On this very day in 2011, Advance Church was born in a living room to five adults, three kids, and a golden retriever. Year two took away one of the five adults (it’s cool, she had to go see about a boy), and year three killed the dog because year three…well, year three was a (rhymes with “witch”).

We should’ve seen it coming. This may be our first church plant, but it’s not our first rodeo.

Three years into our ministry in Arizona, we fell into the grass-is-probably-greener trap and hightailed our overconfident, overzealous selves to the Midwest. While we will never regret our years spent in Minnesota, we will always ache over how hastily we bailed on Hope Covenant Church. It’s been almost ten years, and I still cannot type a sentence about it without crying. Year three snagged us hook, line, and sinker. We were so young, so selfish and, if you are reading this Arizona friends, so sorry for being impulsive little punks.

Wiser, but no less vulnerable, year three in Minnesota found us entertaining the idea of Ryan quitting ministry altogether for a career in pizza delivery. If that didn’t quite pay the bills, he was ready to load trucks for UPS or make lattes for Starbucks. It was rough, but after what happened in Arizona, we knew we had to strap on our armor, plant our feet in the trenches, and see it through ‘til morning. In other words, we told year three to shove it and spent the next two years doing everything we could to finish well at Crossroads before boomeranging back to the desert.

Year three of raising our fourth baby, Advance Church, was absolutely no different, you guys. It was hard for all the reasons people warned us it would be.

We have the weight gain and wine corks to prove it.

Years one and two of the plant were all about adrenaline and momentum. Year three was about tattooing Galatians 6:9 to our foreheads and keeping our hands on the plow. I have a post ready to go for Monday about some things I learned in year three that I want other church planters and their launch teams to know, but for today, for the rest of you, I came here to say this:

Year three of anything is not for the faint of heart. But as writer Jeff Goins so perfectly communicated on his blog yesterday, “Somewhere in the mud of life… there’s something both to savor and struggle with. When you’re staring pain or discomfort in the face, it’s easy to retreat. To hold back emotionally, make quiet rationalizations, and numb yourself to the pain. But that’s exactly what we must not do.”

We must not quit. When the temptation to tap out is strong, we must remember that God’s call on our lives is stronger and that “He who called you is faithful and He will do it.” He may not “do it” the way you want him to or the way you imagined he would, but he will see you through to year four if you let him. So don’t bail. Don’t be a little punk. Stay the course a while longer and see what happens.

church planting year 3

Now, Advance Church, come here and look at me. Make no mistake: You were a feisty little 3-year old that tested my patience just like every other preschooler I’ve raised, but I adore you with every ounce of my momma heart and I promise to be here for you and for your pastor in year four. I am committed to helping you grow to become who God created you to be because I love your squishy little face. Got it? Okay.

Happy Birthday, munchkin (and sorry about that whole rhyming thing earlier). Now make a good wish!