“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1
Sunday, March 23, 2014, is Grace Point’s Finale. After 390 weeks, the experiment is coming to a close.
In early February, I sat and watched this year’s Super Bowl contest as the Seattle Seahawks overpowered the Denver Broncos, I was disappointed. The Broncos season was filled with so many highlights that it almost seemed inevitable that they would win the big game. Yet, as more than 111 million people watched, it became evident that the league’s best offense was struggling to produce any positive momentum. One could argue that it was the efficiency of Seattle’s Defense that stymied Peyton Manning and the high scoring Broncos. It could also be said, they just had a bad game. Either way, the game is over and a new season of football is in the waiting. Yet, it is still tough to go out on a defeat.
Football is one of the most popular things in our culture today. As NFL games continue to draw tens of thousands to stadiums and millions through TV audiences, it makes for an easier illustration. From the flag football games for grade schoolers, to Pop Warner Tackle for those in late elementary and middle school, to the JV and Varsity squads of High School, to the ranks of college, semi-pro, and elite levels of the NFL, football is all around us. Living in Odessa, Texas, home of “Friday Night Lights” it is even more apparent that football is everywhere.
The expectations to win are huge. Every player, coach, management team, and fan wants their team to walk away with the championship. We know these expectations will leave most of us disappointed. After all, not every team will win the championship. Some players won’t finish the season. Coaches will be let go. Teams will dissolve. Players will be traded. Fans will find new teams to rut for. Not every play leads to a touchdown and you don’t win every game or every season.
Needless to say, there is a lot we can learn about life by playing and watching football.
As a pastor and church planter, I struggle with the expectation to win. I feel like I am playing for the greatest reasons – the Kingdom of God. Sometimes my zeal can be a bit over the top, but I love what I do. Yet, just like a football game, not every situation leads to a score or victory and at some point you need a rest or a season to end.
Eight years ago, I experienced the end of a season of leadership in a struggling congregation. As pastor, I had poured myself into the efforts of turn around and seeking for a win. After 42 months, the management team of the congregation felt it was time to go different directions. I was let go. My season was over.
Within six months, I was on board with a new team. This was a start up team. In many ways it was a research and development group or experimental program. I was leading an effort to plant a new congregation.
In the effort to be new, we worked hard to not get caught in the patterns of “the way things had always been done.” We created an atmosphere of acceptance, casualness, and inspiration that attracted a lot of people from our city. We tested the boundaries of what could be done and experienced moments of impact. Over seven and a half years, we sought to be a group that would make a difference.
Today, it is hard to say, but it needs to be said, the season for Grace Point Church has come to an end. Like the many teams, this is not how we had hoped our season would come to an end. As the founder and pastor, I had hoped we would have a longer and fuller legacy, but I know the time has come to move on.
For just a moment I want to applaud the amazing group of people who were willing to experiment with us. Through the years, on a meager budget of less than $80,000 a year, our team accomplished a number of good things. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Beautifying local school campuses
- Inspiring other congregations in efforts of community engagement
- Training worship leaders
- Engaging children into the life of the church
- Providing backpacks to school children in need
- Serving the community through partnerships with local non-profits
- Empowering international missionaries to translate the scriptures and raise up indigenous leaders
- Assisting in planting other churches across the United States
- Supporting orphans through child sponsorships and special projects
- Providing curriculum to other congregations unable to purchase it for themselves
- Offering cups of hot chocolate to families out on cold, windy days at the park and stores
- Equipping people with the necessary skills to manage their finances
- Allowing people to explore their faith
- Introducing children and teens to Christian principles
- Teaching people how to understand the Bible as it relates to how to live
- Celebrating with one another as babies are born, marriages restored, and victories won
- Mourning with one another as loved ones passed, marriages failed, and defeats were experienced
- Baptizing new believers in swimming pools, hot tubs, and water troughs
- Exposing people to the message of Christ that reminds us he loves less than perfect people
- Loving one another, regardless of background or life choices
There are a variety of things that led to this decision to disband. Some of the challenges included:
- An overemphasis of the worship gathering
- An underemphasis of mentorships
- An inability to fully create a shared “3rd place”
- A demanding economic environment which leaves little margin in personal schedules
- A limited number of core members
- A sense of “if we preach the right message, God will bring the right people”
- An assumption that we knew how to disciple
- A failure to develop deeper friendships beyond the casual Sunday greetings
- A lack of emphasis on stewardship
There are other things that we might add to the list, but I don’t believe it is necessary to list each of them today. Over time, I hope to explore each of the successes and failures and extrapolate lessons learned from each. For now, it is fair to say we got off the sidelines and did the best with what we knew and what we had.
There are a multitude of people who have made this season of my life possible. I could not list all who were involved without forgetting someone. Let me mention a few. First, Christy, Caitlyn, and Andrew. Their willingness to open up our home, chase after me because I forgot something, and release me to meetings, events, trainings, and more, have been overlooked. They have allowed Grace Point to be a part of our family and it will be hard to not have this a part of us any longer. Second, the Gregg family. This family is now more than one family, but to me, they’ll always be one I treasurer. The Greggs have walked with me throughout this season. The truth is I’ve run so fast at times, I’ve taken for granted that they would catch up. They’ve filled the gaps for me on so many occasions. Third, my Tuesday Lunch Crew. The conversations that I have had with a group of five other pastors in my city have allowed me to sustain and thrive. I can’t express how much they have “normalized” my feelings and fears. Finally, to the countless others who have prayed, supported, encouraged, and fought for and with us! This is where the list gets really long! Thank you to each of you. I know your names, I see your faces. I know this season of life was possible because of you.
Now, some of you maybe wondering what is in store for my next season. Outside of being a husband to Christy, father to Caitlyn, Andrew, and now Breanna, and a faithful follower of Christ who serves the church and loves the people of this world, I don’t know. We are waiting for our next appointment/assignment.
Thank you for taking the time to read this note. Thank you for the investment you’ve made in us. Thank you for this season of life.
“Now, all glory to God, who is able, through his might power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21