Genesis 12:1 (NKJV) Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.
I was just reflecting upon our life in the ministry and specifically the very early years. It was in those times, seemingly so long ago, that my wife and I helped to pioneer several churches and restart a few more. It was interesting because when we began, we had little if any money, resources or support and absolutely no training, at all. I worked in construction and pastored bi-vocationally for many years off and on. Even then, it was still financially very difficult.
As the years went on, pioneering churches seemed to catch on more and more in other denominations and church organizations. It became much more institutionalized and structured. Money became more available for what now was called, planting churches, as did other resources such as training and relational support systems. All that we see today, including the books, conferences, etc. just was not available back then.
Much later on in life and ministry, we considered once again pioneering, I mean planting, another church. However, we found out that for us to do this we had to go through an extensive assessment process, to see if we were “church planting” material. Never mind that we have been involved in multiple “church plants” and other church restarts which had been previously failed works, over the years. The end result of this new process was that we did not attempt to pioneer a new church or rather, a new church plant. We didn’t take the assessment either. However, I’d like to believe that if we had the clear and confirmed call of the Lord to pioneer a church yet again, we would have done this anyway.
Then today, I received a phone call. It was from someone I knew clear back in our first pioneer work. He tracked me down with no little amount of effort. He needed prayer and thought of me, his long ago Pioneer church Pastor. Needless to say, I was only too pleased to be able to join with him in prayer before the throne of grace. We joined together one more time in the precious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was really a blessing, it truly was. To be honest, I needed this phone call and prayer time as well. Thank you!
Do I long for what we had back when? No, I do not think so. However, there was something then that I don’t’ seem to see as much today. What I am speaking of is this genuine anointing that revealed itself in this all to real pioneer spirit. In fact, as you may have noticed, what we all were called to do back then was called pioneering. We pioneered churches and so these were called pioneer works and therefore we who were doing this work were called pioneer pastors. I can tell you that it was hard, and sometimes all too real hard work. But we were young and ready to sacrifice whatever we had to, to fulfill the call and do the work of the ministry.
Not all of us succeeded. All of those pioneer works/churches didn’t remain and all of the pioneer pastors didn’t stay in the ministry. My recollection was that most did not. I do not know if it is any easier for today’s “church planters” or not. There is certainly a lot better training, resources, finances and support systems available today than we had then, since we didn’t have any. So, what they have today certainly has to be better than it was then. Maybe these church assessments do help weed out the wheat from the chaff, I do not know. Maybe they are just smarter than we were, more intelligent or at least better equipped for the task, I do not know. I do pray it is so.
There was a kind of reckless adventurism, a true pioneer spirit back then. It was like all the Lord had to do was point us in the right direction, tell us to go and we leaped blindly and joyously to the task. We simply and energetically trusted the Lord to provide, to make a way, to simply make it all come together as it was suppose to. Sometimes it took several years before a breakthrough would come. Other times it was much sooner and other times even longer or not at all. But each pioneer work or restart was never the same. There was a lot of prayer for wisdom and direction, strategy and provision back then, born of the urgent needs of the day. We jumped into the fires, having no idea how or what or when. But we had a lot of heart with which to give our best go at it, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ! We did give it our all.
Every community was different and so we had to approach each situation differently. They were tough days and yet we surely grew, and yes, we survived. We kept our feet moving forward, learning to lean upon Him more and to trust Him more and more every step along the way. We did it with little complaining or so it seems looking back today. We just thought, this is the way it was suppose to be for everyone who strikes out to pioneer a church. I suppose by today’s standards, we were very young and foolish.
However, there is something I miss about those days. They were exciting times filled with a genuine sense of adventure in the kingdom of God. They were times filled with unlimited possibilities with very real and powerful successes and some very real and powerful failures and hurts as well. They were also filled with a lot of ignorance, dumb decisions and all too often, wrong approaches to ministry. There was, it seemed, a lot of trial and error, with error being all too frequent. These I do not miss, at all. Ignorance is not bliss. However, we did it. We fought it through and well, we’re still walking it out with our Lord each and every day.
Through it all, I thought we had come to truly know some things, you know, about pioneering churches and restarts, maybe even a lot of things. However, today as I hear and read so many others who are the new breed of “church planters” and “coaches”, I realize that we really didn’t learn very much at all. It was just different times and we were different people, yet we did what we could with what we had, in and before the Lord Jesus Christ.
All I know is that when we heard Jesus say go, we went. When He said pioneer, we pioneered. When He said do it again, we did again. We just sought to follow Him, trust and obey Him, in all things and at all times. Yes, it was a different time and we were different people. Sacrifice was seemingly the norm. Simple obedience was the path and learning to walk it out, our daily meal of struggle and growth. It was simply the way it was then, but it seems to be no longer.
I know that we are not who we were then, nor am I so sure that we would just go forth and pioneer as we were so willing to do so back then. No, not only have the times changed but yes, we have changed along the way as well. We are much older now and not as youthfully eager, so it seems, nor as passionate in the same ways we were then.
Our passion has grown more and more for the Lord Jesus Christ, for the Father God Almighty and for God the Holy Spirit. We are passionate concerning Him, for His person, for the simplicity of His will, word and ways. No, our passion isn’t about the visions of youth, of our building kingdoms or empires of righteousness. No, our passions are one’s filled with the love for, worship of and hunger for He who is our very life and breath. Yes, this is the real passion of our hearts and souls today. Oh that we would have had such a clear intimate longing and passion back then.
Then again, maybe it was as we fought through those days of pioneering and restarting churches that the Lord Jesus Christ was pioneering in us such a simplicity of longing for and intimacy with He, Himself, our Lord and precious Savior. He and He alone is truly what makes those days worth it even as He alone is what makes these days, each and everyone of them, wholly worth it. Thank you Lord Jesus, Yes, thank you for everything each and everyday all along life’s way. You, Lord Jesus, make life worth living. Thank you!