some relationships behind.
I'm sure this is not how it is supposed to be. And I'm also sure that I'm as responsible for this as anybody. But for people who are as relationship oriented as both Mary Kay and me, this aspect of starting over is the most painful. Without question this friendship aspect of launching a new church has been the "low" for us.
Interestingly the "high" is also relationship oriented. Some people have proven themselves as good friends to us, determined to maintain our relationship regardless or our (or their) decision to attend Church Requel or not. In addition to that, we are making new relationships all the time. This morning I had coffee with another fellow, my age, who has recently begun attending Church Requel. It's early yet, but I'm thinking that we have a lot in common. We might strike up a new friendship that would never have existed had we not stepped out in faith one year ago to begin this new church.
I don't tend to be the kind of person who rides the emotional roller coaster. And I'm normally firmly anchored in the reality of "what is" rather than continuously wishing for "what might have been." With that said, I definitely feel tossed around over this past year emotionally. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. What has grown enormously for me out of this tossing experience is my faith in my calling to preach the gospel of Christ Jesus and my friendship relationship with His Spirit in my life. I know His Spirit is continuously with me and provides for me. That provision includes human friendships as well.
We are not where we were one year ago. And that's a good thing. We're not yet where we will be one year from now. And that's good too. For now I will enjoy the moment... the enjoyment of friendships that have stood the test of change as well as the new relationships that will result from the test of change.