I asked my wife for her thoughts about writing about planting a church in 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic. Two words stood out especially clear from her response: “God knew”. When we made the decision to move from Colorado to my hometown, Albuquerque, NM at the beginning of 2020, we didn’t know what the year would have for us, but God knew.
A Perfect Opportunity?
We had what looked like the “perfect opportunity” in front of us. We were moving close to family. We had a sending church whose pastors are friends of mine and with whom I had previously worked. We had a building that was being renovated for us in a part of Albuquerque that I had a burden in my heart to see reached with the Gospel. We had a small group of people already interested in joining a launch team to plant in that specific area.
However, perfect opportunities rarely turn out to actually be perfect. The week after we moved, the state of New Mexico went under a full stay-at-home order from the Governor and we were unable to meet with our sending church in-person, let alone the few people that had already committed to be a part of our launch team. We haven’t been able to reach out in the neighborhood where our church is located like we wanted to. Our building renovation that was set to be finished in May of 2020, finished in time for our Christmas Eve service, and God knew.
Encouragement in the Disappointment
We’ve continued to go in and out of gathering restrictions in our state (which has been one of the strictest in the US), but God knew and provided throughout. We have seen some great things as we’ve continued on in the process of planting a church in the midst of a global pandemic. We’ve had great support from our sending church and other supporting churches. In the early stages, and as we’ve trudged ahead, I’ve gotten to participate with a leadership team in the decision making of leading a church in this crazy season. As a team, we’ve been able to shift our church to online services when necessary and work through reentry plans.
Our timeline slowed down and was pushed back, which, while disappointing at first, gave us a longer runway for our small church to grow together as Jesus’ body and a family, and raise support from local and national denominational entities, both churches and individuals. While our building was being renovated, we were allowed to use the space of an existing church in the neighborhood rent-free when we met to worship together weekly. This gave us a connection to an established church in the neighborhood and various other churches, ministries, and pastors who have worked in our area a long time.
God’s Ways are Higher Than Mine
As many churches started the year looking toward “2020 Vision”, for all of us, the year was less than clear. 2020 was the year of Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
When people ask how the church plant is going my typical response is, “slow and steady”. We aren’t experiencing crazy growth. The next inevitable question is, “What would you have done differently if you had known how 2020 would turn out?” I don’t know the answer to that question. When I moved to Albuquerque to plant a church I didn’t know what the year would hold, but God knew. None of this took Him by surprise. And even if I don’t yet see or understand what He’s doing or how He’s using this year for our church or for the church as a whole, I trust that his “ways are higher than my ways and his thoughts higher than mine” and I’m praying that as we continue to plant in the midst of the pandemic, that God would sustain us and prepare us for whatever He has next.