|From our sendoff weekend (11/09) at the Kenner Vineyard Church. Our sending pastor Phil Jeansonne and his wife Deborah... true partners in the gospel of which we are very grateful.|
Two weeks ago I launched into a series on Philippians. I am enjoying it immensely and amazed at just how relevant I am finding this material to things I am experiencing today. One central concept that Paul mentions in the opening verses of Philippians is that of partnership in the gospel. Paul had a special relationship with the church in Philippi that was built around being partners in the work of the kingdom. While understanding this concept of partnership is hugely important in understanding the letter to the Philippians I am also finding that it is so crucial in the life of a church and particularly when it comes to church planting.
It’s been a little over a year since Dina and I were sent out from the Vineyard Church of Kenner to plant Northshore Vineyard in downtown Covington. I am very much aware, as we continue through the various stages of church planting, of just how important this idea of partnership is for us. I truly don’t think we would have survived this first year without the support (relationally, spiritually, and financially) of our sending church or without such dear companions in this work who have joined us.
It is quite scary to step out into church planting because you are leaving your comfort zone and stepping into a new place that you can only imagine in part with various trials that one has never imagined. However, one of the scariest aspects of church planting that I have seen all too often is when a couple or a church planting team are basically going it alone without any support, connection or partnership with others outside of the church plant or when they fail to develop partnership within the church plant.
In the opening words of Philippians I see how Paul, imprisoned far away from Philippi in what would seem the bleakest of circumstances, had his spirits lifted with incredible joy because they had sent him a gift to take care of his needs in prison. They were truly partners in the work of the gospel. But more than the financial gift (which was hugely important) Paul’s spirit’s were lifted because the gift was evidence that they had his back, that they were in it with him, that they weren’t going to let him go it alone.
I started off this week feeling very stressed and overwhelmed by all of the stuff on my plate. These days I frequently feel like I am being stretched in many ways to do things I’ve never done. While I feel the grace and peace of God to do these things, this grace and peace isn’t coming simply in my own individual relationship with God but in my connection with others who are partnering to do this work of the kingdom. In the midst of my stress I have had a few conversations with people in our church that have blessed me tremendously, people who bring me the same kind of joy (on a smaller scale) that Paul must have felt in that Philippian prison, folks who I know are with us not because I have pressured them or guilted them or even asked much of them but because they have been compelled by God to join with us in this work. The various people I have talked with this week likely don’t even know that anything profound was taking place in those conversations but I have truly experienced God’s grace and peace moving towards me.