January 19, 2012

An Interview with Amanda Jones:: The First Year of Church Planting

In our first year of church planting, I wondered if what we were experiencing--the exhaustion, the doubt, the discouragement, the feeling of pushing an unruly boulder up a really tall mountain, the exhilaration of wild faith--was typical. In hindsight, I recognize that it's pretty typical, that God usually uses the first year of church planting to break us of our self-sufficiency , which I recently wrote about:
The beginning stages of church planting feels like everything in life hangs in the balance. Will the church make it? What happens if it doesn't? Are we completely insane? Can God be trusted? What is our Plan B? Should we have a Plan B?
My husband and I spent many sleepless nights trying to concretely answer those questions, but in the end, all we had was either faith or flailing despair. Sadly, I often chose despair.
Looking back, I realize that those days of despair were really withdrawals. All of my life, I had depended on myself, controlled circumstances (or at least tried), and avoided any ministry outside what I was comfortable with. I also had always had a people buffer: people to lead, people to disciple, people to encourage me or validate my ministry. But like a soul tsunami, church planting completely and swiftly wiped out all my self-made security. For perhaps the very first time, I had an opportunity to believe God and to live from faith. 
Many of you are in your first year of church planting, trying to find your footing. Perhaps you can relate to my first-year struggles. I found it helpful in those days to compare notes with other church planting wives, if for no other reason to know that there are sisters out there working toward the same end of seeing Jesus proclaimed.

Amanda Jones is one of those church planting wives. She and her husband Curtis launched Bayou City Fellowship in Houston on September 11, 2011. I asked her to share about their first few months of planting. On Monday, she will share about the pressures of church planting and dealing with criticism. My prayer is that you'll be encouraged through her words.
What are you learning about yourself and the Lord in this first year of planting?
I’m learning more and more that God is trustworthy and faithful. I kept a journal during 2011 to record the ways God answered our prayers and showed us His power. It was impossible to keep track of all the things He did - there were so many! We were way out on a limb with God, but the view of His faithfulness was spectacular.

What I’m learning about myself is that I’m absolutely desperate for God’s grace! Still! I don’t have what it takes to be a pastor’s wife. And I certainly don’t deserve to be one. The first time I read your blog, I wondered why you had titled it “Grace Covers Me” because it didn’t scream “church planting” to me. About five minutes into our launch I understood. I’m desperate for His grace every single second of the day.

You are planting in your hometown, perhaps even trying to reach people that you’ve known for a long time. Your physical surroundings haven’t changed, but how has your perspective changed regarding your city? What are the joys and difficulties of planting in your hometown?
My perspective has changed in that I feel less like the city is here for the good of my family and more like my family is here for the good of the city. I’m very aware that everything I do outside of my home is an opportunity to share the Gospel in word and in deed. (And really, that goes for inside the home too.)

We have definitely seen advantages and disadvantages to planting in our hometown. On one hand, we know the city well and have a lot of support here. My family’s support has been absolutely incredible. It’s been a gift to get to work together to build the church. Recently while Curtis was preaching, I got to serve with my mom, sister and brother-in-law in the kids ministry. How often does that happen? We had so much fun. Their involvement has been a huge blessing. We have always been a close family, but this experience has definitely strengthened our bonds.

Curtis and I spent a few months serving in England and then the next three years serving in Irving, Texas, so I do not take it for granted that we’re getting to do this in my hometown. My husband is actually from Springfield, Missouri, so his perspective on this would be a little different from mine.

On the other hand, since we already have a lot of relationships in place here in Houston, we have to get over ourselves and not be offended if everyone we invite to church doesn’t jump on board. We can’t take it personally if a friend doesn’t accept our invitation to come to church. And if they do come, we can’t be bitter if they don’t decide to join us. That would be miserable.

I think the hardest part of this journey was when we were sharing our vision for BCF with friends in an effort to put together our core team. Waiting to see who God was calling to join us or not was difficult. It was a very raw, vulnerable, and emotionally charged time. I’m glad to be done with that season and thankful that Jesus got us through it! Ultimately, the Lord crafted an incredible core team that has blown us away with their faith and hard work. He knew exactly what He was doing when He called each one.

Read the rest of Amanda's interview in my book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart, in which she discusses spiritual warfare, criticism, and feeling pressure in ministry. 

You can find Amanda on Twitter, on her blog, or on the blog she contributes to with her mom and her sister. You can read the second part of the interview here.