Worship Jesus. Serve Jesus. Love others.

Navigating Uncertainty with Faith

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This past Sunday, I promised to send out a personal journal entry on Numbers 11 that I wrote earlier this year.  So, here it is.

I want to be clear about a few things regarding this journal entry. I realize many of you have enjoyed meeting at Jacoby and have seen this as God’s hand of provision at CLF.  However, I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you, but others at CLF are not as content there and have struggled since we moved our Sunday gatherings to Jacoby.  This journal entry came at a time when my frustration peaked.  I was discouraged at the lack of progress in a plan for a new building and wasn’t sure if we could stay at Jacoby long-term.  Here was the dilemma:  if we had Jacoby on a year-to-year lease, we needed to build a new sanctuary, and what would happen if, in the middle of that, our yearly lease came up and we had no place to go?  Not to mention that the day-to-day needs of CLF (counseling, bible studies, student meetings, offices, etc.) would be seriously disrupted if not stopped to build a new sanctuary, creating more uncertainty.  And to top it off, the Lord did not give us unity or clarity about a plan.  In the middle of all of that uncertainty, I was struggling.  Why had God brought us to Jacoby?  Why had He not given us wisdom and provision for a new building?  That’s what precipitated this journal entry in March of this year.  After I wrote this, I shared it with the elders, who agreed and joined me in confession and repentance.  I shared this journal entry at our April meeting with our deacons.  They did the same and asked if I could share this with the church.  So, here’s that journal entry dated March 14, 2024.

The Provision of the Lord

Recently, as I was reflecting on the journey the Lord has had us on, I began to wonder if we, as a church, have become impatient and ungrateful and, in doing so, have lost sight of the mission of the gospel. 

Over the last year to 18 months, we have been like nomads for our church services. At the beginning of 2023, our church attendance was getting to a point where we had to go to three services or find another location to meet. We had no other location then, so we researched three services. It “just so happened” on a Friday that an idea to contact UCC popped into my head.  Within a few hours, and finally, on Monday, we discovered that Jacoby Auditorium was available, and UCC was eager to rent it to us. The Lord seemed to give us a reprieve in the short term until our future new church building could be built.  

As the year progressed, some in our church liked meeting at Jacoby, and others didn’t. It comes with its challenges: setting up each week, the children’s ministry beginning to outgrow the Nursing Building, the lighting and technical issues, and the overall ‘feel’ of meeting in an auditorium. But it’s what the Lord provided.  

As our ‘hunt’ for the right building option has intensified and as we’ve tried to explain our process to our leaders, there’s a growing frustration that we don’t have answers and we don’t have money.  We’ve asked God for both.  At this point, He has remained silent, and the windows of heaven have not opened.

This last year has ‘exposed’ some issues in CLF.  It’s exposed our lack of intentional planning, cohesive team-building, and our need to clarify who CLF is and what our mission is.  But it’s also exposed something in our people:  grumbling, complaining, and a sense of ‘entitlement.’  Or, to put it less harshly, it’s revealed that we’ve forgotten the mission of the gospel because we’re not ‘home’ and things aren’t comfortable.  The symptoms are people’s lack of regular attendance of our members and the percentage of members who do not give financially to CLF.  Both have decreased since we made the move to Jacoby.  Currently, there are 367 adult members at CLF, and with those families, there is another 174 children in those member families.  This means that our membership total is 541 people.  Yet our attendance reflects something different.  On average, about 490 people attend church and children’s ministry. Interestingly, before our move, we were averaging 530 on a Sunday morning, which caused the move.  Further, while Sunday attendance has dropped, our children’s, youth, and group ministries are growing.  This indicates that people either don’t understand what the Lord has provided, aren’t satisfied or enjoy Sunday gatherings at Jacoby, are waiting on the Lord to provide something else, or have another reason we’re unaware of right now.  

In Numbers 11, while the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, the Lord provided for their daily needs.  But they were unhappy with the manna He provided and longed for meat.  They said, “Oh, that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”  The Lord, angry with their ingratitude and discontentment, decided to give them what they wanted.  He gave them so much meat that they were sick of it, and that meat brought a plague to them.  We’re told that “33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague.”  

When I read this a few weeks ago, it struck me…this is where CLF is.  We feel like we’re wandering in a desert.  We’re upset that we don’t have what we had in our ‘home’ building:  ease of set up, smaller services, being able to ‘see’ everyone, chairs situated closer together, and a middle aisle.  We long for what we used to have and are dissatisfied with where we are currently. 

This takes me back to where we were just over a year ago.  We knew we needed to adjust because we were busting at the seams.  We asked for wisdom, and God gave it.  We asked for a building, and God gave it.  And the Lord brought the increase (think 900 on Easter).  God helped us make room for more people and allowed us to do it all in one service.  Yes, it required some set-up/tear-down. Yes, it required us to be ‘mobile.’   Yes, it’s not ‘home.’  But…it is what the Lord provided.  It’s an 1100-seat sanctuary with a CM building close by.  It’s the largest one-room auditorium in our area, and quite honestly, because of the relationships the Lord has allowed many in our church to have with UCC, we’re the only church that could do this in our community right now.  It really is a marvelous place for us to be, and it is the Lord’s doing.  But is it marvelous in our eyes?

That leads me to our pursuit of a new building. We have prayed for wisdom, but God has been silent. We have prayed for money, but God has not brought it.  Our people are waiting for answers…but the Lord has not given any.  Some see this as a lack of vision. Some see this as not knowing what we’re doing (more than likely:).  Some see this as poor leadership.  Some see it as refreshing.  But God has not given us what we need for a new building…yet.  

So, what do we do?  Here are several things that come to mind:

  • We examine our hearts to see if we have allowed dissatisfaction, discontentment, or ingratitude to fill our hearts about the Lord’s provision of Jacoby.  If so, we need to deal with that.
  • We examine our hearts to see if we believe or think that we ‘deserve’ a new building and are frustrated that God has not provided the plans or the money.  If so, we need to deal with that.
  • We need to examine our hearts to see if we’ve lost sight of the mission of the gospel and CLF.  Consider for a moment:  hasn’t the Lord been good to us to provide the largest one-room building in our area for our church services?  Doesn’t this open the door for us to bring our friends, family members, and co-workers to church, knowing they’ll have a seat, be greeted warmly by our people, and hear the gospel?  
  • We need to continue praying and planning for a new building. Pray for the right vision, wisdom on how to proceed, funds, and someone to help us with stewardship and development.   
  • We must remember that God has provided what He has determined we need. CLF, what has He provided? What wisdom has He given? What He has provided should be utilized and leveraged for the mission of the gospel (making disciples) and the mission of CLF (Worship Jesus, Serve Jesus, Love Others).  

The Lord is at work IN us, and He’s using our lack of ‘home’ to shape us into grateful, sacrificial people who will give our lives for the sake of the gospel.  Let’s lean into His work and His mission.  God has placed us in our locations for such a time as this.  He is moving, and our job is to align ourselves with where He’s already at work.  I’m full of faith that when He wants us to have something else, He’ll provide it.  

An Update

After we met with as elders in March and the Lord adjusted our hearts, some interesting developments occurred. 

First, we approached UCC about the possibility of a longer lease to decrease the pressure on a Sunday gathering location. They were not only willing but also eager to work with us. Thankfully, by God’s grace, they have benefited from this arrangement, as have we. In the next few weeks, we hope to update you on that.  

Second, knowing that Jacoby was a real, possible, longer-term solution for Sunday gatherings opened all sorts of possibilities for our building plan.  We met with our architect at the April deacons’ meeting and shared the UCC news with them, and this gave us faith and hope for what the Lord seems to be doing.  It seems best to us that the first step in our building project is to build a “ministry center” on our existing property that will house our day-to-day operations and allow us to continue ministering to the community without interruption.  Lord willing, in the next few months, we will discuss this idea and plan with you.  Quite honestly, the set of ideas that our architect brought us a few weeks ago was the first time we agreed on our plan.  

Third, the Lord has brought peace to us.  This is the most significant development.  There has been less complaining and frustration and more hope and faith.  If I’m being honest, I think this has more to do with my heart than anything or anyone else.  The Lord has kindly helped me see that all we need His hand will provide.  

Let me add this:  some might wonder, ‘How can we be content at Jacoby if we’re looking to build?’  My response is that we must always be content with what the Lord provides.  He’s provided Jacoby.  Until He provides a new building, we are content at Jacoby.  Our elders and deacons concluded that we would be content if the Lord never moved us from Jacoby.  So, don’t let the prayers, petitions, and desires for a new building that’s ours dissuade you from being thankful for God’s provision of Jacoby.  

Looking Ahead

This coming Sunday, Stan Welch will preach on James 1:2-12 as we continue to discuss a theology of trials.  The Lord has been kind to help us in this series, and I’m looking forward to Stan’s sermon.   

From the Cheap Seats

To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.

Have a great week! Christ is King!

In Christ, 

Dave York

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