here for the first post. Here's a recap of the steps we used to make the decision:
- Seeking wise counsel from godly friends
- We visited the Philadelphia area
- We participated in the full assessment process with the North American Mission Board
- We prayed more!
The next step in the process was going through the full assessment process with NAMB. Jodi and I flew back to Pennsylvania. This time we went to Pittsburgh. Overall, we found Pittsburgh to be a dreary and lonely place to be and we thanked God he wasn't calling us there. The assessment process evaluated various areas of our lives including our ability to plant a church, the strength of our marriage, and our willingness to exercise faith. The biggest concern for the assessment team was the issue of calling. Other than that, after some clarifying statements, everything seemed to be a go, if we could answer the issue of calling. We committed to pray until Dec. 2016 for clarity from God about staying or going.
This brings us to the final step. Again, we prayed. This time specifically about the issue of calling. In early June, our friend David sent us a list of 8 indicators of a call to plant a church. Here they are:
- A pattern of multiplication
- Entrepreneurial personality
- Confirmation from others
- Pull you can't resist
- Buy in from spouse
- A Sending church
- A sense you can't do it
We felt like 7 of the 8 were done deals. #4 was the hang-up. Did we have that? That's what we began praying. If you want us to go, God, you're going to have to confirm this. As we prayed we consistently ran headlong into the reality that statistically speaking, as best we understood from everything we'd been told, only about 6% of the state of PA were probably believers. If that was true, then 4700 of the 5000 people who live in the city limits of Oxford are destined for an eternity separated from Christ, with the appearance of no strong evangelical, gospel-oriented church in sight. How could we stay, if we knew this and keep being drawn back it? In Manchester, we figure there are about 45 Southern Baptist churches within 30 miles and there are a number of other gospel-oriented churches also. Our estimate is that about 25-30% of people across TN probably are Christians. If both of those things are true, that means there's a greater saturation of churches and Christians in Tennessee than there is in Pennsylvania. We believe in our leaving, that God's raising up people in Manchester and surrounding areas to continue that work. Encounter Life will continue to Love God, Live His Mission, Love People and Lead them to Follow. Our leaving is multiply our gospel efforts.
For us, the call to make disciples and get the gospel to as many people as possible means we're willing to give up our preferences and desires for the sake of carrying the gospel. We can't escape this reality and it's compelling us to go and tell! Throughout this process we'll talk more about that! The next post will talk about why we chose Oxford! In future posts I'll also talk about how we plan to start the church, how you can pray for us, how churches and individuals can partner with us and lots of other topics! Got a question? Leave a comment and perhaps I'll try to write a post about that too!