Posted in: Acts 29 Church Highlights
A Church Planter's Story -- Jonathan Needham
One of the most humbling things to consider as we hear from our planters is how God is sanctifying them and saving others through the ministry God has entrusted to them. I want to frequently introduce you to guys in the network and what God is accomplishing in them and through them. This week it's Jonathan Needham pastor at Coram Deo in Bremerton which is in the Tacoma area of Washington state.
Christ is All,
by Jonathan Needham
It was Easter morning. We were getting ready to celebrate at our local performing arts theater. We invited another church in town to join the party. People started showing up. Seven people had signed up to be baptized. Three had agreed to share their stories. One came from a Christian background, another from an atheistic background, and the third had a history of heroin addiction. I preached the gospel and invited people to respond through faith, repentance and baptism.
The seven people who had previously decided to be baptized came up onto the stage. The band began to lead us in worship. Then it happened. People started responding. One after another, people started coming up onto the stage to publicly identify themselves with Jesus. We were not prepared. They were not prepared. But none of that mattered. When it was all said and done, 25 people made public professions of faith in Jesus. We were overwhelmed. It was a sweet moment. But not all our moments have been so sweet.
"I was crushed. I was mad. I was broken.
And God had my attention."
I planted Coram Deo Church in Bremerton, Washington, seven years ago. I was a frustrated youth pastor. My goal was to plant a church that was nothing like the church I had come out of. It turns out that you can grow a good-sized group by just being frustrated at the church. In fact, you can grow a good-sized group in a short amount of time. And that’s exactly what happened. And then it happened.
It was September. We had maxed out our seating capacity for a single service. We launched an evening service and began the book of Hosea. From there, everything began to crumble. In three months, we lost over 60 percent of our people. No joke. I was crushed. I was mad. I was broken. And God had my attention.
"I know that regardless of what happens
to our church plant, I have Christ."
I learned that pursuing a large “missional” church and pursuing the glory of God in the face of Christ are not the same things. A growing church is a horrible savior. And God, by His grace, saved me from it. I have had to learn and relearn that story so many times. It has been and continues to be an incredibly slow and painful learning process. Sanctification cuts us deep.
I know that I’m a sinful pastor. I know Jesus is faithful even when I’m not. I know the road ahead includes suffering and joy, but I know it’s worth it. I know that regardless of what happens to our church plant, I have Christ. He is all. Praise Christ. The tomb is empty!