Where to begin…? Anyone who has served alongside me in ministry knows that I am constantly quoting or blurting out song lyrics with whatever conversation I am having. Typically, I am doing so in song. It’s just not right to do it without singing it!! So, in my typical fashion, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
It has been well over a year since my last post. We have had a very challenging 18 months. At the end of last summer, 2014, I was let go from my worship pastor position at Heartland. The church, for financial reasons, had decided to go in a different direction and were cutting my position. I have since served as a guest worship leader for a four month stent to close out 2014 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville, IL. From there I went to Logan Street Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon, IL, where I have been serving ever since as Interim Worship & Media Pastor. We are very blessed to be able to serve with such a great group of believers from Carlinville and Mt. Vernon, but God is bringing us back close to our home.
For well over 9 years God has been showing me a lot about church administration and governance. I have seen something that would fit under a “what to do” category and I’ve seen a lot of things that would fall into a “what not to do” heading. These last 4 1/2 years I have prayed and wrestled with the Lord. Finally, after being challenged by a fellow pastor and asked what I was running from, I have fully surrendered to the Lord’s call and will be planting a church in the greater Godfrey area. It has been interesting last couple of months as I have been walking through a church planting assessment process with the North American Mission Board. There are so many things that God is teaching me.
In the last 5 years, I’ve not spoken a word about this with anyone other than my wife, until this past spring. I decided to bounce the idea off of one of my closest friends. The prevailing reason behind my decision to share this was to get confirmation that I was crazy and that God wouldn’t call a “worship pastor” to plant a church. How crazy is it then, that my dear friend of almost 20 years was so excited for me and affirmed this call upon my life from their observations of my ministry. I will always remember one of the biggest things he said to me, “Isaac, when you finally give into the Lord’s call, be prepared for great attacks from the adversary.”
A few months later, our youngest daughter, LilyGrace [pictured above] was diagnosed with a bone tumor in her right tibia. Doctors were very concerned. It was a very serious and scary situation. We have later found out that she has been diagnosed with Fibrous Dysplasia, Scoliosis and Hyper Mobility Disorder. This is still a very serious situation and we have seen several doctors and most of them are baffled as Fibrous Dysplasia is a rare disease and to top it off, LilyGrace has an even rarer type of Fibrous Dysplasia. We have had a failed surgery that was an attempt to relieve chronic pain and provide stability to her bone. We are waiting to the end of November so that we can spend 3 days to a week at Shriner’s Hospital in St. Louis to determine other possible treatments and prognosis.
Since the failed surgery in September a second tumor has been found in her right femur. At this point, they have called in a Pediatric Oncologist. LilyGrace is scheduled for another MRI and X-ray this Friday evening. In addition to all of these developments with LilyGrace, I have put in my notice at Logan Street so that I can hopefully, find full-time employment closer to home beginning in January. We continue to pray for healing for LilyGrace and that He would provide a stable income to help relieve that burden from our family as we continue this journey.
As a family, we’ve studied the life of Job and have always been encouraged by His faith and trust in the Lord. I never thought that the advice my friend gave me about the adversary, would begin this quickly, let alone attacks on my children. How does this all relate to church planting? I’m glad you asked. God’s Word tells us that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.” God will use this situation with LilyGrace and how we respond through the journey to bring honor and glory to Him.
I’ve been asked if we will stop our efforts at planting a church or at least put it on hold several different times now. Each time, while tempted to say, “yes,” I am more emboldened and encouraged to press on, towards the prize and finish strong. While my family will always come first and should always come first, God can use this journey for us to share His love with those He brings in our path. Church planting is about planting seeds of the gospel and discipling believers in the faith so that they, too may go out, share the gospel and disciple others. Jesus centered/focused relationships is a a primary goal and desire for my church plant.
Lynette and I believe, wholeheartedly that God will use LilyGrace and her medical condition to develop relationships with people in our community. Authentic relationships that will encourage, inspire, challenge and sharpen not only me but my family and those whom we interact with. It is our desire to be used of God to further His Kingdom and further grow His church, where we are planted.
Lynette and I would like to ask you to join us in prayer for this new direction as we follow His call to plant a church. We invite you to join us to continue to pray for LilyGrace and that God would bring a healing to her body. We pray that He will use her to further His kingdom. We pray that she would be able to find rest and security in the arms of Jesus Christ. We pray that He would give understanding and patience to Abbi and Eli as they too are greatly affected by this diagnosis and new direction. Pray that God will give them compassion and mercy to extend to LilyGrace, Lynette and me; when our patience and compassion has failed. Pray for those folks that will come into contact with our family. Pray that God will already begin softening the hearts and preparing them to receive His gift of love. Pray that we will be diligent in sharing His love, Jesus Christ with them.
I will leave you with one final thought:
Church planting and childhood illness shouldn’t go hand in hand. But, when they do,
trust that the Almighty is big enough to handle it. Have faith that He who has called
you to great and mighty things will complete what He started in you. Also,
remember to gird up your loins and prepare yourself for the battle. Church planting
and childhood illness are not for the faint of heart.
God’s blessings and peace be to you all.