by Mark Lee
It was the second year of our brand new church and I was convinced that God was telling me something – it’s time to quit the ministry. Never had an affair. Didn’t steal anything from the church. Relationship with the family was going great. I was tired and I didn’t know how to distinguish God’s voice from my own fatigue anymore.
I was convinced that I was the problem and it was time for me to quit. Now before I end up depressing you, let me take you back a couple years.
We had a dream to plant in an area that was known to kill churches. Churches and businesses alike saw the promise of a brand new, growing community in Southern California and envisioned a gold mine of growth. It was big. It was new. It was beautiful. The sales people were prettier than the showrooms, and they all assured you that you didn’t even need a down payment to buy a house. Perfect!
However, when you looked beyond the nicely manicured lawns you found that churches were non-existent. They opened. They closed. Few survived and fewer thrived.
When we started VantagePoint Church, God’s favor was evident. Preview service #1 – 220. Grand Opening – #350. Easter #1 – 414. Fall Series Kickoff – 611. We even grew during our first summer (I was convinced it was only a matter of time before publishers came knocking for a book on how to grow a church during the summer)!
I was on a high every time we broke a new barrier, but there was never time to celebrate because we were too busy moving forward. When I preached, people laughed, cried and raised their hands, so I never left the pulpit. I preached nearly every week for 2 years.
Then we moved facilities. Everything about it just made sense. It was a gorgeous, 550 seat performing arts center with a million lighting cans and a couple spotlights that we simply referred to as “shekinah.” But that’s when people started leaving. The church “felt different” they said. The same faces were reporting for duty looking frayed and when a friend told me that I wasn’t the same guy I used to be, I began to wonder, “maybe I made a mistake.”
We started sounding 5 alarm fires when we were just going through normal growing pains. The church didn’t even level out, we just weren’t growing the way I had planned…and that was the struggle.
My plan v. His plan. My fame v. God’s fame. My expectations v. God’s expectations. Instead of focusing on my own faithfulness to God, my spiritual report card was always tied to a number that could never be high enough. If we could only reach 250, I’d be happy. Then 250 became 500. 500 became 750.
Happiness was a mirage that was always 250 people beyond my grasp.
I never stopped to see the hidden blessings of life change all around me. Marriages were being healed. Addictions were being overcome. We were adorning the gospel through the way we loved our community. I’ve come to realize that I may never be pursued to write that book, but that’s ok. This is better.