I’ll never forget the feelings that I had on that first Sunday morning.
We had been meeting for several months, about 50 of us, in an apartment complex clubhouse. I was trying to explain the vision that I had in my heart for reaching people who didn’t normally go to church. It was a novel idea at the time.
We were an eclectic group: some of us from our sending church, Northwood Assembly, a healthy congregation with an established way of doing church; others, a small group of castaways from an episcopal church, with all the accompanying high Church tradition; the rest, a ragtag collection of curious starters, curious about starting something new.
None of us were quite sure what this new thing would look like, but we were barreling steadily toward the starting line, trying to rally around the vision that we weren’t 100% certain of.
And I was the new guy in town. Our family had moved to Charleston barely a year earlier, refugees from the cold, mid-western winters, in search of the warmth of community and purpose, with a small group of people who barely knew each other.
Honestly, I wondered if anyone would show up that first Sunday.
We had taken a unique approach to getting the word out about this new church meeting in a movie theater. About a dozen of us would come together, five nights a week, to make cold calls to the 16,000 homes that lived in the area. We would interrupt dinner time with a phone survey about frequency of church attendance:
“Do you attend church?”
If the answer was “yes“, the follow up was:
“That’s great, keep going. Enjoy your dinner.”
If the answer was “no“:
“Why do you think people don’t attend church these days?”
Following a bit of conversation, and assuming they hadn’t hung up on us yet, we would ask:
“Would you be interested in hearing about a new church that addresses some of the issues you raise?”
If there was any hint of interest, we would proceed to assault their mailbox with information about the first week of that new church.
And then, “the” Sunday arrived: April 3, 1988.
Would anybody come? Would a church be born? Would lives be changed? Would people who didn’t normally attend church be interested in a relationship with Christ?
To be perfectly frank, I still wasn’t sure just 10 minutes before that first service, as I peered through the window of the projection room located high above the theater. I counted four people. The knot in my stomach tightened as I tried to stay in faith and combat the doubts flooding my mind.
This was the nightmare that had been haunting my sleep.
Ultimately that little auditorium filled with curious newcomers who encountered a bit of the presence and power of God that we have all experienced in the 35 years since.
Could we have anticipated what was to follow over the years to come? Probably not. Our clearest visions are like seeing through a glass darkly.
Here is what I know for sure:
- God has been faithful.
- God is faithful.
- And God will be faithful in the future.
Who’s in for the next part of the journey?
Sign me up.