Twenty-five years ago, a few worshipers entered a weather worn small door and walked down a long dimly lit hallway to a dimly lit room that had been hastily cleaned up from the raucous social event of the previous evening, to be transformed into a make-shift sanctuary for the inaugural worship of a new congregation. February 16th, 1992, was a cold Sunday morning; but, those who gathered in the rented hall were warmed by the excitement of launching out for the Lord, following where he led, praising him for the opportunity. Those who had supported a youth outreach ministry, initiated two years prior by Sister Tanya Norwood and named “Ujima” by the children it served, had spent weeks in prayer and study preparing for this new phase in their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I stood behind a small sign-in book stand that was being used as a podium, the trepidation of departing away from my denominational pastorate, comfortable church facilities, and established congregation, which all came complete with a parsonage for my young family, caused me to draw a breath. One of our detractors had exclaimed “They won’t last six months!” But, the Lord had repeatedly confirmed his call to depart and start something new, even in the face of my doubt and fears. I was now the pastor of a brand new non-denominational congregation when the concept of being “non-denominational” had previously seemed so unclear and foreign to me. Moreover, none of my training had prepared me to be a “church planter.” I had never even considered such a venture, until pressed by the Holy Spirit to do so. And now to call this church a “store-front congregation” would have been an overstatement by far! I wonder if the excitement of the worshipers on that day would have been so pronounced if they knew just how frightened and unprepared their new pastor was underneath that confident facade?
I have come to understand that the Lord calls us to do what is uncomfortable and for which we feel unprepared so that he may show his grace toward us and get glory as he provides his blessings to us, making a way for us. It is his plan that must be followed, for our our plans cannot compare. Truly, with only human insight, the pronouncement of our detractor twenty-fives years ago made perfect sense; we should not have lasted six months! But, twenty-five years later, we look back upon the constant grace of God who has grown this congregation according to his providential plan and by his overwhelming grace. He has added our congregation’s voice to the world wide Church of Christ and he has sustained and strengthened that voice for two and a half decades. The Lord has been faithful in calling sinners to repentance and transforming lives in the midst of our humble assembly of believers. It is his work which we celebrate. It is of his grace that we sing. Soli Deo Gloria!