Wednesday, November 24, 2010

C3M (Christ Community Church of Magnolia)

This post has been a long time coming...but, it seems fitting to post this on Thanksgiving. There is much to be thankful for. It's been a long 6 months, but good and necessary. So here's the first few chapters of the C3M story. As you read you should know that there have been a lot of tears and long nights and a few days here and there that I felt like packing my bags and moving back to Brenham. However, you should also know, that I feel confident in Casey's calling and ability to plant this church, in our marriage and the fact that we are well loved by God and His people. We rest in Him. We trust in Him. We press on and face the day armed with the truth of God's Word and a healthy sense of humor.

Church Planting Rule #1: Have a Bible and a sense of humor with you at all times.

After about 6 months of trying to build a core community long distance and living in two places at once and nearly losing our minds, we finally packed up our sweet little country lives and moved to The Woodlands/Magnolia area (WoodMag for short) in June. By this time, C3M had been having Sunday night services for several months. They were small and simple services, but complete with music, preaching, communion and a growing community. Things weren't perfect by any means, but we knew that many of our kinks would be worked out once we actually lived there. In the meantime, we had to cut ourselves a little slack for the good of our family. We didn't want to be burnt out before we even began. We continually asked our people for prayer and patience while we were in that transition. It seemed like our core was behind us and as anxious for us to be there as we were. Needless to say, when we got settled in WoodMag we were ready to hit the ground running with our core group and really begin the hard work of church planting.

Well...our reception to WoodMag wasn't quite as warm as we would have hoped. Where was our welcome home banner? What, no balloons? No casseroles? Nope...instead we began a series of hard conversations, which I affectionately refer to as the "It's Not You It's Me" conversations. I won't get into the dirty details, but basically we got dumped. 3 or 4 times actually. Thankfully, it wasn't for being blasphemous or heretical or anything. (Phew.) Some folks just decided that they weren't called to commit to C3M.

Yeah...those weren't super fun meetings. I might of started repacking the flatware during one of them, but just one. Anyhow...we made it through the lot of them. We prayed a lot. Learned a lot. And for sanity's sake...laughed at ourselves a lot. We made it through our first real planting had begun.

Church Planting Rule #2: Don't start a church unless you live there first.
Church Planting Rule #3: When other church planters tell you that the majority of your core group will probably leave you...believe them.

Soon enough the smoke cleared and we were able to assess the damage. Our numbers were pretty low. We did have a precious few that were with us 100%, but to continue with a full service would have been a little awkward and just unnecessary. After seeking lots of wisdom, Casey decided to transition back to a small group setting. We started meeting in our apartment over a meal and Casey started ingraining in our church the essential elements of authentic community, serving over consuming and ordering our lives after the mission of Jesus. It was a bit like starting over, but we all sensed that this slower, simpler, more intentional way of doing church was going to produce healthier fruit in the long run. God knew what He was doing. What seemed like 3 steps back to us at first, was just God moving us to better road altogether.

Church Planting Rule #4: Remember that what looks like a setback may very well be God's kindness and protection. Be thankful.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this church planting business, our little family took a hit of its own. For a brief moment we were pregnant, and then...we weren't. But I already wrote this chapter a few months ago. I called it Consider it Joy.

All things considered, it was a humbling time. A season of refinement. And while there's not too much to laugh about in this chapter, I am thankful for what we learned and how God grew our faith.

Church Planting Rule #5 (and general life rule): Share the Gospel with yourself.

For several months now C3M has enjoyed seeing the hand of God at work in our community. Something special is happening. We still meet on Sunday nights in an apartment and share a meal. Each week we discuss the Sermon on the Mount bit by bit and spend time in prayer for one another. Usually there's a group that hangs out at our apartment after church till all hours of the night which is good for community; bad for Monday mornings. We also have a community group that meets on Tuesday nights.

Casey and I are so encouraged by what we see happening on these 2 nights and throughout the whole week. One thing is for sure...God is building His church. Here are some things we are thankful for:

1. Our group is growing steadily.
2. Our people are adjusting their lives to be a blessing to others and live out the Gospel.
3. A new friend came to faith and is being baptized in a couple of weeks.
4. Our people are living with the Great Commission in mind and spurring others on to do the same.
5. Our people are eager to share and help and give and participate in what we are doing.
6. There's never a shortage of people in our apartment. We spend a lot of time laughing and hanging out.
7. The few conflicts we have had have been handled in a gracious and Biblical manner.
8. Our people are generous.

Church Planting Rule #6: Share a meal creates a family.

So that's our story so far. I will be anxious to share the next chapters with you. We have learned so much in such a short time...I can't imagine what the next year will hold. Come what may, Casey and I humbly ask that you pray for C3M and for our family.

This Thanksgiving Day we praise our Father in Heaven for His precious Son, for His Church, for C3M, for our friends and family who love us and support us unconditionally and of course...for laughter!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Casey Cease said...

Well said. I love going on this adventure with you. I am so thankful that God blessed me with such an amazing wife! Love you!


The Bevers said...

The Woodlands didn't know to roll out the welcome wagon for you guys, but we donned our sackcloth and sat in ashes when yall pulled out of Brenham. I'm glad the church is growing - any time we need to go down there and tell them how lucky they are to have you, we will. We want them to take care of you guys. Love yall!

mandi said...

this was great- thanks for sharing.