Our family had a great summer… lazy days… trips swimming, kayaking, biking, etc… and we highly anticipated a trip to Colorado for our family trip. We had it all mapped out; spend a few days with my brother and his family (grab a soccer game), then a few days in the mountains exploring, mountain biking and renting a boat on a lake; finally topping off our trip by staying the night with our good friends in Denver (with plans to take in the town) before we headed back home.
And suddenly, my husband (who is hardly ever sick) was down for the count. And when I say down, I mean- lying on the mattress in my brother’s basement for days, and sporadically running for the bathroom. By the third day, he rolled over and whispered to me, “I think I need to go to the hospital.” That was scary for me, as he hates even going to the doctor for a sinus infection.
Two days later, and a night in the hospital, we still didn’t have answers. (And even two months later, we still don’t.) His body just crashed and couldn’t recover. He still is not even back to 80% of his normal energy level and strength. And this all happened before we were given access to Thrive’s new building. Within two weeks of his hospitalization, we were on full-force at the overhaul of the new building. And I watched, as he tried to help… but he couldn’t. He had to rely on the help of his congregation to do most of the heavy duty stuff. It killed him.
As he gained some strength and energy back, he began to rip some old musty carpet out of the foyer. The next day, he collapsed at the building, all alone… and he called me in a panic. My heart was in my throat. He told me to call his doctor and set up another appointment. I was seconds away from waking napping babies and speeding all the way to the building to check on him- but he assured me he was alright. He had collapsed in the bathroom there and laid there quite some time. Suddenly, the maintenance man dropped in unexpectedly to check on the air conditioner and found him. He got Michael some water and helped him up to his feet. Thank God for that man.
Our church has had to pull together while Michael recuperates. I was blown away by all of the generosity and love that the people of Thrive poured out on us. It literally has brought me to tears several times. Men and women (not to forget the teenagers!) stepped up where gaps appeared. And our church family grew closer, tighter… together in the time of adversity.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We’ve all been criticized at one point in our lives. (If you haven’t—WHEW! You’ve dodged a painful bullet!)
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard as much criticism in my life (yes- all 32 years of it…) than I did when we began to plant the church here. (And it continues still today! Yay! Not so much.) What is with us humans?!?! I mean- are we really this stuck on ourselves? IT’S NOT ABOUT US, PEOPLE!!!
(Sorry for the many question marks and exclamation points.)
Here are some things I have heard just in passing while planting this church.
- “It feels like you’re just playing church…”
- “I hate that orange wall color… it looks like diarrhea…”
- “As a church, you’re not welcoming enough…”
- “Wow. You’re too welcoming…
- “Your band plays the same songs over and over.”
- “Your band plays songs I’ve never heard…”
And the funny thing is? These criticisms are coming from within the Church (as in people who love and follow Christ). When we began the planting process, I really felt like we would have more support and understanding from our fellow Church from within and from far away. (And we do have a TON OF SUPPORT…) but I never expected to hear SO MUCH CRITICISM from those so close to the plant.
I am a critical person, and yet, hearing this blatant criticism over and over is teaching me that being critical is not a good thing. We are humans; imperfect and sinful beings. God has bulldozed me over and over to break me of my criticism… and I know He’s not done with me yet. Should we be focusing on the imperfect things in life or the things that lift Christ up?
These words convict me over and over from the Message version. (I’m starting to think that they are haunting me, as they float into my mind in the midst of a critical thought now.)
Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message)
“Summing it all up friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious— the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Oh… I love that. Think about the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly… things to praise and not to curse. Are we? Am I? I am trying to… every day. And those criticisms? Maybe I should just delete them off this blog… so that I never have to think of them again. (Although, they do make me laugh now…)
I am choosing to focus on the encouraging things. For example, God is moving in our little city and we realize that we are just along for the ride.
Hurting people are healing.
People who don’t acknowledge God are still seeking Him (a monthly event brings 80% non-believers into our home!)
The weekly “Man-Up” Prayer group is now going to be starting a “Man-Up” bible study.
God is sending us workers willing and ready to get to work!
God continues to bring us people who don’t know Him personally.
Our church’s needs are being met (even before we ask for them in prayer!!!)
Our homes are filled weekly with small groups and we are continuing to grow!!
The community is asking how they can help us. (Seriously—isn’t that awesome???)
God is good. And He continues to knock our socks off through this crazy process. So, what is the moral of this story? Choose to encourage and not break down. Take what others say in criticism and ask yourself, “Does this really need to be addressed?” And if it doesn’t, move on. And when you notice that the paint color does have sheen of diarrhea-ness to it? Keep it to yourself.
Seriously. What did I sign up for?” I asked myself, as I tend to talk to myself quite a bit these days. At that very moment, I was lying face down in our living room, more than likely having Dutch’s (our Husky) dog hair tickling my nose. I had nowhere else to turn it seemed. And then the Holy Spirit whispered, “I am still here, Megan.” I don’t know why but he always calls me by my full first name… not the shortened version that my husband, parents, brothers and friends call me.
It was the middle of September. We had pre-launched our church (a tester version of our grand opening) only weeks before and we were soon actually launching our first “official” Sunday in the building. God had been going before us, paving the way, and it seemed that we were sprinting trying to keep up with Him. Our team was solid, a building was provided (in fact- two locations connected by a staircase), funding from a church planting organization, a state church planting network, several churches and even individual donors and most importantly, we were seeing God MOVE in the hearts of people around us. We began to look for God’s provision in everything! And we kept seeing it!
We spent months cleaning, painting and remodeling the two locations (one was a former Republican headquarters… and the larger location… a warehouse that had been used as a dog boarding facility- yes, the smell was horrendous!) Churches sent teams to help paint and scour the place… it looked like an entirely new building. (The disgusting smell of dog feces was gone!) A young woman stepped up to take the children’s ministry position. A worship leader came out of the woodwork and was able to take some responsibility off my plate. A drummer was found (this was indeed important!) Two of my Stud-Muffin’s friends from college moved their families down to help us plant the church. God was providing right and left and we were desperately trying to keep up. (Did I mention that already?)
But then doubt crept into our team. Sickness cropped up and people became discouraged. Fears ran amuck and soon there was disillusionment and dysfunction creeping in to what God had provided. It sickened me. I watched my husband handle each situation with grace and patience. (This man amazes me! How was I so lucky?)
And then I found myself, face in the hairy carpet, panic in my heart and tears in my eyes. I was SICK of people allowing Satan to coddle their fears. I had one team member say to me, “This is so hard for me… this (gestures to the God-given building that was on its way to being habitable) is so not me.” That was only the first of the comments that were made to my husband and I. Soon, one of our dear team members became disillusioned and disheartened and bowed out of her position and our church. I felt like our team was becoming rancid. I realized that I was beginning to listen to Satan’s lies and was becoming hardened to what God had created in our church. And then the Holy Spirit reminded me of something.
Jesus came to our world in the dirtiest of conditions. The men who followed him and became his disciples were smelly and used to hard work. They travelled far to follow Him. And then when He was gone, there was even more work to do. Our church is based around the John 10:10 verse, “The thief has come to kill, steal and destroy. But I have come to have life and have it to the full!”
I laid in that carpet, my boys playing ninjas in the next room, and wept. I had forgotten why God desired this church, here, in this town, at this time. To reach others. It was not about me. It was not about my team. It was REALLY not about the building. It was about bringing those who do not know Jesus into a relationship with Him. THAT is why my husband began praying years ago for God to lead him wherever God could use him. THAT is why I had followed my husband, and ultimately my God all over the country. THAT is the only reason.
Today, our team has banded together. We are stronger. We have become a family. We are on the way to full trust and reliance on each other. It is beautiful. And that day I laid facedown in the carpet is just another notch in my proverbial belt in church planting. I have a feeling…. it won’t be the last time! 🙂
Dutch, with his bow tie!
So… here’s a smidge about me. Meg Brown: stay at home mom to THREE! wonderfully, energetic boys and wife to a Stud-Muffin of a man (also known as Michael) who has been called to plant a church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Our life is CRAZY and it never stops. I sometimes long for peace, quiet, and a simpler farmer’s life… but then I am jolted back to reality with the scream of one of my precious boys in the next room. My daily struggles are: keeping up with the laundry (wait- did I say keeping up? I meant to say “attempting to keep up” and yet never getting there!), keeping the sanity in our home, and most importanty, growing in my walk with Christ. (He is definitely my hero!) Without Him, I would be nothing. Literally. Probably just a shell of a person scraping by.
For years, I have found myself journaling down my thoughts and feelings. Only recently have I felt that the words that I have written down could be of much use to others.
To make a very long story short, my husband was called by God to be a minister at age 16 (this was a huge leap for him as he was originally set to take over his father’s business in the banking world.) He stayed faithful though and pursued ministry. After graduating from a bible college, we began our marriage and the process of experiencing three different ministries in three different states. At the back of our minds however, church planting was always shadowing us. Looking back, we can see God’s hand in preparing us for planting… even if it didn’t make sense at the time. After my husband took a job in the corporate world, he felt God’s hand showing him the need for a plant in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
We entered into the church-planting world with expectations of hardship as well as stories of endurance from those who had planted before us. At the time, we had the support of a team who was planting with us, several churches who were backing us (local and out of state), a church planting organization who offered support, coaching and assessments, and family who became our personal cheering squad. Prayer teams were assembled, the mission, vision and name of the church was created, and we attended a week-long assessment through the church planting organization (in order to make sure we could actually “handle” planting a church.)
We knew from friends/acquaintances who had planted that it was hard work. That it would be grueling at times, but always worth it. We had seen marriages put through the ringer (even divorces), church plants divide and die, and stalemate plants never grow. But we had yet to understand and fully live as a church planting family. And then it started (no- not the plant… just the crazy prep leading up to the plant!) and my life has not stopped since. The plant is now in full swing… as are our lives.
This blog is going to be dedicated (with an occasional side note) to fellow planter’s wives and the life lessons I have learned as a church planter’s wife. It will be hard… raw… exhausting… but I will be as transparent as I can be. I hope in some way, my words will help another planter’s wife in some way to find hope… healing… and perseverance.