“It has been the best of times. It has been the occasionally less-than-stellar of times. But it was still pretty great though.”
For my book-loving friends, please forgive me for butchering the title and first lines of the classic Dickens novel. However, it serves my purpose to amend the lines as I reflect on a long journey that my family has been on with our church for the better part of the past decade.
Our story, as most are, is informed by events that have long since passed. To catch everyone up quickly, my wife and I moved from California to Texas in the summer of 2009. I had recently left a difficult situation where I was a youth pastor in California, and we were looking for a time of respite and restoration from the grind of vocational ministry. As many young evangelicals at that time, we were influenced by the teaching of Matt Chandler, the lead pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, TX. Since we figured that was a healthy place to be, we tried to settle there as a church home while commuting from Fort Worth.
It did not take long for that to become a grind in its own right. Leaders of the church encouraged us often to find a church closer to home. In seeking to be obedient, we looked into like-minded churches in our area. Seemingly by God’s providence, one of those churches, Fort Worth City Church, was having their first public event the very day we began our search.
We met a few people that night, had a time of worship, and sat under some teaching. It was a nice time, and to be honest, it did not blow me away. However, I do remember it feeling right to me. The church was attempting to base itself off of the approach that a church should start by being only what you see in Scripture. They were a missional-community minded church, which totally ran against my Baptistness (or is it Baptisity? Either way, I like that word). The church was to be elder-led, which sounded like something from The Lord of the Rings to me. However, I felt that I could get behind all of it.
I could go further into the process of joining the church, but I’ll give you short version. We thought it was really biblical, then tried to ditch it for the comfort of what we knew (The Village), and then we came nearly immediately back when the church launched in January of 2010.
We joined our first missional community at that time, Wedgwood Village. Yes, we called our groups “villages” and yes, in hindsight we realize that sounds a bit cult-y. It had a lot of great people in it, and we enjoyed having meals and discussing the message every week. However, we did not really buy in as much as we should.
Later in 2010 things changed quite a bit for us. Some leadership changes had us realize that we needed to buy in more to the concept of living with a family identity towards other believers. I also got a job in Crowley, and we went through the process of buying a home there.
Once again, we found ourselves as church commuters. However, the missional community model (that we now called “City Groups”, which is decidedly-less cult-y), helped us stay connected. Yet, we did yearn for a group in Crowley to call our own.
To seemingly fix this, we would occasionally throw out the line to see if we could reel anyone down to Crowley. About 6 years ago I got a chance to make a public appeal while sharing “evidences of grace” during our church gathering. I was encouraged by one of our elders to not give up, so I would post an annual plea on our church’s website, lauding the merits of the city and why people should join us there on mission. Some did look into moving to Crowley, which we are grateful for, but nothing came from it.
Our city group ebbed and flowed over the years, as they often do. We had times of great joy together, times of conflict, cried tears over tragedy, and celebrated God’s grace at our successes. Locations changed, people came and gone, either from joyous times of sending a new group due to growth or leaving due to personal choice. This ever-changing family of people walked with us through the joys of the birth of our children as well as through the depths of despair and brokenness.
One of the great themes through that time was that the different iterations of our city groups prayed that the Lord would raise up a Crowley City Group. To be honest, as the years went on I did less appealing to the church and prayed less often for it myself. We figured it just was not going to happen, and that either the Lord would move us elsewhere or we would just have to be content.
However, as is the case 100% of the time, the Lord is faithful when we are faithless (2 Tim 2:13). We had a couple join our church a few years ago who lived across town in Crowley. Another family that is similar in make-up and life-stages of our own made the decision to move from Granbury to Crowley. We ended up being together in one South Fort Worth city group for a while. It seemed like something was going to happen.
But, it did not happen.
The Lord gave those families (along with others) the desire to directly serve asylum seekers and refugees. Those families were joyously sent from our group to serve in that capacity, and we stayed with our group. It is important to point out that we love our group (Hulen Bend). It was a refuge for us in a tumultuous time in our lives, and the people are pretty great as well. Andrew and Katrina, two members of the group, actually have been with us since the very beginning of Wedgwood Village nearly eight years ago. I would not trade my time with them for anything, except for perhaps copious amounts of cash.
And then, when as a family we had pretty much given up on a Crowley group, things began to happen. A few months ago some communication slowly started to take place, and a desire began to grow. We discussed things a bit over email, and then in person, and now, finally, after eight years, we have established a true Crowley City Group.
Up until this point, I have been excited for this only because I am supposed to be excited about it. To be real, I have been a bit hard-hearted about it. It came together so quickly that my head has remained spinning. However, as I sit here and reflect on the fact that God has brought together these two families that we have already walked with, plus three other fantastic people, it leaves me in tears. God has answered a prayer that had pretty much disappeared from my lips, and he did it in a way that is immeasurably more than what I could ask or imagine if I were indeed still asking for or imagining it (which is apparently how He rolls according to Eph. 3:20).
So with all of that said, we leave a portion of our heart with Hulen Bend, and now head on with hope to see what God has in store for us here. I am am hoping for more of the best of times and very little of the worst of times. Regardless, I am thankful for the opportunity to give it a whirl.
(As an aside, I am also thankful for saving gas money.)