When I was in high school my favorite video game was the annual NCAA Football game from EA Sports. I would be so excited for that Tuesday in July when the new edition would hit the stores, and I always had it on preorder to be sure I could have a copy that first day. Of course I would play with my favorite local team, and I would try to get through a season every week or two.
I remember having a built in extra hour to play a game every Wednesday morning since JL Mann didn’t start school until 9:30 on that day. But sometimes I wouldn’t get all the way through a game – and if I was winning big I didn’t want to lose all my stats. After all, I needed Woody Dantzler to win the Heisman. Oh the mind of a 15-year old boy! So I would pause the game while I went to school and then to swim practice. And at the end of the day I would finally be able to come back and finish the game before bed.
I tell this story because it is the closest thing I know to communicate what June-October of 2016 was like for me. We had gained so much momentum with the beginnings of our church plant, and then all of a sudden we hit our first speedbump. As a result, we essentially put everything for the church plant on pause while I spent the next 14 weeks fully devoted to licensure and ordination.
The difference with this situation was that while things were on pause for me, the rest of the world kept rolling. And I was afraid that all of the momentum we had gained might be lost. I didn’t know what to do other than simply commit our church plant to the Lord and trust that He would have things ready to be picked up when ordination was complete. My preparation for licensure included dozens of lectures and presentations to different groups on the topics I needed to know better. In fact, our New Member’s Class for Verdae Pres is simply a condensed version of all of these lectures. I passed my second shot at our committee exam in September, and I was all set for my final exam on the floor of presbytery scheduled for October 11 th . All the while though, I still wondered where things would be when we “unpaused” the church plant.
Then a truly remarkable thing happened.
On my way to presbytery in Covington, Georgia on Monday, October 10th , I received a text from a guy who was planning to be a part of our church plant. It was short, and to the point: “Next Tuesday, we are starting the young professionals Bible Study at Oobe downtown 7-8 with an optional dinner at 6:30 beforehand. Are you still going to be able to attend?” Now on the surface this may look like something we had been planning for months – but it wasn’t. It was actually something that was on the table before I hit the pause button. Way back in May! I knew that summer that this was a possibility, but I hadn’t been able to commit any effort to it. Nevertheless, the Lord had been working in the hearts of three men to organize, plan, and gather the people for this brand new Bible study titled Life Explored. All they needed was a church to sponsor it and for a pastor to lead it. Wow! I passed my presbytery exam the next day, and a week later our Bible study began. This was the inception for what has become our regular Tuesday Night Bible Study that has continued now for almost a year. As I took inventory over the next few weeks I began to see something. The church plant hadn’t lost any momentum! No one who had been interested before the summer had lost interest, and in fact even more people were interested now than had been in May. Our fundraising, which I had also paused, was actually completed during my absence. And what emerged as our new timeline was significantly better than our old one – especially considering my wife and I found out we were pregnant in the midst of my ordination prep.
To be honest, my first thought was one of wonder. Wondering if I had any role in the church plant at all since so much had been done in my absence!
But my next thought was a realization. A realization that the church plant had not been on pause at all. Yes – my role with the church plant had definitely been paused. But the Lord has never ceased to work. And that gave me yet another confirmation that God had truly set His heart on this new church plant. This experience taught me something very important about God. It is true that the circumstances of our life will cause us to “pause” our role in certain things. But we can be certain of something. God never stops providing His care for His people. He doesn’t cease to act or work on behalf of His people. And often in the midst of our most trying times, when we feel like our struggles have thwarted the plans of God, He shows us that we need not fret. Because God doesn’t have a pause button!
“In his defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’” – John 5:17