This day is incredibly exciting to me. Why? Three big reasons.
- The first is that LifeSpring has persevered and prospered for 10 years. This in spite of the fact that 32% of church plants fail in the first 4 years. That’s plants of all kind. Parachute drops, such as LifeSpring, are more difficult yet. The UMC reports that the parachute drop is the most risky, expensive and difficult kind of church start – with an 85% failure rate.
- The second reason is the personal, spiritual growth I see occurring in you. You have persevered through incredibly difficult times, the national depression as a case in point. When others would have given up, you have been strong and faithful. It makes me believe that LifeSpringers are some of the strongest people I know.
- And I think we are on the cusp of even greater things.
Bev and I never imagined we’d be doing this. Before coming to Merced, we were unhappy with business as usual. We knew that there were friends that we could never invite to church, and this broke our hearts. It’s not that the people of our church were bad. Only that the culture and insiderism of traditional churches is stifling.
A conversation with Roger Gibson led us to Stadia and the idea of church plants. Bev and I had no team; it was just us. So after assessment and training, we packed the u-haul and moved to Merced. Using our first year to connect turned out to be a good idea, but we didn’t know that at the time.
Stadia, our sponsoring organization, told us that we should choose the place to which we would move. We did not want to leave California, so we went on a 6 city tour: Seaside (near Monterey), San Luis Obispo, Eureka, Redding, and Chico. In every case there as an insurmountable obstacle. A friend of mine, retired psyc professor from Stanislaus State University, asked, “Have you considered Merced?” We had not, and it turned out to be that Merced stole our hearts. It continues to do so.
Since all we knew was what we had been taught, we pursued the usual church planting course, but Merced was a different ball of wax. Nothing we were taught worked. So we think that what evolved is unique in many ways. I spent the first year joining, connecting, and showing up – all outside the usual church context.
The result of that was that we began to see people show up to taste what we were doing. Many only came once, but many of you stuck around and lent some of your elbow grease. So we met Jared, Amanda, and Victor because of BNI. The Barnes and Nancy because of Playhouse. The Bustoses and Moores because of our website.
Finally, a word about my dreams for LifeSpring. I hope that she will catch the dream of “moving west” as the first century church did. Moving west being a metaphor of constant movement outward. I hope that more and more millennials will come to see us as having a compelling message and method.
I have dreamed and prayed for years that I would be joined by a partner. I fear that most are afraid of the kind of work we are doing. It is not for the feint hearted, as you know. I also pray that you will grow in maturity. That speaking authentically for God will become second nature.
I love you all. May we see 10 more years of growth and exciting progress.