When we go back and read our last blog post, it strikes us how much God has done in an incredibly short period of time. As of our last post, we felt that we were on the brink of God’s movement here in Crafton and in Pittsburgh. We were right, but the direction of God’s movement caught us completely off guard. Over the last 4-5 months, we have been in a hectic whirlwind of activity as we have tried to keep up with what He is doing and be sure that we are following Him in the midst of it all.
With the help of our interns from Arlington Baptist Church and the Pleasant Garden Super Summer Sports Camp, we spent June and July building momentum for 412 Church. At the same time, however, we realized that our Wednesday night Bible study was not growing in the way we had hoped. Though the members themselves were experiencing some spiritual growth, our numbers had stagnated, and most of the people attending were members of other churches. We wanted our church to be made up of new believers and people in need of a church home; it was never our intent to start a church by taking members from other congregations. As we built momentum in the community and began to examine the effectiveness of our Wednesday night studies, we decided to hold a community interest meeting the week after sports camp.
For Greg, the meeting was a bit of a Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:36-40). If the meeting drew a crowd, we knew that God was moving us forward. If not, we knew that we would need to reevaluate. When the only attendees were core team members and people from LFCC who supported us, God answered our prayer clearly. Our core team met the following week and unanimously decided that we needed to move into a more focused time of prayer and to re-adjust our outreach strategy. We challenged the members of our Wednesday night study to either commit to joining us or to commit more fully at their own churches, and on Wednesday, August 15, we held our last Wednesday night Bible study.
The night of that final meeting, Pastor Ken of Living Faith visited to share some additional news with our core team: after six fruitful years, Living Faith would be merging with a new church plant in the Moon area. We had no idea what this would mean for us (since LFCC was our sending church here in Pittsburgh), but we saw how God could use this merger for the greater good of His kingdom. As we have interacted with the new plant–Vintage Church–we have grown more excited about the ways that God will move in the city as a whole through what is going on all around us.
Though unsure of our role with Vintage Church, our core team prepared to move into its new phase. But then God began moving in their lives, as well. By August 17, two of our core team families found out that they would be moving. It was evident that God was the one orchestrating both moves, but it meant that our core team had also gone from four families to two in a matter of days. All around us, other people with whom we had been developing relationships began to move as well.
It became abundantly clear that God wanted us to pause our efforts at planting 412 Church. While we were confused and a bit hurt by this clear change of direction, we desperately wanted to be sure that we stayed in tune with God and His plans during this time. We spent time praying, searching the Scriptures, and seeking wise counsel from trusted believers both here and outside of our context. God indeed was moving, and we wanted to follow Him no matter where that would take us.
Thanks to the prayers of so many of you, God gave us a mighty faith during all of this seeming chaos. He reminded us over and over again that He has been in control every step of the way. On our journey to that moment, we could look back at so many “Ebenezer stones”—stones of remembrance like those the Israelite people erected to look back upon and be reminded to say, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). We knew without a shadow of a doubt that God brought us to Pittsburgh, and we trusted that He would show us our next steps.
Greg quickly realized that God still had work for us to do in church planting and in the city of Pittsburgh. For months, the Lord had been bringing two passages into Greg’s life, and he finally realized why when all of this came to a head. When Jonah was upset at God for the death of a small plant, God responded, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:10-11) God reminded Greg that He loves the people of Pittsburgh even more than we do and that He has a plan for them.
Then, in Habakkuk 2, God tells the prophet to “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” God had given Greg a vision for churches reaching the lost all over Pittsburgh, and though this passage, He reminded him that His plan was still to save His people here. In spite of seeming setbacks, God was moving, and we were going to get to be a part of it.
*Since this is such a long story, it will be continued in a second post.