Several friends of mine have recently sold their homes, secured new jobs, relocated from hundreds of miles away, and left everything they’ve previously known to help plant a new church in the greater Nashville area. I have so much respect for each one of them.
There’s such a mixture of emotions that can attend a decision like this. On the one hand, there’s the excitement of a new venture and the joy of answering the call of God. On the other hand, there’s the difficulty attended with “starting over” in a new city and the sadness of leaving behind the people you love.
Jesus answered those who followed him with the assurance that they would be blessed, that they would encounter trouble, and that they would receive eternal life:
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30, ESV)
These promises apply to everyone who follows Christ regardless of whether or not he or she participates in a church-plant. However, these assurances are particular poignant to one who has relocated for the sake of the gospel and the cause of Christ.
Jesus comforts us with the promises that all the sacrifices involved, be it financially, relationally, personally, and professionally, will be rewarded.
My wife and I have been in the greater Nashville area for a little over a year now. We left an incredible, established, rich gospel-proclaiming church and many of our dearest friends at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville in order to participate in planting Redeeming Grace Church in Franklin, TN. CCK is where I came to faith in Christ. It’s where I was taught the truths of Scripture. It’s where I developed a passion for gospel-mission, and it’s where I was eventually commissioned to “GO” to spread the gospel to a new region.
Which means, it’s where I had to leave. For so many reasons, leaving CCK was difficult for me. I can remember worshipping together the last few Sunday morning services and thinking, “What am I doing?” And yet, the desire to help start and plant a new church in a new location for the sake of the gospel was so strong that I could never truly “shake it.” In the end, I knew my family was called to “GO” and that some of our dearest friends were called to “STAY.”
As we were preparing to plant, our Lead Pastor, Dave Odom, said this many times:
“Jesus is worth it.”
A year in to this gig, I can attest that Jesus is good on His Word. He is faithful to His promises. He has richly provided, far beyond anything we could have hoped for, asked for, or imagined. Church-planting has expanded my horizons. It’s helped me see ways in which the Lord is at work everywhere around us. We’ve been embraced by the people of God in this area and have experienced deep fellowship with other believers in Christ. I’ve formed new friendships with other believers with whom it feels like we’ve known each other all our lives. I’m amazed by that. I’ve also had the opportunity to share the good news of the gospel with people I would have never met.
As I look back on this year, I thank God for 17 wonderful years of being ministered to at CCK. I thank God for my short time at Immanuel Church of Nashville while we waited for the rest of the church-planting team to arrive. And, I thank God for our new church home, Redeeming Grace Church. As I stand and sing with my new friends at Redeeming Grace Church, it feels like home. It feels like the “dearest place on earth” to me.
Church-planting also makes me yearn for heaven more than ever before. I look forward to the day when the saints of God will not be separated by geography and limited by the restraints of time and space.
The greatest reward of church planting, for me, is that through the spread of the gospel more and more people will see Jesus’ worth.
I’m taking Jesus at His Word that those follow him will be blessed, will have trouble, and will receive eternal life. I’m convinced that Jesus is true to His Word, and that he will reward our efforts.
And I think Dave Odom was right: “Jesus IS worth it.”