I’ve been reflecting in the last couple weeks about God’s surprises for Storyline since we’ve started—situations where things have taken shape, by God’s Spirit, differently than we expected.
We expected that we’d be facilitating a weekly worship gathering starting in September 2008. We realized that such a timeline would allow us only four months before the worship gathering began to nurture a community of house churches—which to us are the foundation and heartbeat of the Storyline Community.
Gailyn Van Rheenen, one of our mentors and leader of Mission Alive, asked us why we were in such a hurry to start a weekly gathering. We weren’t sure why. So we shifted our expectations and planned for a weekly worship gathering in February 2009.
We began to wonder if a weekly worship gathering at any point in the early life of Storyline would distract and drain our resources away from what we saw to be most important (house church ministry). So now we’re expecting to launch a monthly, rather than weekly, worship gathering in December 2008.
Who knows, the day may come when we move to bi-weekly or weekly community worship gatherings. For now, we’ve sensed it will be better to “build out” incrementally than to front-load a bunch of programming we might later have to deprogram.
I believe it was God who surprised us with these developments.
We expected that Storyline’s house church gatherings would consist almost exclusively of young adult professional types. We also expected that Storyline would be a community that cared about justice—loving the poor, caring for the marginalized, helping the helpless.
And then we started befriending and serving the poor. Many of our young professional friends began inviting their poor neighbors to our house church gatherings.
At first I was uncomfortable with this. Would it scare other Uptown young professionals away from Storyline to encounter our poor friends in our gatherings?
Larry James, a prophet who leads Central Dallas Ministries, said, “You should read James.” So we read James, especially the second chapter, and were reminded that it’s a sin to show favoritism to the rich and neglect the poor.
My instincts were wrong. So we’ve taken on a posture of full embrace toward all who desire to be a part of our community.
God surprised us by who he drew into our gatherings.
God will undoubtedly continue to surprise us—hopefully whether we cooperate or not. We can only seek to be attentive to his leading.
I’m reminded of one of the Proverbs: “In their hearts human beings plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (16:9).
We have a very limited view of what paths we’ll actually take. We plan the best we can—and we trust that God, who is infinitely creative in the way he oversees the unfolding of our lives, will establish our steps.
Earl Creps says there are at least three theories on how to plant churches: 1) the big bang theory—start a big gathering and draw the community; 2) the evolution theory—grow relationally at the grassroots level; and 3) the intelligent design theory—whether big bang or evolution, God is the one orchestrating the process.
I like that. Regardless of the model, I want God to be Storyline’s designer.