A good friend gave me some very sound advice recently:
"To survive in ministry, you need to learn to hold people loosely, Jess. They are God's people, NOT yours..."
Ouch. Not an easy task for me. I am definitely an all-or-nothing type and I struggle with keeping people at a distance. I invest fully, quickly and am unguarded (to a fault, most times) in my friendships. But I am beginning to see the great wisdom in her statement.
When Dave resigned from First Baptist, we knew it would be at great personal cost. We were leaving a comfortable place; an extended family of dear friends and venturing into the unknown... For as long as I could remember my Sunday church experience had been exactly the same. I sat in the same place in the same wooden pew in a large sanctuary staring at a huge, beautiful cross. I was now sitting on my grandmother's couch staring at a ghastly family photo of me in junior high wearing pink and white skorts. This was my new church and it was just, well... different.
A small handful of people left FBC when we did. Some came with us and are still with us. Others chose to attend local, established churches. Some started with us, decided it wasn't for them and moved on. Church Planting statistics say that approximately 30% of the starting core will leave at some point during the first year. There are days that I have to remind myself of this, hourly. It is hard for me and I find myself questioning EVERYTHING. Is it us? Do they not think God is at work here? IS God at work here? What changed? Who will leave next? Are they sick of my skorts, too??
Satan plagues me with doubt. I HATE it primarily and especially because I know how much he LOVES it. Little things that normally wouldn't bother me have a tremendous negative impact and hurt worse than they should. But God, in ALL His goodness, has always kept Grandmums living room full and has brought many new faces, especially in the last few weeks. He brings encouraging phone calls and emails at exactly the right time. Every person God has called to be a part of this church is of His choosing, not mine. And the opposite is also true of those that are not there. That is part of God's plan, too. I need to find my peace in that. I DO have peace in that.
Because they are His people, not mine.