Seven Lessons On Our Seventh Birthday
News | by Pastor Adam Sinnett
This month we celebrated our seventh birthday as a church. We weren’t able to properly highlight it because it coincided with Easter Sunday. However, I thought it would be helpful to speak to it, before the month’s end, so that we don’t miss an opportunity to revel in the grace of Jesus among us.
I remember our first Sunday well. We had spent the previous ten months growing our launch community, helping people move downtown, sharing the gospel, serving the city, fundraising, training disciples, studying the scriptures, desperately praying, developing our vision and values, all while growing as a sent people. It was exhilarating and, to be honest, frightening. We met in apartments, conference rooms, dingy basements, and cafes. I networked with anyone who was willing to speak with me, including pastors, lawyers, programmers, small business owners, non-profit directors, and city council members. I ended each of those meetings by asking, “Who else do you know that may be interested in what we are trying to do?” I lost track of how many people I met with.
Our First Sunday
After ten months of preparation, we marked our birth as a church on the first Sunday of April 2011 at Court in the Square, a former alleyway turned foyer, in Pioneer Square. Jen was one week (!) out from having our third child, Ella. Carter was four. Macy was two. Our kids accounted for the bulk of the kids ministry. If I remember rightly, we had 135 people join us that Sunday, many of whom were well-wishers. I preached on Jesus as the Cornerstone. The following Sundays, with all the well-wishers gone, we averaged 95 or so and began to grow from there. We continued to teach the Bible, share the gospel, baptize new believers, multiply communities, and disciple one another.
Seven Years Later
Fast-forward seven years and what Jesus has done is nothing short of incredible, particularly in our context. It is easy to take for granted, which is one reason we take time to celebrate our birthday. It wasn’t long ago that we didn’t even exist. That is not a testament to our ingenuity, wit, or diligence. That is a testament to Jesus’ grace, love, and transformative power. We’re not saying “Hey, look at us!” We’re saying, “Hey, look at him!” I’ve been involved in church planting circles for nearly fifteen years and I can tell you that this is not par for the course. We have much to be grateful for and those to whom much is given, much is required (Lk. 12:48). Therefore, in light of all this, I thought I’d take our birthday as an opportunity to highlight seven key lessons from the last seven years.
#1 We can take God at His Word.
There can be a lot of pressure to cut corners (practically, theologically, or otherwise) to get a church planted when you have little funding, few people, two little kids and a pregnant wife, as you live in a cramped over-priced apartment, in an incredibly under-reached city. It is uncomfortable. You need firm convictions about what the Bible is and what it does to stand amidst such discomfort. By God’s grace, from the beginning, we decided the Word must be central. No props. No gimmicks. No marketing hacks. No glossing-over the hard stuff. Just the pure, undiluted Word of God taught with love. I’m embarrassed to say now that I was surprised then to discover how powerful the Bible is. Teaching through the Bible pumps the reality of God, and all that he is for us, into the bloodstream of his church. The Bible creates appetites for God that it goes on to satisfy. As we’ve taken God at his Word friends have been saved, sleeping Christians awakened, and a church was born. We can trust His Word.
#2 Relationships are the bread-and-butter of discipleship.
Preaching is central to the life of Jesus’ church. Without preaching, a church won’t be around long. But, though preaching is indispensable, hearing faithful preaching isn’t the only ingredient to our discipleship, nor a guarantee that we’re growing. I’ve met with many people who, though they’ve heard countless sermons, when faced with the question, “What is the gospel?” are unable to provide a clear answer. Hearing the gospel is one thing, but embracing it with the heart is another. Hearing about forgiveness is one thing, but forgiving others is another. Hearing about sharing our faith is one thing, but doing it is another. Hearing about the importance of the local church is one thing, but being an integral part of one is another. You get the picture. It takes someone looking at you across a Starbucks table asking loving questions to reveal the disconnects between what we’ve heard and how we’re actually living. In other words, relationships are the bread-and-butter of discipleship. Those who are the most relationally invested are typically those who grow the most and are of the most help to others. That’s not a coincidence.
#3 People are hungry for truth—even the hard bits.
Our world is in search of answers because we’re becoming increasingly unmoored from the truth. The very things that many caution against talking about—sovereign grace in salvation, the reality of hell, gender complementarity, sexual immortality, the exclusivity of Jesus, and more—are the very things we need to be talking about. The goal, of course, is not to be intentionally controversial, but loving. There are realities revealed in the Bible that God wants us to know for our good and flourishing. These matters, and others like them, directly impact how we view God and make decisions that will literally have eternal repercussions. This was highlighted two and a half years ago when we walked through the On Being Human series, where we talked about masculinity, femininity, sexuality and more. Honestly, we envisioned the series would be one of healthy “pruning” for our church, but the opposite occurred and we grew. It showed us that people are hungry for truth—even the hard bits.
#4 Jesus is alive and changing lives.
I fear this may strike you as a religious platitude. I hope not. He is alive, after all (Mt. 28:5). We’ve seen Jesus at work over-and-over again: forgiving sin, giving new life, infusing fresh hope, changing ungodly desires, bringing sin into the light, granting wisdom, bringing reconciliation, offering freedom from anxiety, forging new relationships, creating new spiritual taste buds for truth, answering prayer, brining physical healing, giving supernatural love for his church, calling to the mission field and church planting, creating generous hearts and hands, and more. By the Spirit, Jesus is at work among us in countless ways, seen and unseen. He meant it when he said, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). So, we can have confidence whether we’re at the office, in our yard, or gathered with the church that Jesus is at work in and through us. We are participating in his unfolding drama of redemption.
#5 Prayer really does matter.
As far back as I can remember we have carved out space to pray as a newly forming church. This was never a “we should do this because this is what a church does” sort of thing. No. It was a “we need to pray or we won’t survive” sort of thing. It felt impossible because it was impossible. Our prayer has always been, “Lord, we want to see what you can do, not merely what we can do. Move among us in ways that make it obvious you have done this.” John Calvin called prayer the chief exercise of faith, meaning that one of the primary ways faith expresses itself is in prayer. We wanted prayer to be integral to the fabric of our church. That said, prayer can feel awkward. We may wonder if our simple, broken, wandering prayers will actually make any difference. But, God has repeatedly shown us that he hears the imperfect prayers of his people, in Jesus. Like a good Father, he delights in giving his children good gifts (Mt. 7:9-11). He has done so for us, over and over again.
#6 His power is made perfect in our weakness.
It’s important to include this. I wouldn’t want the previous points to paint a picture that this has been an easy seven years. They have, in fact, been the most difficult years of my life. We’ve seen friends walk away from the faith—and still pray for their return. We’ve encountered adultery, addiction, and suicide. We’ve been lied too and lied about. We’ve encountered the Enemy on multiple occasions. We’ve had bad ideas. We’ve repeatedly pressed up against the realities of our limitations. Some say, “There are too many young people.” Others say, “There are not enough old people.” Still others, “There is not enough diversity.” Yet others, “There are not enough college students.” This is just for starters. Oh, how acutely I see and sense all the imperfections of our church! Yet, we must not miss the miracle that our church is! Amidst it all, Jesus has continued to bring us back to his promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Our hope isn’t in a perfect church, but a perfect savior. He uses our weaknesses, limitations, imperfections, and sufferings to further his purposes. What an encouragement this is!
#7 This is not fast work, but Jesus is at work.
You get the sense from reading the Bible that God works on a different timetable than us: Noah was 600 years old when the rains came (Gen. 7:6). Abraham was 75 years old when he left Haran (Gen. 12:4). Joseph spent most of his 20’s in an Egyptian prison (Gen. 41-46). The Israelites were enslaved for 400 years. Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness as a shepherd, before he spent another 40 years in the wilderness as a shepherd of God’s people. Over and over, we see the Lord’s timetable is not what we would expect. The same is true for our lives—and our church. On the one hand, Jesus has accomplished much in seven years. Yet, on the other hand, there is still so much to be done (see point #6). This is not fast work, but Jesus is at work. Our call is to be faithful as we pursue God-given fruitfulness.
Happy (belated) birthday, DCC! Jesus is the cornerstone or our lives, our church, and this city. We have so much to be thankful for. Let’s move into the next seven years filled with faith, hope, and love—especially love (1 Cor. 13:13). Let’s also continue to ask him to do what only he can for his glory and the joy of all people. Who knows what he might do next? Let’s find out together.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).
Christ is all,