Tuesday late afternoon, my family and I were wrapping up our trip to Asheville for the day. We had made an incredibly smart decision a few weeks ago, that Lane would control my calendar so that:
• I would stop double booking myself
• We would communicate better if we knew what plans were
• Lane could block time off for me in the event that I ran too hard
(I have a horrible habit of running myself dry)
• I could make sure I was using each day well
One of the first things Lane did was text me the following: "Hey, pick a day during spring break for a overnight getaway. Don't ask details." So I didn't. I figured this meant that since we had begun the church planting process I had done a bad job of taking time for myself, which led to some frustration, lack of focus, and not being able to be as goofy and light hearted as I had been in the past. So I said ok, didn't ask, and worked like heck to make our first easter at Trailside awesome (it was by the way).
So come Tuesday afternoon, I found myself driving nearly 90º up a steep incline on a mountain in the middle of Nowhere, Asheville, NC. Lane was loving it; I typically like to have a plan and execute the plan, which speaks to my futile attempt to control my world when I feel like life is a little crazy. I kept asking her "who in the world do we know here?" which was just met with a huge smile and bright blue eyes which was her way of letting me know she had finally 'got me'. And she had. No doubt.
We walked up the stairs after finally arriving at the top of Mount Doom and I still had no clue what was waiting behind the beautiful wood door to greet me. I had gathered recon on the way there: a newer model pickup truck (4x4 of course, because nothing else was making it up this mountain) a sandbox with 3 pairs of small shoes, and sidewalk chalk with all kinds of drawings that spoke of a kid who had enjoyed art classes of some sort.
Finally I opened the door and was met by the wonderful pregnant smile and embrace of April Knight, a close college friend whose presence meant that another dear friend (and fellow ARC church planter) who also happened to be her husband, Robbie, was close by as well. We had an amazing night of watching each other parent, standing by as our children inadvertently murdered hundreds of ladybugs (don't worry, it wasn't purposeful and they were more torn up about their 'lady bug houses' being a den of bug murder than you are currently), and catching up on how God had blessed their church in Asheville (www.gatherasheville.org).
As we ended our evening around a fire with the sun hiding itself behind the mountains, April asked us an incredible question: what has been the hardest moment from church planting, and what has been the best?
Honestly, I did not want to be perfectly honest in that moment. I wanted to hide my fears, insecurities, and concerns from them; not because I was scared of what they would say (seriously, they are some of the greatest people in the world) but because I was scared of being honest with myself about my own struggle. Instead, I opened up. There was nothing dire, no failures to bring to light, and no life changing struggle to digest; it was simply what I found so many other pastors had experienced it:
Not fear in the sense of something dangerous happening, but fear in the sense of being good enough. As a church planter, you consistently run the gamete of if your location is good enough, if people know your church exists, of where people who came went, if your coffee tastes good, are the chairs comfortable...even the bathrooms matter!
This isn't a post about bathrooms, however. What happened next took my fearful heart and renewed it: April looked me dead in the eyes and said "Sean, you can do with this what you will, but I just feel The Lord telling me to share this with you..." They shared a story about their own moments of fear in church planting, and although I'll spare their details, the Lord used it to encourage me in such a real way – that we never would have experienced it without real, honest, vulnerable, open community. As we said goodbye a couple of hours later, I felt a renewed sense of joy. Not to say it had gone away, but the reality that God is so good to us and that in a moment I didn't even know was happening He would use people we love in a way I didn't know I was ready to openly express...was beautiful, encouraging, and timely.
As we gathered last night for our community group, I had the joy of sitting back and listening to conversations of people who had commonly found a place to belong at Trailside Church. There were people who had come to give Trailside a chance and had found other people who were looking for the same thing there. People had become friends. Friends have become community, and community had begun sharing each others burdens and hopes.
I am so thankful for our community. Not only is life nearly impossible to do alone, you also weren't created to do life that way! If you are currently going through your day and fighting every step, I want to encourage you to step into a group at Trailside. Without it, you may find yourself sputtering. Without one, you may be pushing up to the top of the mountain, discouraged and questioning. With one, you may find yourself coming down the mountain hopeful. Is it easy? nope. Is there some fear in opening up your heart, because we are scared of what people may think of us? yep.
But let me tell you this: without a group of people to remind us we aren't alone, the journey up the mountain and down the valley becomes very lonely. And very lonely journeys bring very real pain, and you were created to take journeys with others.
I am so thankful that Lane blocked those days out for me. I am thankful that friends who love us and know where we are were willing to say exactly what God had told them to, and I am thankful for a group of people who meet every Thursday at my house to encourage each other, love each other, and ask honest questions together for the glory of God...and I hope you'll consider coming too.
We are getting ready to form some new groups, and I hope you'll come along. You weren't created to do life alone, and even if you think you were, I can promise life isn't nearly as fun alone as it is together. Take the step, give it a chance, and I promise...you won't regret it.
On the way out of Asheville I found out Lane had arranged for April (who is a gifted, gifted artist: www.scripturedoodle.com) to create a painting based on one of my favorite new songs. It is now hanging in my house, (and will forever) as a constant reminder to go exactly where God has sent me. God doesn't command us to take steps for no reason: He instead sends us into places and peoples lives because He loves us and His plan for us is greater than we could ever understand...and I believe it may be time for you to quiet your heart and listen to where it is He may be sending you. For me: Trailside church, Travelers Rest, SC. Maybe He's sending you here too.