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What Have I Learned In 10 Years At Element Church

Yesterday marked 10 years for us at Element Church.  On one hand, it’s hard to believe we’ve gone 10 years since starting in the Carmike Theater.  On the other, I ask myself, “where did 10 years go?”  We’ve seen a lot in 10 years.  Not all of it has been good, but God always has been, that’s for sure.  Here is a portion of my blog from our very first Sunday:

“I don’t know what to title this post. I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY. As I stood outside next to our trailer with tears running down my face, I was amazed at how a dream that was born in my heart by God was now a reality. Today, seriously, could not have gone ANY better. I am truly amazed. Check this out.

– Total attendance 200. That’s right. 200 people came to our opening service. We haven’t done a final count but we are guessing 35-40 were out of town friends and family.

– We had 153 people in the adult theater. We couldn’t have accommodated 10 more people. We had some of our team standing up the entire service. It was awesome to see.

– I just responded by email to 31 first time guest connection cards. 31? Are you kidding me. The marketing we did and the free pub we got seriously paid off. We had several people come because of the postcards in the mail. Another family from the magazine article. Two from the gas buydown. One guy came due to our flag football team (that’s cool). A couple more through the newspaper. Several friends invited people. And we had one from the billboards. AWESOME.

– Five souls crossed the line of faith today and became followers of Christ. THAT is worth it all.”

From 200 to over 1,200 God has been with us.  In 2016 and so far in 2017 (not counting yesterday) we have seen more people baptized, 218, than we had in our first service.  Unreal!  As I sat back and reflected on the last 10 years, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned or been reminded of along the way.  In no particular order:

1.  I have such little faith — I am reminded often about how little my faith is compared to what God is able to do.  Before Element Church started, I was having lunch with Grant Clark who was on our staff when we started.  He asked me, “How big do you think Element will be?”  I said, “Ever?”  He said, “Yeah!”  I didn’t even flinch with my answer.  I said, “If we ever saw 500 people at church I would poop my pants.”  This past Easter, we saw five times that number and I didn’t even poop my pants.

I once heard someone say, “If your vision doesn’t make you scared then it’s an offense to God.”  Wow! I still have times where I repent and confess to God for my lack of faith.  So many times He has done exceedingly, abundantly more than I could even ask or imagine.  He’s just getting started.

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2.  Following God’s call will hurt more than you ever thought and cost more than you ever imagined —   If someone would have told me how much hurt I would face starting Element Church before we started, I’m not sure I could have done it.  Not everything that’s happened at Element Church has been roses.  I once had a pastor here in town ask me, “How do you guys do it?  Everything you touch turns to gold.”  I admonished him quickly that what he can’t see is behind the curtain.  Friendships have been strained, if not severed.  Lives have been lost.  People we love have left the faith.  Plans change, programs failed, staff comes and goes.  It hasn’t always been easy, but I can honestly say it’s been the best.

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3.  My wife is incredible — Seriously, every step of the way Sabrina has been so clear that, “God called me to be your wife, so wherever He calls you, I’m in!”  She never questioned our call to Cheyenne and she hasn’t questioned it since.  She is the consummate supporter and encourager, prayer warrior, mother, wife, business owner and so much more.  I don’t know how I would of done it without her support.  I’ve met so many people in ministry whose spouse was not fully invested.  Thank you Sabrina for being my biggest cheerleader.

4.  Personal health is more important than church growth — I nearly had a burnout a few years into Element Church.  I think one of the reasons I almost burnt out, and one of the reasons so many do, is we begin to think the church relies on us.  In an effort to “grow the church” I thought I had to do more and more and more.  It literally brought me to the point of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion.  I had patches of missing hair in my beard and patches in my soul were getting larger.  I’m in a great place today, but I had to be brought to me knees to get there.

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5.  People are more important than progress — At a low point for me at Element Church, God wrecked my heart about people.  In my desire to progress the ministry, God reminded me that I was forgetting the people who were already in the ministry.  The Church should NEVER stop doing what it can to reach more people for Jesus, but if we ever forget the people God already brought, we’ve lost.  The church is about reaching AND raising people.  Reaching more people for Jesus AND raising them up to be like Jesus.  Discipleship is not either evangelism OR training.  Discipleship is both.  Jesus’ Great Commission was to “GO and make disciples.”  That’s reaching people.  The reason we know that is His next command, “teaching these NEW disciples to obey everything I’ve commanded.”

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6.  God isn’t poor —  HA!  I wish I had time to tell you the whole story, but God, in a miraculous way at just the right time for our church provided us with $414,000 in gold coins.  Yes, someone in our church was moved by the Spirit of God to give us $414,000 in gold.  If I remember it was 200 ounces of gold.  When they told me on the phone, I thought they said, “200,000 in gold”.  It was 200 ounces, which after fees turned into $414,000.  God used that gift to get us into our current facility.  Those of us who were here at Element Church at the time will never forget it.

7.  Prayer isn’t a side part of the ministry, prayer fuels the ministry — Maybe the one thing in me that has grown the most in my spiritual life at Element is my prayer life.   Both personally and corporately, I have seen God do more things connected to specific prayer times than anything else.  In times of corporate and personal fasting, is when God has provided staff, healed bodies, provided $414,000 in gold, revealed vision and more.  The power of prayer is real.  It connects us to the heart of the Father like nothing else.  If the vision is not fueled by our prayers then it’s not God’s vision.

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8.  God brings some people only for a season — Not everyone who attends our church, serves in our church or is on staff in our church is meant to be there forever.  Not everyone who has left Element has been what we planned, prayed for or hoped for, but they were here for a reason.  Sure, there are some times where someone is so unhealthy or toxic they might NEED to leave the church, but for the most part great hearted, well loved people are moved on.  Sometimes that move is the call of God on their heart or the choice of the leadership.  That doesn’t mean they weren’t valuable.  Each person who has ever served on staff or in our church has left a mark.  We are who we are today because of everyone who has been a part the last 10 years.  That’s a good thing, even if what happened wasn’t always what we desired.

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9.  I want to be where God wants me to be — My hope and prayer is that God will let me pastor this church until the day I die or the day I retire, preferably the latter, but I don’t have control over that.  I tell God often, “I’ll do this as long as You’ll let me.”  But the reality is, I also pray, “God put me where I can do you the most good.”  That prayer is what led us to Element Church in the first place. I don’t know what the future holds, and my preference is that my future always has Element in it, but ultimately, if God wants me somewhere else, I have to listen to Him.  By the way, I want that for YOU as well, and you should want that for me.  All of us should desire to be where GOD wants us to be.  How horrible would it be for you to have a pastor that was not in God’s will.  Seriously!  “Lord, Your will be done!”

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10.  The best is truly YET to come — God continues to blow me away with His love, faithfulness, mercy, grace and forgiveness.  Every time I think He can’t out do Himself, He does it again.  This kinda ties into number one.  My faith is so small.  Even the statement, “I’m blown away by what God does” is sign of my lack of faith.  Why am I blown away?  God can accomplish anything He wants.  He doesn’t need me but He chooses to use me.  Wow!

Element Church, I cannot wait to see what the next 10 years hold.  I don’t know how long you’ll be here and I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I do know that God will be with us.  Never once has He ever left us alone!  I know you really didn’t have a choice in me as your pastor, but thank you Element for the GREAT honor of being called that, “Lead Pastor at Element Church”.  You guys are awesome.  I love you!