But now that the glow from Sunday has faded a bit and the life of Riverwood moves on, I find myself being a bit reflective about this past year. Here are three thoughts that have bubbled to the surface of my mind especially since Sunday:
The dream to plant a church started in 2008. Many prayers have been uttered over these past 7 years.
And while the journey hasn't been easy, we are seeing those prayers being answered! We've seen people place their faith in Jesus for the first time. We're seeing many people growing spiritually. We're seeing people be a blessing in the community. We've seen God provide. And we are seeing people take steps of faith.
We've truly seen God do some cool things that only He could have done. He has shown Himself to be faithful in what He began.
A couple hours after Riverwood held its public launch last year, I posted on Facebook:
"Really enjoyed Riverwood’s “grand opening” today. Great start to the marathon."
And that marathon imagery couldn't have been more accurate. (Actually, the more I think about it, an Ironman triathlon would have been a more accurate picture!)
Too often, we want the glory of an Olympic 100-yard sprint. The gun goes off. And 10 seconds later it's done and the applause comes.
But planting a church is nothing like a sprint. It is truly a long-distance event. While you might have some good moments, you are also likely to have moments where you trip or feel overwhelmed that you have a billion miles yet ahead of you.
So what do you do when struggling to run? You keep putting one foot in front of the other. For us, that means we keep running toward Jesus, praying fervently that He will accomplish what only He can do.
And when we do that, we'll have the joy of someone who completes an epic adventure like a marathon or triathlon.
In case you didn't know, starting something from scratch is hard. Whether it be a business, a club, a music festival, a first-time event, or a new church, it can be hard to generate the momentum necessary to capture the attention of others and get them on board. In our case, we want to capture the attention of the spiritually disconnected. But when someone has been disconnected from Jesus and/or church for years, a place like Riverwood is nowhere on their radar.
But while it is hard starting Riverwood, when someone actually connects - it is amazing! There is a sense of joy that surpasses all other moments. There is nothing like seeing marriages grow, relationships improve, and eternities changed!
So while it may get tiring to set-up and tear-down each Sunday... it is worth it.
While it might be hard to give up the time in the middle of the week to do a Growth Group... it's worth it.
While it might be hard to sacrifice time to go serve in the community... it's worth it.
When we sacrifice together to be a blessing to others and to worship God, it may be hard in the moment, but there is a joy that awaits us on the other side. And that joy helps us be able to say, "it was worth it."
If you are part of the Riverwood family and reading this - thanks for doing this with me. Thanks for being a part of Riverwood during our first year of public worship gatherings. I love you and I look forward to seeing God's Spirit do great things in you as an individual and through all of us as a church family. May we have many more Riverwood birthdays celebrating God's faithfulness!
All photos (except the cupcakes and Compassion Spotlight photos) are from Riverwood's very own Jen Huisenga of Jenner's Photography. To see a few more of Jen's photos from our "birthday party", check out our Photo Album on Riverwood's Facebook page.
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