During this church planting journey, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in training that has truly been life changing. As a prequel to these trainings, I’ve had to complete many assignments. One in particular focused on the why of my desire to plant a church. Their logic is when you find your why for church planting, you find the kind of church you want to plant.
So, to help me find my why, they had me write my story. Even though I thought this was a stupid exercise, I did it anyway. And, well, I’ll say this… these church planting trainers know what they’re doing!
As I wrote my story, I’ve concluded the kind of church God has called me to plant is a conglomeration and microcosm of my own story. So, over the next few blogs, I will share my story with you - which is the why behind Lifehouse Newport News.
I always joke when I say I was born on the pew at Bethel Temple Church in Hampton, VA. This isn’t true, but it sure felt like it. From my earliest days, I remember being at church. When I was two years old, my mom served in Children’s ministry as the Pre-School Director. Once my sister and I were out of the pre-school age range, she went on to manage the church book store. For as long as I can remember, she was there every time the doors were open - which meant I was too.
I was at church for at least four to five hours on Sundays and a few hours on Wednesdays - either being in kid’s church or helping mom in the bookstore. I responded to (just a guess) over 100 altar calls in kid’s church to receive Christ - just because I wanted to get up and do something!
Although I spent all of this time in church and accepted Him as a child, I fell away from God in my teenage years. It was then I went on a journey to find acceptance because honestly, I had always, in some way, felt like an outsider.
See, I have something only one percent of the world has, and that is: I stutter.
It is something I’ve dealt with my whole life. It got really intense in my teenage years. It made me feel alone, abandoned, and like I said, an outcast. I was so lost inside and to find acceptance, I focused on sports, fun, friends, and girls. Needless to say, Jesus and the Church were not on my radar. In fact, I was angry at God because I stuttered.
It’s not surprising my search for acceptance led me to hang around the wrong crowd.
I’ll never forget my rock bottom moment. There I was, a 15 year-old boy, sitting in my room, trying to wrap my mind around the news - that if confirmed - would change my life forever.
I sat there thinking about all the decisions I had made that got me to this point.
How did I get here? If this is true, what’s going to happen to the rest of my life?
That night, for some reason, I picked up a Bible that was in my room and turned to 2 Corinthians 1 and started reading. Verses 3-4 say this: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
A compassionate God met me right where I was that night. His comfort and grace sought me and found me. But, I wouldn’t let Him change my life just yet, but it was definitely the start of my wake up call.
When I think of the thousands of people who, like me, hit their rock bottom - That’s WHY I want Lifehouse to exist. I want them to have a safe place to find comfort, grace and the life-changing power of an encounter with Jesus.
When I think of the thousands of people who, like me, feel like an outcast for whatever their reason is - That’s WHY I want Lifehouse to exist. I want them to know they are loved and accepted exactly as they are. There’s no need to clean up or get their life together in order to be worthy of acceptance.
I get excited just thinking about how God is going to use Lifehouse to bring life change to the people on the Peninsula.
Back to my story.. A week later, I did indeed find out if my life would change forever. In true cliffhanger fashion, you’ll have to wait till I release the next blog post to find out.