I recently had some conversations with people in my new community about the church plant my family has moved to the Orlando area to help support. We feel strongly that God has invited us to take this step, and so there’s great joy in looking forward to what might become and how the Lord might use our efforts along with many others to help people know and follow Jesus. And yet, our joy connects to their pain. I have met great people who are interested in helping Harvest get started this fall who have the difficult burden of processing their own pain connected to our new presence in the community.
How is that? Well, for some they have been connected to the place we will meet in. This space previously hosted a church they’ve served in, supported, and formed friendships in. So while I am naturally focused on the future of that place, they have strong past connections there. In this way, my joy connects to their pain. For some it is a pain of loss: it feels like their church left them.
Others have left this or another church for various reasons. Some have been highly committed for a long time to a church that they cannot bring themselves to continue to support and are looking for a new ministry partner to reach their community. They may have joy about the future and still experience the pain of leaving the past behind.
Over the past two years, I’ve had the joy-and-pain-filled experience of leading through a church transition. I served under a lead pastor who was called elsewhere. I had the privilege and challenge to lead through what would be next for our young church. We eventually decided to merge with a larger, like-minded church we had strong ties to in our community.
This experience equipped me to deal with pain and joy simultaneously in leadership. I experienced the pain of loss. This included the loss of a great friend in ministry, the loss of voice as my role shifted from the second chair to a middle role in the organization, and loss of identity as things I’d helped build were merged into things I had not. I experienced this in the middle of joys of leading staff members who I loved, seeing hundreds of people baptized over those two years, and many more experience growth in their relationship with Jesus.
Some of my greatest joys are connected to another’s pain.
I can not dedicate adequate space in this post to how intensely real the pain-and-joy dynamic has been in our family’s foster and adoption journey. That will need to be treated elsewhere but I will just say that being an adopting parent brings you in the thick of great pain and loss. And simultaneously it brings you into the greatest of joys as parenting will. And the two will never be separated.
So, for those who God will bring and has already brought to be part of the team that will launch Harvest Community Church, I say welcome! Welcome into a future that will include the joys of people from all backgrounds getting to know and follow Jesus! And yet the very real joys of your future involvement need not diminish the story your past. Instead, God will use your past– most certainly including the pain– to equip you for the future ministry which he has for you.