Thanks to the Pioneers

I have not written much about the church plant that Joni and I were a little part of six years ago. We had prayed and discussed with Nelson and Suzie Tull and Don and Cindy Moore a crazy idea to start a new church in the Wylie, Texas area. We hoped to start a small gathering of committed couples to begin that dream. That plan lasted about a week. Word got out and on a hot August night (Neil Diamond no-showed) nearly one-hundred folks crammed into our home in Garland to hear about the new vision and to prove that they could out body heat our desperate air conditioners. That session led to a temporary meeting spot at a Dallas business (ironically next to a “gentleman’s club”) and then to an elementary school in Wylie.

Along the way fifty of those folks journeyed to Nashville on an epic bus trip to see how another church had started from scratch. At Fellowship Bible Church in Nashville we heard sobering and inspiring advice. One thing stuck in my mind and I think about it often. They told us that the original group who begins the process are the pioneers. They take the risk and forge ahead. They endure hardship and discomfort. And someday when the new building is in place the “settlers” will enjoy the ministry and they will give no thought to the pioneers who sacrificed to provide that comfortable place.

This Sunday the fruit of that hot August night gathering will enter a new phase. Waterbook Bible Fellowship will break ground in Wylie on a new building. It will be a special day of great joy and anticipation. Pastor Jeff Denton has encouraged everyone to bring a shovel, spade, spoon or whatever you can use to pierce the baked turf. He is asking everyone to line the perimeter to break ground because we are doing this as a family. And he is right about that. 

But I am thinking today about the pioneers who began with us. The Free Online dictionary defines pioneers as those who open up (an area) or prepare (a way). Many of our pioneers did not make it to this moment when the way is almost prepared for the “settlers” to come in. Some moved away. Some thought the location was too far away. Some are now with Jesus. Some did not agree with the ministry emphasis or direction and felt that they had to leave. Some grew weary of the temporary feel of church in a school auditorium. Some wanted the programs that you need a building to provide. There have been moments of great joy and moments of real struggle. Being a pioneer is hard.

When the building opens in a few months I will still be thinking about the pioneers who made (and make) it possible. Everyone who contributed along the way with financial help. Thank you. For those who sacrificed their time and expertise. Thank you. For those who ministered and cared through easy and hard times. Thank you. For those of you who helped set up and then tear down church every single week. Thank you. For those who hung in when the going got tough. Thank you. I wish that everyone who started that night in Garland could be there when the new building debuts. That is not how life works. I do hope that everyone who had a part in the pioneer process is blessed by what God is doing thanks to their combined efforts. That is how the body of Christ works. Every act of obedience is important. I am not sure how God will dole out rewards but I bet I will be surprised. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a little extra reward for some of those pioneers for helping start a new place of ministry on a hot August night six years ago. And I pray that as the “settlers” from Wylie and surrounding areas who will visit this sparkling new place will find a church that trusts God in His infinite grace to model the church that Paul described in Colossae.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3, NLT)

And I pray that the sacrifices of the pioneers will never be forgotten.