I will never forget the moment when my wife Danna told me we were expecting our first child. I had longed for this very conversation, but now that it was actually happening I was in shock and did not know whether to laugh or cry.
Being told you are pregnant can evoke wildly different emotions and reactions. For some, there can be an idealised view of parenthood. Mental pictures of sweet little children at play dates, impeccably behaved trips to shopping centres, and constant overwhelming feelings of love for our offspring.
For others it can seem devastatingly negative as they are confronted with the genuine difficulties of having a baby. Lack of sleep, disrupted routines, relationship stress, lack of physical intimacy, nappies, the baby blues, financial pressure and of course the pain of childbirth itself.
What I have only just come to realise is that church ministry of any kind and especially church planting can evoke very similar responses.
Some come to Christian ministry wearing rose coloured glasses. What could be better than working for the bride for whom Jesus died? Imagine investing in eternal souls for the glory of God! Surely each day will bring joy upon joy, victory upon victory as the church goes forward to storm the gates of hell. In church planting, there can be the assumption that all that is required is to preach the Bible, get a decent band, then painlessly and in no time at all people will be born again and our communities transformed.
But for others it can be the opposite extreme. This was my experience in the lead up to planting City on a Hill Geelong. I began optimistically, but as time passed I began to increasingly focus on all the difficulties and costs involved in planting a new church. I saw the uncertainty, the risk, the possibility of failure, the hard work, the financial challenges, the burden of leadership and responsibility, the family pressures and the needs of the many broken people that in God’s grace He would bring to us. These costs are real, and their burden can be very heavy.
But now, a few months into it, I realised that in my focus on all the very real challenges of church planting that I had forgotten what led me to it in the first place—the joy and necessity of seeing the kingdom of Jesus Christ go forward. I had spent so much time focusing on the difficulties of having a baby that I had forgotten the amazing joy of seeing new life born into the world!
Romans 8:23-24 says "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved."
Having a child is joy and pain mixed together. So it is with Christian ministry. We live and labour in a world that is in transition, with people who are in transition, and we ourselves are in transition. At times we do indeed groan inwardly. But we also rejoice at the saving power of the gospel and the new life, light and birth that it brings.
Moreover, we know that these pains of child birth are temporary. One day they will be replaced by fullness of joy inexpressible and unimaginable at the full redemption that awaits us. But until that day let us embrace both the joy and the pain of life with Jesus and the ministry he has called us to, remembering that ultimately the responsibility for safe delivery rests with God and not with us.
For more information about City on a Hill Geelong and how you can partner or pray for this church plant, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or join us for our Geelong 'Vision Night' on May 23, for more details visit cityonahill.com.au/geelong