If you have been keeping up with me over the last few weeks, my family has been undergoing heavy trials with my son’s health. We have been in the hospital for over three weeks with no end in sight. You can find updates on this, as well as the lessons the Lord is teaching me, here, here, here and here.
The elders of my church, The Journey Church, have been incredibly gracious to me and my family. They have told me to focus exclusively on my son and not worry about any responsibilities at church. This is hard for someone who loves to pastor and finds so much joy in serving the local church. But it is the right decision in this season.
I planted TJC over twelve years ago. I am the Lead Pastor. I spearhead the staff. I am the first among equals with our elders. I am invaluable, and the church is in trouble without me, right?
A Thriving Church
I think the goal, at first, for the staff and elders was for TJC to survive in my absence. The initial thought – if everyone was being honest – was to keep the ship afloat until I could get back at the helm. Instead, what has happened is remarkable, and makes me downright giddy. The church is thriving.
- Over 100+ people have connected in community (groups).
- Last weekend’s worship attendance was just a few people shy of 1,000 – our largest non-Easter attendance ever.
- Our church served over 2,000 people in the surrounding neighborhoods and community at our annual Trunk-Or-Treat event.
- Our preaching series on marriage has not skipped a beat
- 20+ new people started our November assimilation classes to get connected to the church
I could continue listing out the wins. It is incredible.
How is this happening? What can account for these things?
1. Jesus is building His church
Jesus makes a promise in Matthew 16:18 he intends to keep. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Notice first, Jesus lays claim to the church as his own. I may have planted TJC, but she is Jesus’ church. He loves her. He wants to see her flourish. Second, he promises “I will build.” Man is not the builder of the church, Jesus is. Yes, we labor and work; however, unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). The reason TJC is thriving in my absence is because the Chief Shepherd is fulfilling his promise, and Erik Reed’s absence will not stop it.
2. We have the right leaders
The reason I can be away for an extended period of time is because we have incredible leaders at TJC. We have worked tirelessly to put the right people in the right places. We have men and women of high character, with Holy Spirit-given giftedness leading the church. Our elders are godly men who have taken on more responsibility in my absence and are leading the flock so well. They are teaching more. Attending more meetings. Spearheading prayer times. They even found time in all of that to come minister to me and pray over my son (James 5:14).
It is essential for churches to be more than a “one man show.” Our staff has stepped up in so many ways. They have planned and executed worship gatherings, multiple events, counseled members, and performed weddings, all in my absence. This is possible because we put the right leaders on the team long before any crisis came. All churches must do this.
3. We have always sought to equip and empower others
It is one thing to have good leaders, but good leaders need to be equipped and empowered. We have preached this in our leadership circles for the last several years. Our elders can step in and take on more responsibility because they have been equipped. The reason Evan and Anthony can preach in my absence is because 1. they have already been preaching, and 2. we already sermon prep together every week. They have been trained. They have had opportunities, not just to learn, but to do. The reason our staff can plan and execute ministries and events in my absence is because they have been empowered to do so prior to my absence. In other words, I’m not the hub and centerpiece of everything at TJC.
I am thrilled to watch TJC be fruitful in my absence. It shows me I have at least done a few things right – pay special attention to the word “few” – over these many years. To our elders and staff, thank you for your faithfulness to showing Jesus as incomparably glorious. To our congregation, thank you for running after Jesus, regardless of who it is pointing you to him. I love you all. To pastors and leaders in other churches, let this encourage you to identify, empower, and equip other leaders with significant ministry in your church. Refuse the futile attempt of being the church’s foundation and cornerstone, it already has One. Trust that Jesus is true to his word, and is building his church, because whether it be by choice or necessity, the church you lead will one day be without you. May it thrive!