Last Sunday I got to celebrate a birthday.
Every year, the Sunday following Easter is the anniversary of 801South’s launch. At the party this past weekend, many people shared a “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations” with me throughout the morning. I got a sense that there is still a genuine excitement as 801South has grown into itself and as we are still discovering who we really are.
Prior to launching, I thought that 801South would be many things and, honestly, these past three years have been a rollercoaster with lots of highs and lows. As I told the staff at Matthews UMC in staff worship several months ago, I knew leading this new community would be hard work, but I had no idea how painful it would be. Many people have come and gone. They have expressed their affection for the environments of 801South, but ultimately chose not to engage in the mission. That hurts.
Dealing with the disappointments has been formative for my faith and leadership. At the same time, the encouragement has far outweighed the frustration. For every moment of disappointment or negative word, there have been multiple comments such as, “We’re so proud of you and your team” or “You all are doing such great work.” Many times these comments have come from people who have no idea if we are doing great work or not, nor would they actually have any reason to be proud. Perhaps some of them were just being nice. Whatever their motivation for expressing encouragement, these comments mean more than they could know and I thank God for them.
This past Sunday we were celebrating the anniversary of 801South as a movement of people committed to inviting others into the story of Jesus and there could not have been a more perfect illustration of God’s faithfulness during the party. I had the incredible opportunity to baptize my friend, Morgan, who recently professed faith in Jesus. Don’t miss the weight of this moment. There we were, celebrating another birthday of this movement, through an event that perfectly exemplifies the vision and motivation for the effort in the first place!
There have been very difficult moments of little faith, and even doubt, over the past three years. However, after all of the passion, time, energy, and hard work people have poured out over that time, there was no way we could walk away before reaping the harvest. Here’s what I believe about God: His intention will come to pass and way more often than not, His will is done through people. When you stop short, God does not. There is not retribution, but you do miss out on the blessing.
Of course the journey of 801South has been different than what I expected. The funny thing is this was the first time any of us have tried something new like this. It was silly to have any expectations at all…except one: that God has been, is, and will be faithful.
God has been at work from the beginning…there are numerous stories of people finding community and growing into the character and competency of Jesus. I am always grateful for these stories of life change, however, this current season is different and people can feel it. There is a new momentum. We are entering a season of reaping and harvesting.
I can’t wait to see what God does next as we commit to be a people pouring out!