In this article, Hannah Brook (Senior Pastor, Stirling Vineyard) shares from her own experience about the need for partnership with the Holy Spirit on the journey of church planting.
I’ve found it to be true in my life, that God often speaks in the most unexpected places. I laughed to myself as I pulled my leg out of the hole in the ground I’d somehow managed to slip into, realising that this was once again the case.
‘This is part of the journey of pioneering’ I had felt the Holy Spirit whisper.
I was in one of my favourite places, deep in the Scottish mountains. We’d turned off the beaten track and taken to the heather to explore a loch at the bottom of a valley. There was no path or easy way to get there. The map didn’t show a route but we were in search of a new view on what had become a familiar walk.
Taking a new route, discovering a new path, pioneering a new way means unseen obstacles – things that will trip you up.
I felt the Holy Spirit continue, ‘You will make mistakes, you will get it wrong, you will trip and fall at times – but that’s ok.’
I was in a place of processing what I felt was God clearly speaking to me about church planting. I’d already processed the fact that I was a single woman, moving alone to a new city, as if that wasn’t enough! But the realities of what I’d said ‘Yes’ to were only beginning to sink in.
I sensed God was looking for my ‘Yes’ to partner with him rather than my perfect plan. He was giving me permission to get it wrong, more than that he was showing me that it was an inevitability – part of the process.
When I think back over the last few years I can confirm that has definitely been the case. But I’m also learning that God is partnering in the process of pioneering.
God’s not simply looking for my good ideas but first and foremost he’s looking for my yes to him and what he is calling me to do. I quickly understood the church plant would not grow if it were to depend on me and my ideas alone! One thing I often tell myself when I face challenges or moments of doubt or anxiety ‘God I know that you want this church to grow more than I do, how can I partner with you to see that happen.’ Just surrendering the call back to God. I’ve learned never to hold it so tightly that it becomes about me. I think part of the foundation in the life of a kingdom pioneer has to be an ability to hear and obey the leading of the spirit. It doesn’t mean we always get it right but a heart to hear has to be the starting place.
God is a God of process. He doesn’t expect perfection. As we surrender our lives to him God begins a process of transformation in each of us. But as we surrender he also desires to build his kingdom in and through us. This is a process. A process of stretching and growing. Although uncomfortable at times often it is because God is preparing us for the next thing he has for us. As we are faithful with what he has given us, he grows it. I knew I did not have gifting or experience to lead a church of 100s. But I knew how to lead a small group, I knew how to serve. This was a great place to start. As God is growing the church he’s also growing me.
There will inevitably be tough moments. Moments you want to give up. Moments you feel like a failure, you feel discouraged. I’m learning to push past these moments.
For me I remember when I felt led to start Sunday services. We hired a school assembly hall and asked a local vineyard worship leader to come and support us. We were so excited – 9 people turned up that week. By Sunday afternoon I was ready to quit! But I knew that I knew I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do.
‘Persistence breaks resistance’ – I remember hearing that in a sermon once. I often replay it in my mind in those moments. Resistance to God’s call comes from many different directions – external and internal! Sometimes the best we can do is to dig our heels in and choose to stand firm.
I had no choice but to keep going. Thankfully we’ve had a few more show up since then!
I’m learning that being a pioneer isn’t about doing things perfectly – it’s the opposite. We need to be prepared to try and get it wrong but then learn and hopefully get it right. But God is with us in the midst of that process and will never leave nor forsake us if we are truly partnering with him.