As I drive to the location where our church meets at a local elementary school, a weight presses on my shoulders. This is going to be one of those Sundays like when we first planted. It’ll be just us and one or two other families. I turn the corner. Yep. One car in the parking lot. I pull out my guitar case and music, walk up to the school, and check the door. Locked. I guess we really are having service outside today.
I start tuning my guitar. It’s been two years since I’ve played. This is going to be a debacle. Another family walks up. “Good morning. Merry Christmas!” My identity is in Jesus, not the size of the church. I strum my guitar and the sound is muted by the cold, damp morning. Successful church planters don’t have services outside in the cold. Four more cars pull in. Ten o’clock. Maybe if I wait just a few more minutes. No, my identity rests in Christ. . . But it doesn’t feel like it. 10:05. Two more car loads pile out. Okay, let’s get started.
D/Em/D/Asus/Bm/Em/D/A “Joy has dawned upon the world…” My three year old son bolts. I lose my wife’s leading vocals. Why am I even here? I get through the song.
G/D/G “Joy to the world!” I suddenly realize I’m singing the wrong verse. Let’s pray. One of the babies loses his breakfast on the sidewalk next to me. I’ve never read about that in a church planting book.
E/Emaj9/C#m/A “Let nothing of our efforts stand…” No worry of that happening here. “No legacy survive.” I’m sure there won’t be one to survive. “Unless the Lord does raise the house, in vain it’s builders strive.” We reach the end of the song. I stop playing. The air is still. The cold damp rests on us. The voices raise in unison to carry on the song: “All glory be to Christ our King, all glory be to Christ. His rule and reign, we’ll ever sing, all glory be to Christ!” Silence.
“Merry Christmas!” I grab my music stand and stool to put back on the trailer. Trailers closed and locked. I turn around expecting to see cars pulling out. No one has even walked to the parking lot. I round the corner. Our little church is still there. People are laughing and a snowball fight has erupted. It hits me: these people really love each other. These blood-bought brothers and sisters who as recent as a year ago were not believers, didn’t know each other, let alone love each other, want to be together. Christ is building such a love within this family of believers that we want to gather even if it means standing outside wrapped in blankets and hand warmers on a cold, damp Christmas morning.
So yes, I am quite sure that like millions of other pastors and church planters through the ages my efforts are meager and I won’t leave much of a legacy, but Christ is raising his house. And by his rule and reign, he has imprinted eternity on our striving as he gathers people from every corner of the world, including Clio, Michigan, to proclaim that truly all glory is to Christ.
A little smiling face with rosy cheeks comes bouncing down the sidewalk toward me. She looks up at me, and her small, cheerful voice wishes me a “Merry Christmas, pastor Joe!”
Merry Christmas indeed.
This post first appeared on The Sweet Exchange blog. To learn more about The Exchange Church check them out here: