By Caleb Jones
Yesterday, Coquina packed up all of our stuff to leave Ketterlinus Elementary School and move into a new space where we will gather for worship moving forward. It was a great day of remembering what God has done in that space at Ketterlinus over the years, praying for the school, and praying for the other church (Reverb) that we’ve shared that space with most recently. Outside of the way we as a body celebrated, Charlie (my 6 year old) is not totally convinced he likes the idea of having our worship service somewhere else. For the last 2 years, he has gotten up with me almost every Sunday - religiously you might say - to arrive early at the school and help me set up for our worship service. The main reason he flies out of bed and throws on the first clothes he can find is that he trusts we will stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, where he gets a sausage, egg, and cheese croissant, 1 donut, and a ½ pint of milk. It’s become a Sunday morning tradition of ours, and it’s one that he loves. After we get the food, we’ll arrive at the school where he eats, plays on the iPad, and socializes with the set up crew and any other kids that arrive early as well.
He likes this routine, and changing locations means that Dunkin’ Donuts isn't on the way to church anymore. We’ll establish some new traditions soon enough, but right now it's hard for him to think of something better than a 7:30 a.m. donut. I’ve also been explaining to him that we will be meeting in a church building - a sacred space. We’ve always taken care of the space we used at Ketterlinus. Many times our singing, praying, and studying the Bible have made us so aware of Emmanuel, God with us! However it is still a cafeteria, so before and after service (and sometimes during) any one of our 25 kids under the age of 12 could be seen sprinting down the halls, hiding behind a row of chairs, or zig-zagging in and out of the pipe and drape. As a church family, we are going to learn to treat this new space differently, not just because we are using another church’s space, but because we do believe that the space is separate, set aside for Holy purposes. That doesn't sound fun to Charlie, but we will get there together. I’ve got to re-learn that one with him as we start this new chapter together.
Finally, we come to the real, underlying issue. For many of us, change is scary. Charlie was even a little worried that he might not get to go to the new church with me! At that point, I realized I needed to tell him the truth: as excited as I was to pursue all the things that this change would provide us, I was scared to go through with it! I didn’t get into the details with Charlie, but there have been loads of times over the last few months where my mind has just screamed at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” In those moments, I have to be very real with the Holy Spirit about what I’m afraid of. Sometimes I even have to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what is scaring me in the first place. In those moments, you can get seriously scared or seriously spend some time talking through God’s promises and the things He’s been teaching us as a church. These are the moments where our in-depth study of the books of Luke, Malachi, Haggai, and Lamentations have been so valuable. God takes care of his people! This feeling isn’t dread, but it is scary! I’m thankful that there are more promises and many more examples of God leading us than there are of things to fear. What I realized, though, is that this scared feeling is something I’ve experienced several times.
The first time Crystal and I decided as a couple to follow the direction we felt God was leading us, it meant I would need to leave my job as a Children’s minister in order to come learn how Coquina, a church that met in a school and in people's homes, operated. The same week I resigned, Crystal lost her job as well! We were scared, but we learned that God provides for all our needs.
Not long after we finalized our plans to move to Wales to work with Hill City Church, we found out we were having Charlie! We were scared, but we said “God’s blessings will not keep us from serving him.”
Soon after that, we found out our Visa wasn’t ready after we’d already quit our jobs and we needed to find someone to live with for 4 months. We were scared, but we learned that his timing is perfect.
A few years later, it was time to move back to the states and no longer be a “foreign missionary family.” We were scared, but we learned that our identity is in Christ, not the work we do for him.
The “scared-ness” in those situations, and in this one, all feel the same even if the underlying fears are different.
Read that sentence again if you don’t mind.
I trust the Lord in his leading, because he has come through for us over and over again, even blessing those around us in the process. So, in this scary time of transitioning our little church into a new space, what is God telling me now? I can tell you what he told me this morning as my friend Brennan led me through Isaiah 43:1-4.
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you,peoples in exchange for your life.
The Lord said to me that all the plans and achievements of man are not as important as those who he loves.
I am one he loves.
He is excited about the unique ways we are going to to express our love for him.
I’m a little scared still, but this morning God said to me, “Fear not, I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:5)