If I could go back I would do just about everything differently! I am ashamed to admit how many mistakes I made in those early years of our church. Shame sometimes consumes me when I realise how me people I hurt simply because I was an immature and insecure leader. It breaks my hurt that I am the cause of some people’s church hurts story. If I could go back I would take better care of your hearts, I am so sorry. Why did God even allow me to minister when I was clearly not grown up enough? With all my heart I only meant good, I only wanted to build a beautiful church and help many find and know Jesus. How did I go from such good intentions to such a mess? My only hope is Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” I pray that prayer for those who I have hurt and for myself too. Here is another extract from The Tale of a Church Planter to recount the first bit of mess in our church.
It was 2am and we were still sitting in our living room chatting with the two young men that might well have been our future sons-in-law. Perhaps that was looking too far ahead, but as a mother, I was always on the lookout for potential husbands for my girls. Very ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I know, but unless you are a mother with young ladies at home, you will never understand the insane drive within a mother to find a suitable match for her girls.
Lorah-Kelly, Jordan, Eric and I sat with the boys and were glad that we had finally met some Christians that seemed to be mature in their faith. Up until this point, we had struggled along with raising the lost and the baby Christians that were born in our church. Determined not to build a church on transfer growth, we pushed forward with what and whom we had. It was a relief though, to think that perhaps God was sending some labourers to us, to help us with our work.
We began spending more and more time with these two young boys and were quite sure that they were sent as helpers to help us stir up our young teenage believers. Very quickly we began to bond and it wasn’t long before they started bringing their friends and family to church. We were thrilled, not only were they mature Christians but they were also bringers.
At the same time we started relying heavily on another family that joined us as soon as the church was launched. They too had been Christians for some time and they were also bringing their friends and family to church. We were growing steadily and everything looked great. For the sake of privacy we will change everyone’s names in this chapter, let’s call the two young boys Matt and Sam and the family the Smiths.
We also discovered that Matt and Sam, along with their friends and family, were well acquainted with the Smiths too. It all seemed good, everyone knew everyone and they were all getting along very well. Everything seemed fine and dandy, people were getting saved almost every Sunday and church was growing steadily each week. We trusted Matt and Sam with our daughters and allowed them to go out together to socialise. Great friendships were forming and there was nothing to be concerned about, or so we thought.
It wasn’t long before we allowed the Smiths to host a connect group and to lead in our church. They truly were a wonderful family and they had been with us from the beginning, so it made sense to allow them to grow into a leadership role.
Matt and Sam started meeting up with our young Christians for Bible study so that they could help them find their way. We didn’t offer the sort of ‘thing’ they were doing ‘officially’ in our church but we figured that there would be no harm in a bunch of young people getting together to study the Bible and pray for each other. It was quite nice actually; it took the pressure off of us to keep finding new and creative ways to ‘feed’ our young people.
After some time we noticed that the young Christians were not doing so well. We could not put a finger on it but the fruit simply didn’t seem good. A few weeks later, we started to feel concerned – we were alerted to the fact that the Smith’s were hosting a Bible study in their home for all our young teenage Christians. Again, probably not something that should raise an alarm, but we were concerned because it was being led by Matt and Sam’s father. Their father was not a member of our church and had openly come against Eric and I as leaders, as well as against the pastor who had released us to plant our church.
We called the Smith’s in for a meeting and lovingly explained our concerns and that as leaders in our church; they really shouldn’t start things up without at least chatting to us about it first. The content of the Bible studies were discussed which raised further concerns as it turned out that they were being taught exclusively about the end times and the Book of Revelation – not a subject that we would jump into with new Christians.
The Smith’s received what we had to say very well and agreed with our concerns. According to their own free will they stopped the Bible study at their home as they realised that it was doing more damage than good. This of course infuriated Matt and Sam’s father as he could not understand why they felt that they had to do this. He continued to visit the Smith’s home almost daily to try and ‘teach’ them about the Bible and the error of their ways with regards to rejecting his Bible study. He also made it very clear that Eric and I were not fit to lead a church. A few weeks passed and we discovered that the new Christians were confused about many things. They came to us with questions but sadly some of them went back to Matt and Sam’s father for guidance.
It wasn’t long before Matt and Sam became upset with our rejection of their father. After many long debates in person and very long emails with them, they left our church. They stayed in touch with our daughters and most of the teenagers and then began stirring the teenagers up against us. Soon the teenagers started leaving our church too. Many of them were totally confused and had lost the way of their simple faith. They had too many unanswered questions. Questions that really didn’t need answers but the teaching they received blinded them to the simple love of Jesus and opened up a theological can of worms – something they were not ready to deal with.
Eric and I were grieved.
Months later, the Smiths, and all their immediate and distant family, and their friends, left our church too. They too became confused and found it difficult to find their way forward in our church. A chain reaction had started and anyone linked to the chain ended up leaving. We went from what we thought was a thriving, flourishing church to a struggling church with few left in attendance. We had lost at least sixty percent of our congregation. Sadly, most of them didn’t even go on to join another church, they simply went back to worldly things.
During this season, we took a great deal of counsel from our pastor. He very wisely advised us of every step we should take and we followed his advice to the letter. In fact, in one meeting Eric actually wrote down every word he said and regurgitated it word for work to a couple that we were told to discipline.
Our mother church encouraged us every step of the way and gave us all the support they could, which is why it was a real shock when they too cut ties with us. Three weeks notice was all we were given to set up a new church and take over all the bills. If ever we felt totally confused and alone it was during the November of 2009. It was the end of a very difficult year, we had worked hard, seen many saved but lost too many people when the ‘wolf’ attacked. We were still wounded and recovering from this horrible process when the bomb of abandonment hit us. Our mother church was not happy with our numbers. In a nutshell, we had not grown sufficiently and were not producing enough income to sustain us. They wanted to pull the plug on the church.
Shocked and horrified, we considered the way forward. We were given a choice, either we closed the church down completely or we went back to being a connect group and found a way to transport everyone to our mother church each Sunday. The third option was to continue on our own. Our pastor said he would release us with his blessing and no hard feelings.
The first of many storms had hit. We felt abandoned and bewildered. When considering the faces of some of our congregation and their stories and how much they loved church, we decided not to close the church but to continue on our own. Realistically we could not transport everyone to the main church each Sunday, so one way or another we had to continue. And so D7 Church was born – the same church just a new brand and completely independent leaders who had to make it on their own.