Last week I was asked to write an article for the upcoming Church Herald a denominational magazine that comes monthly. The criteria they were looking for was 500 words on my personal call and story coming out of Third Church. I kind of went another way with it. 500 words isn’t very many at all. You can see an advance on what I wrote below.
“Why are we waiting until the fall of 2008? I wonder if God isn’t calling us to do this in September of 2007,” said Bev Brand, a member of the Third Church brainstorming church plant team. And so it was decided on May 8, 2006 to plant a church in Ottumwa, IA in one year. My wife and I left the meeting filled with excitement, wonder, and lots of questions, yet there was no doubt this was what God had called us to be about.
It would be easy for me to unpack what transpired the next year as far as training, tactics, and strategies, but none of those things have served as the foundation of how thebridge started or who we are as a church. Although those things are important, it has become very apparent that there is not one way to start a church. Or maybe there is. The one thing that has to come first is God. Over and over again, we have marveled at how God has clearly gone before us, and we are doing our best to catch up. This has been made apparent in everything from the name of the church and where we meet to the vision of thebridge and the partnership we have with Third Church.
One of the stories I like to share is that we chose the name thebridge before we even went to Ottumwa only to find the tag line of the city is “city of bridges.” It just so happens that we meet in a brand new building right on the river which is called The Bridgeview Center. Both The Bridgeview Center and our office are located on Church Street. At some point you just can’t make this stuff up.
As fun as those stories are though our passion has always been to be an Acts 1:8 church coupled with prayer, and it is the stories out of this passion and vision that we see the Kingdom being impacted. It’s when we get a phone call from an elem entry school requesting another backpack with school supplies for a student, giving away deodorant, shampoo, and toothbrushes, as well as the occasional pair of shoes, underwear, and prom dresses. It’s when we rally those who gather with us on Sunday to scatter during the week and pick up branches for the elderly. It’s when we capitalize on what God has given us and choose to invest it in building a homeless shelter. And it’s when people linger longer because they want to know more about this Jesus we keep talking about. This is where it gets fun, and this is where we see how God has been at work for in advance of us even deciding to move up the date a year.