Tuesday, September 8, 2015

chairs and celebrations

There were over 300 borrowed chairs that needed to be folded and loaded into the back of a truck to return to their middle school home for good.  

They were the chairs that for 3 months had been used by hundreds of people who entered the doors of an old knitting mill, turned church, to hear about the faith, hope, and love of Christ and witness the birth of something new.  Those chairs had seen their last days in that little warehouse 'home' we established in the middle of the city.   A church for the city.  A place and a people always intended to be offered up as a gift, not held onto possessively.

Each time I folded a chair and sent it away, I envisioned the faces of all the people I had seen sitting in them during those hot summer months.  I imagined what may have been going through their hearts and their minds as they worshipped, experienced community together, and heard the truth of the gospel (some for the first time) in those very chairs.  

The chairs weren't particularly comfortable, but neither is the life that God calls us too.  
Full of hope - yes.  
Full of love and peace and joy and grace - absolutely!  
Full of comfort - not necessarily. 

The week before we officially launched New Charlotte Church the old brown metal chairs were exchanged for new ones.  That was five years ago.
The new chairs were soft and comfortable.  
They were covered in clean black fabric.  
We all appreciated the new chairs.  
But I was a bit nostalgic watching the old chairs stacked high and rolled out.  They were, and still are, a reminder to me that
You don't need the perfect circumstances to begin building something important.
Stepping out in faith towards a dream that is still hazy is never comfortable.
And there are days that are filled with a coldness and a hardness not unlike those chairs, but those days and those chairs served a purpose.  They bridged the gap from where we were to where God was calling us to be.

This weekend I will travel back to North Carolina to celebrate the church our family was called to help plant five years ago.
I will hug tightly people who feel like family.
I will cry tears over the transformation I have witnessed in individuals, families, schools, an entire community.
I will sing praises to a God who has blown all of our minds with his abundance.
I will stand with arms outstretched and hands open wide because this whole thing was made possible not in our grasping for control but in our our letting go in faith.

Many pioneering hearts stood up alongside us to move toward the dream of New Charlotte Church.   Many sacrifices out of obedience were made along the way. 
It wasn't always easy and it wasn't always comfortable but those of us who remember the days of the old, brown, hard chairs also remember the faithfulness that God showed as we watched them fill.  More than anyone else we appreciated the new soft cushiony chairs and every other countless gift that followed, because we knew...
   ...only God.

For all the shortcomings of the local church, I still love her.  
And this particular one will always hold a special place in my heart.  Wherever you are in this big wide world I hope you have a community like this - one that offers piles of grace and heaps of truth and contains people who are willing to get messy with you in every season of life, carrying a candle of hope that always leads back home.
Happy Birthday New Charlotte.