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I’m in the middle of a series looking back at the desperation and dependence we had when we first started this church planting journey.  Throughout this series I’m looking back at the beginnings in 2003 and letting that inform, recapture, and inspire us to live in that desperate dependence on God as we head into this next era of ministry at The Journey.

We had a small launch team as we began The Journey in October of 2003, and then as our launch Sunday came around, our launch team got smaller.  One family decided the week before our launch that they weren’t going to venture any further with us.  Another family showed up on launch Sunday and then never again.  10 people in two weeks.  Talk about desperate!  Many of my prayers in those early years were begging God to “send workers for the harvest”.  But it didn’t happen how I thought it would.

Somewhere back in 2003 or 2004 we heard for the first time “belong before believe”.  It was the idea that there were people who would come to the church and look to belong and connect and serve before they believed what we were talking about.  This flew in the face of the previous generation where people would go “door-to-door” and look to convert people.  Those new believers would then be invited into the life of the church and come to belong to that local church.

When we first launched, we had two or three churches agree to help staff our children’s ministry.  We asked them to give us two months.  In our young idealism we believed that would give us enough time to get leaders in place and training under way.  What we didn’t realize is that many of those first people that were coming to the church didn’t know much about the Bible, hadn’t been in church in years, and weren’t even sure what they believed at the end of two months.  We got to the end of those two months and realized we had almost no one to jump in and lead.  We prayed harder for workers for the harvest.  Still no one.

We wrestled in those early days with these people who were coming, weren’t following Jesus, but wanted to serve.  Could they?  Was that okay?  Was it Biblical?

In spite of having just a small band of Jesus followers, in spite of being way under-manned, in spite of a lack of Biblical knowledge, God moved among us and grew His church.

Many of those first volunteers (many who were not Christians at the time) have become our best volunteers and ministry leaders.  We have experienced what John Burke calls “starting a church out of the culture”.  It wasn’t even necessarily our intention.  We just couldn’t find, or God didn’t bring, a large group of committed Jesus-followers to help start this church.  So instead we started it with a small and brave band of Jesus-followers and a whole slew of seeking people who belonged before they believed.

It was risky and messy and beautiful and has made The Journey the authentic, “come as you are” church that it has become.

P.S.  I’m SO EXCITED that so many of our launch team members for our new M120 site were people new to faith, new to church, and seeking.  I believe they will be the catalyst for a similar movement on the north side of our city.