By Zack DeBerry
If you are like me you have many fractures in your story. I know I have had many moments in my life that I didn’t really understand until I began to focus less on my story and more on God’s bigger story. That is not an easy thing for me to do.
Comfortable Turned Uncomfortable
This was never more apparent than about 10 years ago. I was a full-time youth pastor at a small town church and things were going really great. The youth group was really growing and it seemed that everything was going perfect.
Then I was confronted about the fact that a lot of the kids that came to our youth gathering didn’t seem to be there on Sunday morning. I was caught a little off guard because I felt that if they came at all on any day of the week that was a win for connecting the younger generation to church.
This continued for a while and I remember sitting in my office at the church with my head on the desk and thinking “God, how can they not see what You are doing?“ I remember feeling in my heart that God was saying, “They may not.” I know that sounds harsh, but it is just what I was feeling and what I felt God was saying in my heart.
With that I began a period of prayer and exploration and came to the conclusion that if this church didn’t feel like home to the next generation, maybe I should start one that did. So, I decided to resign as youth pastor and take on a “real job” so I could begin to start a new church for a new generation.
With nothing but a thought and heart to see young men and women connect with Jesus, I set out to plant a church.
Things started to fall into place quickly as I found a job in 2 weeks at a local high school. I thought, “Man, if things keep going this smoothly this church will explode with growth.” I was excited, to say the least, and began a “soft launch” of the church in my rental home while I was looking for a permanent place.
A Strong Start
We had about 20 folks for that first week and they all were excited and actually gave money to see this thing get started. I could not have been more grateful and excited about how things were shaping up.
We met like this for about 6 weeks or so and I found a small old warehouse space in the downtown area of my town. I signed a month to month lease and did some renovation and setup on the cheap, but it looked pretty cool.
We held steady at about 20-30 folks each week for another few months and it felt like we were getting ready to see some growth begin to happen when the opposite began to take place.
A Hard Fracture
People just began to stop showing up. I thought maybe it was just a summer thing and kept my head down and kept reading church-planting books for the next great idea.
Then one week it happened. No one showed up. Talk about a deflating time.
I was discouraged and to be honest I was hurt and borderline angry. I remember thinking again, “God, How can they not see what You are doing?”
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as if God spoke directly to me with that quiet, but booming voice: “They can’t because you are not letting them.”
I knew God was right. I had tried to force my vision and plan for a church on people instead of just trusting God. This began a downward spiral of doubt and discouragement that I still battle at times today. I gave up the dream of a church and really just gave up on ministry all together.
Little did I know that giving up on my dream would open up opportunities for God to set me up for His Bigger Story. In the weeks that followed I shut down the church plant and basically gave up on working in a church.
What felt like the biggest mistake and deepest hurt in my life would actually become the catalyst to change in my life.
The Healing Began
It was in trying to find a place to just heal a little that I stumbled on a church that met in a theater in Birkdale. I kept coming mostly because it was easy to slide in and out in a dark movie theater. I was still trying to figure out how you could hear God and totally miss the point of what He was saying.
I had been there for several weeks and I remember the pastor one Sunday basically saying get over your junk and get involved. I filled out a card and long story short I have been involved at Journey in some capacity for about 8 years now.
This is a fracture that lingers still to this day. There are times when I think I hear God saying something and I struggle with trusting it. Not because I don’t trust what God is saying, but because I don’t trust myself to hear it correctly.