THE GOD OF THE UNEXPECTED
ADVENTURES IN CHURCH PLANTING
Grace Bible Church Pearlside (named so because we are in the community rimming historic Pearl Harbor in Pearl City, Hawaii) started in October of 1994 with 30 adults and 20 children. As founding Pastor, I aimed for reaching whole families and some youth. Instead, I got lots of youth and some families. And the youth that came were from rough backgrounds, tough neighborhoods and many were either demonically infested or oppresssed. My heart was challenged, stretched, and exposed as they kept on coming. After one particularly rough Sunday evening service (a gang fight IN the service broke out followed by a few deliverance sessions) I talked to God about sending these youths to churches “closer” to where they lived. Many were coming from distant communities and I thought this to be a wise, practical plan. Then the the Lord spoke to me these unforgettable words: “You have asked for the harvest, and I am answering your prayer. It is just not what you expected.” I remember feeling an “ouch!” in my spirit and repentance followed. It would prove to be a turning point and we grew to 300 shortly thereafter. More importantly my heart grew, and along with that a fresh understanding of how God’s thoughts and ways are often quite different from our our own: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
HEALTH OF THE LEADER; HEALTH OF THE CHURCH
In essence, God gave me what I needed, not what I wanted. Why? He wanted to grow ME. He wanted to stretch my character and deepen my capacity to love. I learned early on that church planting was less about principles and techniques and more about grace and love. The “who” and the “why” far transcended the “what” and the “how”. And honestly? After 18.5 years, I am still a work in progress and in dire need of God’s grace on a daily basis. I realize that my leadership team will be healthier if I am healthier, and health begets growth. Sticking passionately close to Jesus and his Word helps keep me in that zone. I know that if there is no practice of great communion, we will fail to fulfill our part in the Great Commission.
LOOKING BACK, CATCHING UP AND MOVING FORWARD
Today, we would be what so-called church pundits call a “mega-church”. Over one-third are in their mid-twenties and younger. We have given away people and finances to plant other churches, sent dozens of teams to other nations, and serve the needy continuously. Some would say we are successful. I would prefer to say we have tried to be faithful. I go back to that night 18 years ago when I repented and resolved to obey God’s unexpected call to steward rough cut young people as the first phase of his divine assignment. This is vital because 90% of humanity come to Jesus before age 30, 85% before age 25, and this mostly millenial generation – the largest cohort ever – has more time to gear up to reach their world locally and the world at large globally.
Today? They continue to come because we continue to go. Some have become key leaders. Some make up our church plants and have been on our missions teams. As for moving forward, at 58 I plan to get younger as I get older. I want our church to keep reaching younger as we keep getting older. It’s how we started, and it’s how I believe God wants us to continue until Christ returns. It will take all generations working in tandem to do it. I’m all in. Will you join me?