With tears rolling down my face, I said to my Lord, “Here I am. I will go wherever You lead!” The tears came at the realization that my prayer of surrender would require me to give over what I had always seen as my life’s work—the church we planted out of our home a decade and a half ago. After months of agonizing over this decision, it was done. God had clearly spoken.
Maybe you find yourself in a similar place, sensing the Lord’s leading but wanting to be certain. How do you confirm God’s will when making a life-changing decision?
The answer to that question is not a science but an art, for God’s will cannot be put in a box. But while He won’t speak the same way every time, I am also convinced God doesn’t hide His will from His children. For those who will seek His voice, He will give an answer (Proverb 3:6). So how do you seek His voice?
Most decisions will not need this kind of scrutiny, for God’s Word is sufficient to give us guidance on our day-to-day decisions. But a few times in life, a decision comes that requires special consideration. For those seasons, here are five questions that will help you make a life-changing decision
Only after a time of extended prayer, a confirming word from the Lord, the affirmation of multiple advisors, confirmation from loved ones who will be affected, and a thorough evaluation of alignment with your personal calling should you be ready to make a life-changing decision. If you can answer “Yes” to each of the 5 questions above, then you can have great confidence you are making a decision that the Lord has led you to make. It is with similar confidence that my family and I step out in obedience and accept God's call to serve the people of Los Angeles in new role as the Chief Church Planting Strategist with the North American Mission Board.
Many of you may know that for the last five months I have been working very hard with weight training. In less than 11 months, I will be turning 40 years old, so this could be my mid-life crisis. But, really, the genesis of this training came when Tarah and I booked a cruise for our anniversary earlier this year. I decided then, I am going to get myself in the best shape of my life for my wife and I am going to do it before the cruise.
Now that I have less than 3 weeks before we leave for the cruise, I know that it is time for me to Finish Strong!
This week we begin a sermon series in the last two chapters of the Book of Acts with that same title: Finish Strong. In these last two chapters of Acts, we see the struggles and stress that Paul has to go through to complete the mission he has been called to accomplish. Paul will face challenging circumstances and be forced to persevere through many trials, yet at the end he will finish the task God has set out for him to accomplish.
I am praying that we can be like Paul in these last 3 months of 2016. We are facing a few challenging circumstances as a church. One of the biggest challenges is a financial one. We knew that 2016 would be a stretch as we brought our Goose Creek campus into our general budget. This was an expense of over $150,000 but it has paid huge dividends for the kingdom. Not only is our Goose Creek campus regularly seeing over 200 people worship there each week, we also have our Spanish-speaking church partner, Grace Church, meeting there, as well.
I think it is critical that we persevere, just like Paul, and finish strong in 2016. You may have noticed in our weekly email updates that we are running behind financially; well, those monthly shortages add up now to more than $40,000. This may feel like a huge hill to climb, but I believe that our church can still meet this challenge.
Making our budget this year will allow us to continue with our church planting strategies; empower our Cypress Coaching center; progress with our Ladson building project; keep Goose Creek self-sufficient; and give our team the resources to continue to see the vision of every man, woman, and child have multiple opportunities to see, hear, and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here is my request . . . would you consider doing this small 3 step process?
Our family is planning to give an extra offering on top of our normal tithe during the Finish Strong series. If everyone made the same commitment, Journey Church would certainly finish strong this year, give us the resources to accomplish all of our goals in 2016, and help us to really Start Fresh in 2017.
This Sunday, as part of the From Regret to Redemption series, Will Oswald will be teaching on overcoming sexual struggles. Below is a list of resources for those who wish to learn more:
INTERNET ACCOUNTABILITY AND FILTERING:
Journey Church has had a vision for seeing families redeemed since before our church began. The church planting team of Journey Church desired to make a significant impact on families in our city. Over the course of the last seven years, that desire has only increased; as a result, our church has made a transformative impact on many families.
But we feel compelled to do more.
This dream of doing more is the third objective of Vision 2020—Redeem the Family. Vision 2020 was built to inspire, involve, and impact our church family in five specific ways:
1.) Launch a Journey Counseling Center
2.) Identify and train 1 marriage coach for every 100 worship attendees
3.) Dedicate 8 Sundays a year to family oriented themes
4.) Host/lead a yearly marriage conference
5.) See a 99% marriage success rate among the partners of Journey Church
We have been working towards these goals now for 15 months. What progress have we made so far?
In November 2014, we officially launched the Journey Counseling Center. To date, we have served more than 40 different individuals/families. Jeff Payne has conducted 185 counseling sessions, helping families in multiple areas. Jeff is identifying leaders to take ownership in six critical areas—1.) Pre-marriage, 2.) Marriage, 3.) Addiction, 4.) Parenting, 5.) Finance, and 6.) Life Coaching.
In addition, a new ministry, Journey 2 Recovery, launched this fall to serve those struggling with addictions.
Looking forward, we are planning a local marriage conference for the spring of 2016 to serve those in our community and church.
One goal that we are working hard towards achieving is a 99% marriage success rate among the partners of Journey Church. To accomplish this goal, we need to understand the level of health of the marriages in our church. Consequently, we are working on a measurement system. This metric will give us vital information to achieve this audacious goal of 99% marital success within our church family.
I hope these initiatives inspire you to get involved. We are looking for marriage coaches, point persons to lead segments of ministry, and resources to accomplish these objectives. Would you consider becoming a point person to help us accomplish the vision God has placed before us? Would you consider joining a team? Would you consider giving towards our Vision 2020 initiatives?
We at Journey are excited about Redeeming the Family. Will you join us?
by Will Oswald, Director of Multiplication
You may have noticed that Journey Church is fairly passionate about starting new churches! At the beginning of Vision 20/20 in 2014, we decided that one of our major initiatives would be to plant new churches. Here is an update on our progress:
One of our goals was to plant 5 churches in 7 years. At the beginning of 2015, we helped launch The Pines Church in the Knightsville area. While launching the Pines Church, we were also preparing to send a team to launch a new campus of Journey Church in Goose Creek. It is amazing to see that the Ladson campus has continued to grow in numbers even in the midst of launching a new church and a new campus!
We have 4 more churches to plant by the year 2020. By the end of 2015, we want to identify the location and the pastor of our next church plant. We are also working on a more defined plan and process for how we are planting churches.
Another goal was to give away $250,000 to church planting by the year 2020. As of now, we have given $60,753 to help plant new churches. At this pace of giving (adjusting for the anticipated growth of Journey Church), we could surpass our goal and give close to $500,000 to church planting by the end of 2020.
We also had a goal to train 150 church planters each year. With our church planter coaching center (The Cypress Project), we have seen 213 church planters and/or pastors trained in the last year in 6 cities and 2 foreign countries. We are currently working on ways for The Cypress Project to be packaged in multiple formats and to be live-casted to other locations. By the end of this year, we will also have the basic framework in place to launch an internship and residency program at Journey Church for church planters and other leaders.
Our last goal was to assist and encourage Charleston Southern University to develop a major in church planting. Currently, CSU has a minor in church planting and we have helped them start 2 courses in church planting taught by 2 of our staff members.
So, you may ask the question: why do we care so much about starting new churches? Why not invest the money and time into simply growing Journey Church?
If we look back at the history of the church, the most effective and efficient way for the gospel of Jesus to spread is by planting new churches. Also, the healthiest churches are usually multiplying ones. New churches seem to reach new people from the harvest at a much higher rate than existing churches.
When we look at the greater Charleston area, we also recognize that it is one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S. It is predicted that we will need approximately 100 new churches in the new 10 years just to keep up with the growth in the Charleston area.
The most important reason we need to plant new churches is because every man, woman, and child needs to clearly hear and see the gospel of Jesus.
It is not about Journey Church; it is about the kingdom of God. We will continue to selflessly and courageously send people and money to start new churches! Thank you for your investment in Vision 2020 and your investment in God's kingdom!
The basic definition of the word “disciple” is learner. But the goal set by Jesus’ Great Commission is far greater than just being an A student of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus instead challenges us to intersect our lives with people in need of the gospel. These intersections only come if we leave our places of comfort and move towards people who are far from God.
This intersection of learning and applying God’s Word is where we get our term “missionary disciple.” God’s Word calls the church to activate our faith where we live, work, and play—be missionaries.
It’s an audacious goal to aim for 1,000 missionary disciples by December 31, 2020, but if we take progressive steps every year, we can achieve our goal. We believe that if our people involve themselves in our Groups Ministry, they have the best chance to become a missionary disciple. So to reach our goal we will need 160 Missional Communities and 330 DNA Groups (or 1,000 DNA participants) by 2020. what can we do over the next 6 months to make a dent in our ultimate goal?
A new building at our Ladson location is our next step. In March of 2014, 101 Journey Church family members pledged $774,000 to our Vision 2020 initiatives. To date we have collected $360,000. With only 10 months left in our commitment time window, I am asking all who pledged to finalize their pledge. If you are new to Journey Church, would you consider making a pledge to our Vision 2020 initiatives? Click here to give.
If everyone recommits to accomplishing their pledge, we can purchase the identified piece of land by December 31, 2015.
We are moving this project forward and well on our way to making Vision 2020 a reality.
A few weeks back, we conducted a survey at all of our worship services at both campuses. One of the questions on the survey was . . .
In two or three sentences, could you describe what the Journey Church’s Vision 2020 is all about?
Below are six of the 300 responses we received. They give a pretty thorough scope in determining how clear we have been in communicating our church vision to our congregation.
Answer #1 - Not sure. I have only been attending for a month. Nearly half our church has joined the Journey family since we first talked about Vision 2020 in February 2014. That is exactly why we are going to take a few minutes before every sermon in June to give a 5-minute review and update.
Answer #2 - It is money to be used for a new building down the road. While a portion of the money that is being raised is for a new building off of I-26, this is not the primary objective of Vision 2020. Any building we leverage for the sake of the gospel is simply a tool used for a greater purpose.
Answer #3 - Plant a Goose Creek Campus, start a counseling center, build a new building. It’s kind of complicated. It can be complicated! This answer provides the outcomes of our vision. Vision 2020 is focused around three main objectives—1.) Deploy 1,000 missionary disciples, 2.) Redeem the family, and 3.) Plant churches. For instance, in our attempts to see families redeemed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, we dedicated ourselves to helping people overcome challenging family issues by opening a counseling center. Again, though, these are tools to help accomplish the ultimate goal.
Answer #4 - I think it is planting 20 churches. Our people just may have a greater vision for our city than we do! While I do hope that one day we will plant our 20th church plant, the goal we set was to plant five more churches by 2020. That would bring us to a total of 9 church plants in our first 13 years. Maybe planting our 20th church could be a goal for 2030!
Answer #5 – Journey Church’s attempt to become a megachurch. While I have no desire to get into the merit/deficiency debate of the megachurch movement, I can say this, “Journey Church’s sole desire has to be a Mothering-church.” A Mothering-church births, cares for, and helps raise new church plants. What I have learned is that God entrusts with greater responsibility those individuals and churches who faithfully take great care to accomplish his will (Luke 16:1-13). While Journey Church’s pursuit is to be a Mothering-church, I am going to let God decide how large he wants our womb to be.
Answer #6 - Redeem the Family, Deploy 1000 Missionary Disciples, and Plant Churches. If this is your response, you hit the jackpot! These are our three main objectives of Vision 2020. First, we want to raise up and deploy 1,000 missionary disciples across this city, nation, and world. Second, we desire to see the family redeemed in our city; this means we want to see orphans adopted, marriages healed, and homes become training grounds for gospel transformation. Third, we want to be the most dependable church planting church in South Carolina.
I never feel like I am good enough. I don't feel beautiful; I always feel overwhelmed; and I struggle to see myself as God sees me. How do I combat the lies of the enemy?
By Layna Stafford
Battling our own voice of criticism as a woman can be incredibly challenging. No one can judge us like WE can. We find areas of external and internal weaknesses, and we can destroy ourselves by focusing on them.
I often think, if only my nose were smaller, I would be so much happier...confident...content! If only this nose weren't so big, think of the things I could do for Jesus!
But that's a lie.
"The only sure rendering of how we ought to be is the Bible. Therefore do not be undone by criticisms not rooted there." - John Piper
Jesus doesn't say I must be 120 pounds to be good enough to be used by Him. If Jesus doesn't say, in order to be used for his kingdom, I have to be type A, or have a big personality, or be able to make people laugh, or have a small nose...then I should NOT let myself be undone by that criticism (even if it's in my own mind).
Instead, I can fight these thoughts with Scripture. I can flip it with an amazing verse that is found in 2 Corinthians 12:9: "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
If I will boast in my weaknesses, really boast in them...I will be fighting Satan who lies to me. I will be fighting my own mind and flesh that war against Jesus. I will be fighting the lie that these weaknesses make me not good enough!
So I will boast in my big nose. I will shout "Yes, my nose is huge and I will use it to lead someone to Christ!" It was put on my face for a reason--He gave me this "weakness" and God will make His power more evident through this and every weakness I have.
Sound crazy? Well, I dare you to try it! In your car today...shout out your weakness! Shout it out loud and boast in how God can use any weakness. And your "nose" may just be how God shows His power!
By Katherine Deal
1. Start spending time with godly married women and watch how they love their husbands. Before I joined the ranks of married women, I was extremely lucky to have some married role models to watch and listen to. They taught me so much about how a married woman should love her husband. I learned things like never talk bad about or down to your husband in public; always lift him up. I learned how friendships with members of the opposite sex should and need to change when you are in a relationship. I learned how to love my husband like Christ even when it’s hard, and how submission really is a beautiful thing when done in a godly relationship. There are women that I can still go to when I need some coaching and encouragement. I would urge you to choose wisely but make this a huge priority.
2. Set your standards of purity high and find someone to keep you accountable to that. Once you are in a dating relationship, temptation seems to come at you from every corner. The closer you get to marriage, the harder those temptations are to resist. You need someone who is going to hold you accountable to the standards you set, and even better if it’s one of those awesome married women from point #1 you are now hanging out with. They will have walked in your shoes and can give you appropriate encouragement and advice. While my husband and I were dating and then engaged, I met with an amazing lady once a week for prayer and accountability. She asked me hard questions during that time and never let me off the hook. While I might not have been at the time, I now am incredibly grateful for her during that time. Not only did she help me keep those purity standards high, she was a voice of reason at a time where my head was in the “in love clouds," but I was making a ton of important decisions, like saying yes to my future husband and father of my children. Find someone to be your voice of reason, one day you will be thankful!
3. If you are part of an engaged couple (and if you are not yet, remember this for later!), value your time in pre-marital counseling. Do not skip over this crucial step or think it’s not important. It might seem like everything is perfect in the dating and engagement stage. You might think you and your bae will always be on the same page and will be able to get through tough times seamlessly. It seems this way because dating/engagement is like the fairy tale period of life. Once you get married, real life starts, and real life is hard. My husband and I received some really amazing, top-notch pre-marital counseling. It was a time we took very seriously because we had been encouraged too by people much smarter than we were. But we had friends who did not receive enough or any pre-marital counseling, and some who just didn’t take it seriously. I can without a doubt say that their first few years and our first few years of marriage looked totally different. We still had the same trials, but my husband and I were prepared for how to handle them and our friends just were not. My husband and I often look back on those first few years and think, “That was easier than everyone said it would be.” We credit that to our preparation in pre-marital counseling.
4. Do not expect your significant other to fulfill you once you get married. I see a lot of girls fall into this trap (myself included!). We think once we get married __________. We can fill in that blank with so many things; once we get married I won't be lonely anymore, I will finally feel good about myself, my spouse will complete me, and a plethora of other things. The truth is the only person who can do any of those things for us is Christ. Putting this impossible expectation of fulfillment on your future spouse is like kryptonite to your relationship. Trust me, all of the things we can put in that blank will happen in marriage. Our spouse is not perfect and you are not perfect; the relationship will not be perfect. But Christ is. If we look to Christ to fill in those blanks for us, when they do happen in marriage, when the hard times come, we can handle them with grace and love because we will be so full of Christ it will overflow out of us. Fill yourself will Christ, not your significant other.
5. When you are in a dating relationship and even once you get engaged EVERYTHING is fun. REMEMBER that fun. (Again, if you aren’t in one of these relationships yet, this will be good to hold on to for later!) Hold tight to those moments; file those details away. At some point in marriage, something hard is going to happen because, again, life is hard. Sometimes it’s hard to see out of that hard thing. When these moments hit, having those fun and special times to look back on could be what brings you out of the hard. Those moments could be the reason you are able to look at your spouse again in love. They won't fix the hard, but they can ease the heart. Remember the fun!
By Erin Jernigan
Most of us would admit that we like to be in control. As wives, we are either led by pride, feeling that we know the best way of doing something/have the best idea. Or we don't want to feel vulnerable and actually need the help or input of our husbands. This can lead us down a destructive path in marriage when we as wives try to take the reigns of leadership in our home that God ordained to be our husband's.
"Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body of which he is savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:22-24
Our husbands are called to be the leaders in our home, to provide for and protect our family. When we try to control them or take the lead, we are not allowing them to be the men God desires them to be. Our husbands will have to stand before God one day and give an account for their leadership in the home. Wives, we will not.
So what does that look like? Practically, wives, we need to show a lot of respect for our husbands. They need to know and hear from us that we have their back and we trust them. Our husbands need to hear and see our respect for them in our words and actions. We need to allow them to make decisions and take the lead. This may mean moving forward with a decision that we don't agree with 100%. I am not suggesting for you to stand by and watch your husband make a catastrophic move for your family. Voice your opinion and then allow him to take the lead. A husband who has the respect of his wife is going to listen carefully to the words of his wife.
For the wives whose husbands may be hesitant to take the lead out of fear of failing his family, I would suggest asking your husband to take the lead in one area of your home life. Don't overwhelm him, but give him an opportunity to lead and feel your unconditional support. Talk with him about your desire to see him lead and ask him. Allow him to ease into the leadership role that God has called him to with the respect and trust of his wife.
For me, personally, in the moments when I need to show respect for my husband and allow him to take the lead, I have to do a lot more of James 1:19: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak..."
Church Planter. Pastor to pastors. Husband. Father. Reader.