Here we are, 3 years of incredible service to our Lord Jesus Christ, and we are going for more!
Here are 3 things I’ve learned in this journey:
Three years ago, this time, we were in the middle of planning out our launch for Urban Poiema Church, which, in my estimation, was a successful launch! We brought a special guest, we gave out goodies, and even got to do a balloon send off to represent UP church’s soaring beginning. However, the launch was just the tip of the iceberg for us. After our launch, we quickly realized that many would come to an event, but not too many would join a new community.
This was tough for me because I knew that we had worked really hard to get to a place where we can do something unconventional and new. And in the years to come I learned a few lessons. Here are three:
Ministry (church planting) is built on a platform of trust, and not of religious platitudes.
Influence in a community, church, or ministry is not something that is built over night. It takes time and actual work. In this culture we live in today, not too many people are willing to just look at you, or your body of work (ministry), and be so impressed that they will trust you. Or even look at you with any type of respect.
When I started UP Church, I had over 15 years of pastoral leadership. And it didn’t mean squat to the people we were trying to reach. Most of the leadership trust I earned (and continue to earn), was received through countless hours of sharing with people. Sharing a meal, coffee, a walk or even a frozen yogurt. These things have gotten me further in the area of influence and trust, than any particular sermon I have preached before. Which leads me to my next point…
The impetus of a ministry is found in how much one cares.
Anthony J. D’Angelo (don’t know who he is, got this off of google), once said: “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”
Though I don’t know Anthony, he is absolutely right. This is hard, though. Caring leads to sleepless nights. It leads to wanting to do your best and wanting people to understand you so there can be a cohesive vision. It leads to countless disappointments when others seem not to care as much.
However, when someone does care, that is a direct result of a community that was built on compassion and love. It’s having this attitude: “ I make sacrifices because I care.” “I give of my talents, treasures, and time, because I care.” “I put myself in a position to take the strain of ministry, because I care for those I’m trying to provide a stress-free environment for worship and community.”
This type of caring is not easy, and not everyone is up to it, but it is what creates genuine community and genuine people. I have learned a whole deal about what it means to care. It’s actually a sacrifice, not a feeling. A sacrifice that pays off huge dividends when people begin to strip their selfishness and begin to act out as Jesus did; with sacrificial love. Caring is both a burden and a blessing, and even though it won’t always transform others who are used to the dysfunction of conditional, or (what I call) religious love, it will always transform you!
Trusting God and caring for one another creates passionate servant leaders.
What I have loved the most in the last three years of church planting and church ministry, is the fact that I have been able to see some people who didn’t know they were leaders, lead. They have evolved from a self-centered capacity of leadership, to a selfless capacity in leadership. These things are neither easy to discover, nor teach. For it is accompanied by a transformation of heart that only Jesus can orchestrate. It’s the ability to trust God and truly care for the whole team/community that brings down our obstinance to always seek what is profitable to oneself only.
At UP Church I have not only seen a wonderful ministry rise, but I have seen new, servant-leaders emerge with a heart for God and people that exceeded my expectations.
From the early times when it was just me and a few others, to when we dared to start a church in a bar, to then going into a warehouse that was later condemned by the city, to taking all of our stuff to a borrowed church, to then, by the grace of God, acquire our own space. All these experiences were stepping stones towards not just a church that celebrates Jesus every week, but a church that is preparing the next leaders who will take this gospel of hope, to greater depths and heights we haven’t seen before!
For that, I’m grateful! I’m excited for the days ahead.
This past Sunday I got to see that caring, selfless, and serving church in action. When we all came together to celebrate 3 years, we were showered with tons of gifts and very selfless, and encouraging words towards our family. We are thankful for your gifts, your encouragement, and your caring attitude that has developed a wonderful ministry that welcomes people, unashamedly, from every walk of life, with the sole purpose of offering the hope of Jesus Christ to them. I can’t wait to see where that caring, selfless, gracious-leadership attitude will take us!
Love you all! Keep growing and let’s go for more.
In His Grip,
Pastor Juan Garay
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