Last Sunday, July 29, my family and I celebrated our sixth anniversary at Grace Life. We arrived in July 2012. Because of the way God has wired me, I am naturally a reflective person at key milestones.
I remember those strong desires while serving as an assistant pastor in Pennsylvania, to preach and shepherd God’s people. I remember when I first heard about a small church in Cypress, Texas needing a pastor. I had to look on a map where Cypress was and being pleasantly surprised that it was part of the city of Houston.
Little did I know at the time…
- the size of Houston,
- the beautiful, ethnic diversity of Cypress/Houston,
- the school district that I’ve come to love,
- the neighbors that I’ve come to know as friends, and most importantly,
- the church that I’ve come to love as family.
When I first arrived, we had twelve members and twenty-three total people on that first Sunday. I had just finished reading a biography by Jerry Falwell. I borrowed a page from Dr. Falwell. Since we didn’t have a ton of people, I figured I better go find some. I knocked on 100 doors a day for the first 4-5 months, logging each street and each neighborhood. God slowly began to grow us numerically and spiritually.
A lot of change has taken place over these past six years. Tara and I have five children, instead of the four, we arrived with. We now have three elders to help shepherd instead of just me. I am weekly humbled by the growing number of servant-minded deacons that are relieving the pressure points of a growing church. Our church family is faithful, gracious and discipleship-minded. When I arrived we had three total Sunday School classes, now have seven Sunday School classes. One of our adult classes teaches in Spanish. We had one small group. We now have seven small groups. I could go on and on, but God hasn’t just grown us numerically. He has deepened our roots in Him. He is growing His church spiritually. Here are six truths that God is teaching and reminding me as I shepherd God’s people.
- God uses the patient and intentional preaching and teaching of His Word. Many aspects of Grace Life have changed over the past six years, but one thing has not changed: the expositional teaching and preaching of God’s Word. We have taught through verses, chapters and entire books of the Bible. What we are doing now in 2018 is the same thing we were doing in 2012 with twenty-three people. We’ve taught through the gospel of John, Acts, Genesis, the Sermon on the Mount, Ruth, Titus, 1 Timothy and Ephesians.
The reality is that the expository teaching and preaching isn’t just happening from our pulpit. It has extended into our Sunday School, Student Ministry, and Life Groups. Christians are hungry for God’s Word to be taught and they don’t want just the easy stuff either. They want to know what God says, the way he says it and to the degree he says it.
- God answers the prayers of His children. I really believe the spiritual victories won, individuals who’ve come to faith in Christ, and miracles that we’ve seen taken place have been the direct result of God’s people praying. Two of our members who are confined to their home because of health reasons, tell me each time I visit them that on Sundays at 10:30 AM they stop and have a season of prayer that God would bless our worship service and the individuals in attendance. They receive a bulletin each week and pray through the various ministries. I know that so many of you pray for me personally and my family – THANK YOU!
- God determines the fruitfulness. We determine the faithfulness. I’d love to say that we do this, this and this and that’s why God has grown our church. In all honesty, there have been multiple seasons where we’ve plateaued numerically, but we continued to evangelize, make disciples and develop servant-leaders. In the end, God is the one who determines fruitfulness. We must remain faithful.
- Christians grow in an environment of graciousness. I am 100% convinced that gentleness and graciousness is the best soil by which God’s Word is sown. Truthfulness is still a non-negotiable. Understand that just about everywhere people go they are “spoken down to,” gossiped about, and lied to. Imagine a church family where we recognize that we are exactly how the Bible describes us, as sinners. Based upon the good news of Jesus we learn to live and to grow together with patience and understanding. I boil this philosophy of ministry to be: love people and teach the Bible.
- Churches grow when her members own the vision. You have embraced change. To own one vision you have had to die your personal vision. For a church to grow, spiritually and numerically, the vision must be embraced and owned by more than just the pastor. By God’s grace, our church family owns this vision of 2 Timothy 2:2. You welcome guests because you desire to move beyond friendliness and into friendships. You pursue relationships for the point of making disciples. You are owning the practice of gospel conversations that lead to gospel conversions. You make disciples because you desire to see Christ formed within individuals. You are committed to life-on-life relational discipleship. I love that you love Jesus and people.
- To revitalize a church takes a certain spiritual ruggedness by the initial church members. It is not lost on me that we would not be where we are today without the initial twelve church members and the initial wave of church members who saw in their mind’s eye what Grace Life could become without it being a reality yet. Those original 20-40 members served sacrificially, gave generously, and believed that by God’s grace the best days of Grace Life were in the future. I thank God for each one of them.
Grace Life, it is an honor to serve as your pastor. I love you dearly!