Moving Forward

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. O him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

Over the last few months, you have been faithful to pray for us as we sought God’s will for our family and ministry. God sustained us through His power and your prayers, and we are excited to tell you that He has given us direction in answer to those prayers. At the end of July, I officially accepted a pastoral role at the City campus of Vintage Church. We covet your continued prayers as the church and our family continue in a time of transition, but we are in awe of what God has done and is doing to reach people in Pittsburgh. The Lord has greatly answered many prayers that have been offered up both for our family and for the church in this city.

66429942_2831557770193389_216507609174245376_nI will serve alongside lead pastor Rob Wilton by helping him guide the people of the city campus toward accomplishing Vintage’s mission to live the gospel, serve the city, and be the church. I will continue to serve as a shepherding pastor to the people of the city campus on Mt. Washington, responsible for oversight of discipleship ministries such as small groups, children’s ministry, and guest connections.

Just this summer, we have seen the need for a staff member uniquely dedicated to serving the people of the city campus. Courtney and Joanne from last month’s blog are perfect examples of the type of people we are getting to serve. Baptism is great, but soon after she was baptized, Joanne started to go through some trials. The christian life only intensifies once we decide to follow him. We were able to be there when she needed medication for worsening brain aneurysms, we were there when Jackson needed a ride to church after his brother died, and we were there to connect Courtney with seasoned believers to help guide her in her walk. This is the kind of “on the ground” ministry you support when you pray for us!

67354596_2842918425723990_8744864971583651840_nSince Vintage is still a church plant, they cannot logistically afford to pay a large number of staff members. In order for me to serve full-time in this role, I will have to secure outside funding for my salary. I would like to ask you to prayerfully consider joining the Lord’s work in Pittsburgh by committing to support us through prayer and financially in 2020. Currently, I work part-time at Vintage and part-time as a warehouse chaplain. Megan also works part-time to supplement our family’s income. Our goal, however, is for me to be able to step aside from chaplain work and devote a full-time schedule to the people of Pittsburgh and Vintage City. If you are interested in partnering with us financially, please feel free to call or email me! (gregsoutheastern@gmail.com, 609-802-6895)

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Summer Immersion

The summer has just started, but its been full of big events. We hosted the Super Summer Sports Camp again this year with great success. We had an average of 80 kids in Crafton coming out to play sports and learn about Jesus each day of camp. We wanted to try hosting this same camp on Mt. Washington, as well, in order to minister in the area closer to the Pittsburgh City campus. That camp started with about 6 kids. God graciously held off the rain each day even though it has felt like monsoon season in Pittsburgh for the last month. 62470048_2764370550245445_268360577540161536_n

Two of the biggest events, though, were our baptism services on pentecost Sunday. Between the two Vintage campuses, we baptized three sisters in Christ! In the weeks leading up to the baptisms, I had the privilege of sitting down with two of the ladies to hear their stories and help them understand what it means to follow Jesus.

Their testimonies broke my heart, and I heard again the tragic stories that sin writes in all of us.62391357_2764370660245434_5176587927110549504_n.jpg But then I got to rejoice with them as I heard them each recount the new birth that Jesus had given them–the same new birth He gives all who trust Him. Both ladies had struggled and run from God, but now they proclaim Him to everyone they know. Both of their lives were broken, but now they are being made whole. They are now plugged into our church and seeking Jesus with their new family.

Stories like theirs are why we do what we do. We are still seeking the Lord to see if we will continue to do this work in Pittsburgh or if He is calling us elsewhere. Your prayers and your support helped make this moment happen, and they are strengthening us to continue working in spite of so many unknowns for our family. Thank You!

You can check the baptism video below.

Transition: change, transform, adapt, adjust

VCPitt_headshots-0022.jpgAs I re-read our last post, this stands out to me: “God has been behind every victory on the journey so far, and He will be the fuel for the journey ahead. Thank you for fueling the mission here in Pittsburgh with your support and prayers.”

You may not be aware of it, but your prayers have been fueling us through yet another transition here in the ‘Burgh. As Megan and I settled in at The Well Church, God was working behind the scenes to orchestrate yet another big change in our lives. In a mighty answer to prayer, Pastor Adam was offered a job with the Send Relief arm of NAMB. His new role, however, meant the need to pursue the best way forward for The Well. Through much prayer and deliberation, leaders around Pittsburgh agreed that both The Well and another church you may remember hearing about, Vintage Church, would be “better together.” Thus, at the end of March, just three weeks after my whirlwind trip to NC, we were informed that The Well would be merging with Vintage Church–the same church that merged with LFCC back in August.

Questions arose, from us and from our partners: Why would God lead us to The Well just to have Vintage Church follow so closely behind? If we were supposed to join with Vintage, wouldn’t we have done so the first time? What does this mean for the Lawrence family? But God has allowed us to see how beautiful it is that we are at The Well during this time–now the Pittsburgh City campus of Vintage Church. We have already walked through a transition exactly like this one. We have seen God work, and we have processed the emotions that come along with sudden change. We have been able to take what we learned through the first merger and truly support Adam and Ashley and the members of the Pittsburgh City campus as they navigate what the merger means for them each on a personal level and for the church as a whole.

57840070_10162222892215112_4145495656640806912_nThe Well officially launched as the Pittsburgh City campus of Vintage Church on Easter Sunday, but there is much transition to come in the next few months. In each and every step, we are seeking the Lord and His plans for our family. Right now, we know that God has us at this campus through August, when the merger should be finalized. Greg will be serving as the Connect Director, working to connect visitors, new believers, and growing Christians to Christ and to one another. He is also keeping his hands open to whatever the Lord may bring, even if it means moving on to another opportunity.

57504679_2677479652267869_3697612726097412096_nDuring this time, we covet your continued prayers. We know that God’s power shown through your support is what brought us through the last few months of change, and we want to continue to glorify Him no matter where He leads. If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to me. We will continue to seek the Lord and keep you updated as we know more. Lives have been changed because of your prayers and will continue to be changed because of the foundation you helped us lay. And please keep praying for this city; God is on the move in Pittsburgh!

Fuel for the Journey

 

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At the very beginning of the month, I (Greg) had the privilege of taking a trip down to North Carolina to visit friends and supporters of what God is doing here in Pittsburgh. I stayed with a different family every night for five days of travel. I am so thankful for the love and care I received on this trip. If your are one of the many people who met with me or let me stay at your place, thank you very much! Pretty much every hour was filled with seeing old friends or making new ones. I was reminded of God’s goodness in hard times through friends at Arlington Baptist church. As a part of Bay Leaf Baptist’s annual Mission Sunday, I had a chance to share what God is doing in Pittsburgh and encourage many people to join a mission team that will be traveling to the city this year. And at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, we dreamed of what God is going to do next through the leadership both there and in the Burgh.

IMG_5731Though it was a whiplash inducing trip, it was exactly what we needed. In each region of NC, people reminded me of something I needed. Whether it was, “God is faithful in the hard times,”  “We want to support you and Pittsburgh,” or “We are praying for you,” I was reminded that God has been behind every victory on the journey so far, and He will be the fuel for the journey ahead. Thank you for fueling the mission here in Pittsburgh with your support and prayers.

img-5629In the meantime, God has continued to move at The Well Church. As Discipleship Pastor, I have been getting to know our community groups and praying that God will multiply our leaders. Megan and I hosted two dinners, each with rising leaders in our church who voiced strong interest in leading such a group. God is answering our desire to multiply so that we can make His name great in all of our neighborhoods. Pray that we will follow God and to do His work.

I also had the chance to preach twice this month. If you’d like to give the sermons a listen, you can find them here: http://thewellpgh.org/resources/sermons. I preached the messages entitled “Rooted in Community” and “Rooted in Prayer.”

Love you guys!

-Greg

“Well” On Our Way

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As I officially stepped into the role of Associate Pastor of Discipleship at The Well Church this month, the Lawrence family hit the ground running to kick off 2019. Like many things in church planting, there is both excitement and trepidation as to how the year will go. But God knows our worries, and He has already given us a sweet reminder that He is still orchestrating things here.

Almost exactly two years ago, I was asked to preach a four-week series at The Well Church. The church had just started meeting in the Mt. Washington community center, and the sermon series focused on getting a fresh start with God. I loved filling in for Adam, and I was excited to preach a whole series. After the service on the fourth and final Sunday, a visitor approached to shake my hand and pull me aside. His name was Frank, and he is very tall and intimidating (think mob-boss level intimidation here). At first, I was afraid I had said something to upset him. But when he looked down at me and simply said, “I think you’re right; I need a fresh start with God,” I was blown away. God had already been moving in Frank’s heart, and I was thrilled to get to be a part of his story. Immediately, Austin–the worship leader at The Well–followed up with Frank and his family. A few months later, Frank was later baptized and joined the church.

Fast forward to the present day–January of 2019. I’m anxiously starting this new role wondering if I’ll make a kingdom difference this year. Then, on January 6th, The Well had a chance to celebrate the ordinance of baptism as a church body, and God used it to place the picture of His power in front of me again. Since last year, Frank has been growing in the Lord and inviting his coworkers to church constantly. One of those coworkers is a man named Josh, and his baptism was the one we were celebrating. Josh has been changed by Jesus thanks to Frank’s obedience to share God’s love with his friends and coworkers.

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As I stood there taking this picture, God reminded me that He changed the world through a chain of discipleship just like this one. His plan for the redemption of the world is simply a matter of each believer obeying God by passing on the hope of Jesus to the next guy. As I start the year as a discipleship pastor in this amazing church plant, please pray that God will use not just me, but each and every believer at The Well to make disciples who make disciples. We want it to go so far beyond “Greg-to-Frank-to-Josh” as we pray to reach Mt. Washington, Crafton, and all of Pittsburgh with the love of Christ.

2018 Update, Part I

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.

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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.

2018 Update, Part II

Welcome back to the story! God is surely moving in Pittsburgh, and we are so thankful that you are a part of it.

Once we knew that we would remain in Pittsburgh, we still had to determine where we fit into God’s plan. Over time, it became clear that God had prepared a place for Greg–and for our whole family–at a young church on Mt. Washington called The Well Church. The Well Church is only three years old. When they started, 8-10 people met each week. Since then, they have grown to 60-70 people each week. On top of that, they have baptized 14 adults in the last three years! God is moving at The Well Church, and we are excited to be a part of that.

The Well Church

One way that God showed us His plan for our family was through a NAMB training event Greg attended in Boston. The pastor of The Well Church, a friend named Adam Sewell, happened to be attending the same conference. During one session, the speaker began to challenge those present to discern whether their role in church planting aligned more with the role Paul played in the early church or more with the roles men like Timothy and Titus played. The speaker suggested that God has designed His church to need both people gifted like a Paul–naturally skilled at evangelism and visioning, driven to infiltrate new ground with the gospel–and those gifted like Timothy–with gifts of discipleship, more talented at keeping that new ground by helping new believers mature into christians who can lead and sustain the church.

Since The Well is a new church plant, Adam recognized the need to establish disciples and leaders within his church, but he was gifted like a Paul. Greg, on the other hand, realized during the same session that he was more naturally inclined to serve the church as a Timothy. Later that day, Adam shared with Greg that he had written in his notes, “I need a guy like Greg Lawrence.” Adam asked Greg to pray about whether or not joining up with The Well Church might be God’s leading. There was much Scripture searching and prayer and council before and after this moment, but it was a key in solidifying our new direction.

Greg will officially come on staff with Adam and The Well in January 2019. No one at The Well is full time, and we will need to continue to raise support for Greg’s position, but God has been preparing us and our supporters for this moment. In addition to his new role, Greg will continue to work as a chaplain with Marketplace Chaplains. Megan has been blessed with the ability to work from home as a researcher and editor, and she will continue to do so. We are trusting the Lord to provide the remaining support we need to cover Greg’s income at The Well. If you want more information about partnering with us through financial giving, please contact Greg.

This season was a trying one for us, but as you have prayed, we have truly seen passages like James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1 play out in our lives:

“ . . . [N]ow for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6b-7).

Through your prayers, God granted us faith that has now resulted in steadfastness in us and praise and honor for Him. We experienced His presence and guidance and strengthening in ways that can only be attributed to the prayers of His people praying over us words that we didn’t even have for ourself. For this, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. God certainly changed our plans, but in a strange way, this detour has led us even more directly to what God was calling us to do. We get to work with a thriving church plant in a city we love. We are joining the work the Lord is already doing, which has always been our hearts’ desire.

We are excited to fill you in this upcoming year on all that God is doing here in Pittsburgh as He establishes new churches in the city for His glory. Thank you for your support and love. And merry Christmas!

 

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