Lord, please help me to not build a church that you are not a part of.
That was my greatest fear and my most frequent prayer when I was in London in 2005 preparing to come home and plant River City Church.
For so many years, I had been leading different successful student ministries inside and outside the church that left me feeling exhausted, frustrated, and questioning whether this was the result of my efforts, or Jesus'.
It led me to a point in my life and ministry that caused me to start asking the question,
"Is there more?" Not bigger. Not more fame. Not more conversions. But more life.
More life for me, for my family and for the people I was leading. I found myself asking Him questions I had never considered:
- Jesus, do you have more for me? Have I missed something?
- Why am I so tired and frustrated when you promise life to the full?
- A yoke that is easy, a burden that is light?
I was feeling the exact opposite. And I deserved more. After all, I was a professional and successful Christian! I began to hear God speak to me. He asked me questions like:
- Are you willing to leave what you know and follow me, without knowing what is next?
- Do you trust me?
- Do you love me more than you love ministry?
He led me to leave my job, raise personal support and enroll in full-time seminary. I thought I was going to be a missionary in China. Their need for pastors there was much greater than here.
However, I found myself on a plane to London, reading the book Joy Unspeakable by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was on my way to a weekend that focuses on helping people experience the love of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Well, let's just say God met me there that weekend unlike I had ever experienced Him before.
He was familiar, but more loving and powerful than I had ever imagined or experienced.
It was like all that I had hoped for or read about in the Bible was surpassed in my experiencing His love for me as his son, not his worker.
After that weekend, I journaled that this was the kind of church I wanted to lead one day. By the end of the weekend, the pastor of the church I was visiting invited me to move to London to be trained in how to minister the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a way that does not compromise biblical teaching, and normalizes them for all believers. He also asked me to lead a church plant in Jacksonville, Florida that they had been praying to start for two years.
The rest is history.
Life apart from God's love and power is possible, just like building a church or ministry apart from him is possible.
My hope is that you, too, experience God's love for you in River City Church. That you find strength in the power of His Spirit living in you, and that leads you to share His love with other people through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
That is WHY River City Church exists. That's why we exist.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14–19 (ESV)