at the time i’m writing this, one year ago today, emily, titus and i had just arrived in america, after leaving europe (our home for the past 7plus years). our hearts were filled with both sadness and anticipation of what God was going to do in and through us as we pursued church planting.
as we fast-forward one year to today, not much has changed. there is still a sadness that creeps in now and again when we think of our dear friends in czech and the country that we love, yet great anticipation of how God is going to use us.
i write this post as a way of reflecting on our year here and the themes that have been prevelent.
this is most visibly seen in titus. when i look at pictures of how small he was when we flew last year and compare him to the little, talkative boy that we have running around our house, i am amazed. but, of course there has been growth in emily and i too. a better understanding of who we are, both individually and as a couple, a clearer sense of what we’re called to, and a deeper knowledge of the Lord and His goodness.
i was talking with one of my friends and former czech missionary a couple of weeks ago and i confessed to him my judgmental view of him when he moved back to the states. you see, i saw him move back to the states and struggle to find a ministry. i would look at him and say, “he’s totally skilled and capable. why can’t he find a place?” now a year later, and we’ve postponed the church plant, are working little jobs to make ends meet, and i’m probably going to have to get a full-time job soon. in talking to him i realized that if i were looking at myself from a distance, i would be judging myself!
the adjusting back to america has been different than we thought. i think we expected to have some challenges, but never guessed that one of the challenges would be needing to wait before we planted the church. this has been particularly hard on me. for my thirty-five years of life, I’ve always had a goal to work towards, either finishing school (high school, ASU, then seminary), then raising support and preparing to move to Czech, then organizing camps in Czech, then moving back to the states. While we still have ahead of us the goal of planting a church, its just a bit far off to really work towards it. this waiting and being has caused me to really rest and abide in Christ. its also helped me to do ministry in my everyday life with neighbors.
i’ve preached more this year than the rest of my life combined. its been great to be in the regular preaching rotation, to gain confidence, and be around guys who offer correction and affirmation which helps me to improve in my preaching.
before we decided to move back, i had a conversation with chris, our pastor, and told him one of the things i’m not looking forward to about moving to america, is being caught up in all of the theological divisions and distinctions that drive a wedge between the american Church. he said, one of the best parts of being in a church plant is that he doesn’t have to deal with all of that.
its interesting, because in the last year being a part of a theological cohort that chris helps run, i’ve read more theology than i did the entire time i was in Czech. this has been far better than i expected. i have had some long-held assumptions challenged, some others confirmed, but i feel like my understanding of the word of God and his mission for the world has grown exponentially.
if you’re interested, here are a few books that have made an impact in the past year:
The Drama of Scriptures_Goheen & Bartholomew
Foolishness to the Greeks_Lesslie Newbigin
The King Jesus Gospel_Scot McKnight
Church in the Making_Ben Arment (strictly church-planting)
one of the first things that came into my mind when we made the decision to move back to america was of owning a boat. i love the lake and waterskiing. i always hoped i would own a boat. but for that to be the first thing i thought about scared me. it made me worried that we’d get sucked into the american dream. but being connected at missio dei and the theological cohort has continued to solidify some of my critiques of western christianity and cause us to be even more gospel-focused in this country. its still hard when confronted with the american idols and our hearts longing to worship them, but remembering the truths of the gospel and the truths we learned in Czech has helped to keep us (mostly) gospel-focused.
there are certainly other themes, both big and small, that could be written about, but i’ll leave it at this for now.