Thanking God for His Faithfulness
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 began like any other day. I was up early and on my way to Revival Christian Fellowship, a church Brenda and I planted with our friends Dave & Pam in 1992, where I served as the Executive Pastor.
I can’t remember the details of my drive to the office that morning, but everything would be eclipsed by a news flash from God later that day, calling me to resign from Revival and later revealing His purpose to plant a church.
To say that this calling was unexpected would be a profound understatement. God spoke to me in a flash, out of nowhere, but His voice was so clear to me that day, that I couldn’t ignore it. I went home, told my wife, Brenda, the news and we spent the next several weeks in prayer and fasting to confirm God’s call. In time, the Lord made it clear that He was calling us to plant Reliance Church in Temecula. He then proceeded to open the doors. But it was most definitely the days of small things.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” -Zechariah 4:10a NLT
I set out on this great venture of faith on May 7, 2007 and overnight, everything changed. I went from running a church of several thousand to a small home Bible study. It was truly humbling. But God had called us.
Our first service was exactly 20 days later on Thursday, May 17th. We rented space in a local church, shared the stage with their 10-foot tall replica of the commandments and an oversized cross covered in red glitter and we never looked back!
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” -Acts 2:42, 46-47 NKJV
I planted Reliance with an intentional commitment to make disciples who know, love and serve Jesus. Toward that end, we focused steadfastly on the same four priorities as those of the Apostles in the first century:
- Connecting people to God and His Word
- Connecting people to one another in fellowship
- Weekly celebration of communion
- Continued prayer
This simple focus, modeled upon the church of Acts, has yielded much fruit. We have seen hundreds of all ages respond to the Gospel, make professions of faith in Christ and get baptized. One of the most recent examples is Mohammed, a Muslim man who found Jesus at Reliance, and then made his public confession of faith in Christ as he was baptized! We are seeing marriages healed, lives changed, and relationships restored. Men and women are learning what it means to walk with Jesus. They are discovering that, rather than living a compartmentalized life where faith is limited to Sunday church, they can experience an abiding relationship with Him that permeates every aspect of their lives!
By God’s grace, we are leading hundreds of kids every week in memorizing Scripture and leading their peers to Christ. God has blessed us with the opportunity to launch VBS outreaches reaching hundreds of un-churched kids in our valley for Jesus and He has given us tremendous favor in this effort, as hundreds have responded to the Gospel invitation. Most recently, the Lord has provided for construction of our new building and we eagerly anticipate breaking ground this September.
A story from our past illustrates my hope for our future:
When we first planted Reliance, my friend Bob and his wife, Gloria, were among the small core of people committed to this fledgling work. Over time, they began to host a Growth Group in their home and on the nights they gathered, their group would pray for Bob and Gloria’s cousin Bobby J., who was hooked on methamphetamine. Bobby J. was a mess. He had been strung out on drugs for years and would steal to maintain his habit. Well, not only did God answer the prayers of this Growth Group for Bobby J.’s salvation, but eventually Bobby J. would begin LEADING the very Growth Group that had so faithfully prayed for his salvation and today, he’s married and studying to become a pastor!
In short, by God’s grace, we are fulfilling the great commission and changing our city one life at a time.
As I reflect on our last ten years and look to our future, several things stand out:
For starters, my view of the purpose of the church remains exactly the same. The church exists to glorify God by focusing on discipleship.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” -Ephesians 4:11-16
What stands out in these verses (and throughout the New Testament) is that the church isn’t an organization or a place…it’s people. People united together as children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ. As we gather together as a family and together worship the Lord, we are nurtured and cared for, we are encouraged and strengthened, and we are equipped and mobilized. In the process, we are salt and light to the world as they see the love of God in a tangible way.
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 2:5
The idea that church isn’t a place or a program, but rather a people, is the dynamic that led Brenda and I to start Reliance in the first place. It’s the tangible love of Jesus that we experience here with our friends and the united sense of purpose we share together living in community and calling to reach out to the lost and hurting of our city that make Reliance so special to us.
As the Lead Pastor of Reliance Church, one of the biggest blessings for me is to see people come to know Jesus and then to watch them step out in faith and serve. One of the best pieces of advice I received from a seasoned pastor was to take chances on people and unleash them to serve Jesus with their gifts and talents and then to watch what God does. It’s amazing…It’s breathtaking…and all the glory goes to Him!
Another lesson over these years is just how faithful God is.
“Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
We all know the clichés: “Where God guides, God provides…If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill…God won’t lead you TO anything that He won’t lead you THROUGH…”
Well, I’m here to tell you they’re true. Every one. But in the moment…when the bill is due and there’s no money…when the church needs a building and there’s no land…when you need more staff and don’t have it in the budget…when you’re feeling overwhelmed, like you just can’t do it anymore, God is faithful. If I could pass on once piece of wisdom to myself and to those who helped plant the church 10 years ago, that would be it – God is faithful. Trust Him. Take bold steps of faith. Whatever He leads you to, He’ll lead you through.
“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” -1 Thessalonians 4:1 ESV
Looking forward, we have a lot to be excited about: A new building, an increasingly growing congregation, more staff, and more opportunities to engage in new ventures of faith…and in God’s will and timing, even more. But as we reach forward with one hand, with the other hand we keep a firm hold on what makes Reliance Church so special – The Person and work of Jesus, and the people He died for.
I’m praying for more stories of God’s grace and the work of His Spirit at Reliance Church in our future. More lives radically changed by Jesus; More people set free; More stories of victory and transformation; New ventures of faith; New ministries started & churches planted…and through them all, Jesus. Jesus high and lifted up. Jesus building His church, to His glory.
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” -John 12:32