On the one hand it feels like the whole, “Let’s move to Dublin and plant a church,” thing came out of left field. Yet as I step back and look at the year or two leading up to Ireland first popping up on our radar, it makes a lot more sense.
*Let me say at the outset, like any journey, this one has peaks & valleys. Parts of this story (say like this part), may seem to stop on a down note. But it isn’t the end of the story. One of the best quotes I heard over the past few years was, “You can’t tell if the story is a comedy or tragedy by reading the first chapter. You have to finish the story.” It is difficult recounting some of this, but at the same time, we clearly see the Father at work…we hope you do as well!*
The 24 months starting from the summer of 2007 to mid 2009 are a bit of a blur.
Some really great stuff was happening:
- I was very much focused on seeing the Ithaca Vineyard grow…And it was growing…we were hitting 270 plus people on a Sunday…we even hit 350 on one of the Easter Sundays in there…that was exciting.
- We were having other pastors in the Ithaca area talk to me about what was going on at the Vineyard. (One had been doing research during his Sabbatical and said as far as he could tell, we were the only church in the entire area that was growing at all…And we were growing rapidly).
- Plus I began traveling to New England to begin co-leading two coaching networks for other Vineyard pastors.
- We were also preparing to move into our own building.
There were also some things that weren’t going great:
- We had started a building program that was encountering a few major obstacles (we had to pay full rent $6250/month for 10 months but due to permit issues could not even work on the facility…that’ll kill your building fund quickly.)
- One of my kids was attacked in school and we were going through family court system.
- Another kid was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder.
There were other things too…but you get the idea…life was crazy. Even with the good stuff, I was working a lot, and our family’s stress level was maxing out.
Now it wasn’t like I was too busy to pray, read the bible or stuff like that. In fact I’d say I was doing okay spiritually at that point. But there was other stuff going that made it clear things were off…or at least different.
Up to this point, the vast majority of our church’s growth had been people moving into the Ithaca area, and people from Ithaca who hadn’t been part of a church for a while, if ever. During this period of time we began to see a lot more ‘transfer’ growth. (people leaving other Ithaca churches to attend the Vineyard.)
In the past we’d discouraged people from leaving their church to come to the Ithaca Vineyard. We stopped doing that at this point.
In the midst of this we also hired staff from outside the Ithaca Vineyard to help with the growth. Those of you who were part of the Vineyard at that point, know that to say “that did not go well,” would be a bit of an understatement.
Prior to making the hire, I had some concerns, but for various reasons, I ignored them. In fact one of my daughters told me she sensed that God was saying “don’t hire them.” I didn’t listen. My kids have always been pretty good about hearing God’s voice, and in the past I would have taken what she said much more seriously than I did. (She has reminded me of this several times since:-)
I’ve never shared my thoughts publicly on all that transpired during this period…and I don’t think I ever will…However, I know God took what the enemy intended for evil, and used it to bring tremendous grace and blessing in my life and in my family.
The second half of 2009, was…actually I’m not sure how I’d describe it. While we were moving into our new facility which was exciting and served to be a bit distracting…but everything was a bit raw from what had we had all just gone through.
The image that came to mind as I’m trying to summarize this part of our story, is a garden. There seems to be lots of good stuff growing in it…a lot of life. And then someone brings in a roto-tiller and does to the garden what a roto-tiller does. And while on the one hand you can say, “but my beautiful garden…” at the same time, there is a recognition that the soil is rich and something new is getting ready to grow.
Let me leave things here for now…we’ll pick things up on Friday.