Background & Personal Update Leading to Vision for 2018
The fall of 2017 was the craziest and most difficult period of my life. I can be overly confident at times, assuming I can handle anything, but leading a church plant while being double full-time in grad school nearly killed me. I left church every day at 12 for school and didn't return until 6-8 PM, normally rushing to another church event. Needless to say, the church, my grades, and (most importantly) my marriage definitely felt the strain. For the first time in my life, I had to admit to myself, to church members, to Crystal (my wife), and to God that I took on more than I can handle.
In December I graduated but entirely burned out with a church that had essentially been on autopilot for the last 5 months and an amazing wife that was LONG overdue a date night. I immediately decided to take the next month to recover, get back to a more normal family schedule, and spend a lot of time in prayer and hearing from God... And man, did he start to speak.
This is what I felt God speaking to me the first day I prayed about the church after taking a week off post-graduation. To give some context, My wife and I came to launch CMC in 2015 when I was 22 years old. We were entrusted with a 13,000 sq.ft. building and 18 acres of land all paid off (a crazy story in itself, for another time) surrounded by thousands of new homes and communities being built. As you can imagine, this is INSANELY rare for a church planter.
When we launched our church we started with 8 people. After 2 years we had grown to have several Sundays at 90 people including kids. However, our sanctuary and parking lot size were maxed with this. We literally had zero parking spots available and the old church rule is that when you hit 80% capacity you are already full because it's less likely for new people to come after that (they'll feel like there's not room for them). And instead of selling a piece off the back of our land to expand our parking and sanctuary so we could keep momentum and continue reaching new people, I hesitated and we stay the same for over a year. Here's why:
- I fear running out of money at church and someone saying, or me even saying, "God gave you all this land and money and you wasted it. You were given the perfect opportunity and you couldn't do it."
- I fear being a church for another year, or two, or three and not growing past our current phase.
- I fear other pastors and people looking at our building and land and feeling ashamed.
- I fear members thinking, "He has no idea what he's doing."
- I fear failure and knowing you were given this chance and couldn't handle it. Afraid of being a statistic. That around 80% of church plants and new pastors quit within 3 years. Afraid of being one of those.
This was a list I wrote down in my journal during prayer with God a couple of months ago. Now to some who only see me on Sunday, it might seem like I have everything together and never worry. But I promise Pastors have plenty of messed up thoughts, fears, and expectations of themselves (maybe more than anyone else).
And the common theme that convicted me after writing this down... FEAR. I was allowing fear to drive my decisions and choices, not FAITH.
- Fear of what could go wrong
- Fear of what someone might say
- Fear of wasting what God has given us
And this is where the picture from my journal above comes in. I took these fears to God and he said, "Calvin, you are the man with 1 talent."
If you don't know the story, read Luke 19:12-27.
In it, the Master (who represents God) gives three servants various talents (which was a coin of money). One gets 5, one gets 3, and one gets 1. The one given 5 puts it to use, doubles it, and the Master's commends him. Same for the one with 3. But the last servant with 1 talent doesn't do anything. He just holds what the Master gave him. And can you guess what he says his motivation for holding it was? -- FEAR.
He just sat on it because he was scared of misusing it and scared of messing up. This is what God was telling me, "Calvin, you are the man with 1 talent. I have given you this building and land, this incredilbe opportunity, and instead of going all out and using everything I have given you, you are allowing fear to control you and just sitting on it. You're worried about misusing it, as if I, who gave you all of it freely in the first place, can't do it again or take care of you.
Talk about CONVICTION.
From that moment on, I began to lay all my fears at the feet of Jesus and said,
"God, this is all yours. Whatever you want to do here, I will follow, no matter how hard or difficult it may be. I will no longer be driven by fear, I will be driven by faith. I will no longer lead out of fear, I will lead from faith."
From that moment on, God has wrecked my life every day in prayer. I began fasting and journaling everything I felt God saying about what CMC should be for his kingdom. I've had numerous conversations about faith with other pastors and retired ministers that spoke life into me.
Through it all, I came to realize that God had to remove several crutches in my life that made me depend on other people or things instead of him alone. He had to deal with my own heart and insecurities first before moving forward. Otherwise, I would have looked back and said that we succeeded because of my perfect plan or strategy, blah blah...
But now, I can truly say that the only way forward is through him and by faith!
The final page in my prayer journal, written on the back cover: