No Manual, Just Immanuel
Although we had a long term sense of calling to church plant, it was only really in early 2018 that things came sharply in to focus.
Throughout my twenties I had received numerous words and encouragements to church plant, but God's timing often isn't immediate, and having spent many years exploring different church planting options, family and work were in fact set to be the predominant focus of most of the last decade - church planting was placed firmly on the back burner.
In fact coming towards the end of 2017 everything, including church, work, and family life, was pretty stable and settled - perhaps a little too settled!
Then seemingly out of nowhere things began to happen. People started to make comments to us like "If God's calling you to do something you can't just ignore it", the story of Peter getting out of the boat came up time and again, in just over one week I heard three sermons on Jonathan and his armour bearer stepping out to battle the enemy when no-one else would.
We started to write down everything that we felt God was saying to us, but by the time we got to over 50 occasions where the same things had come up, we gave up trying to write them all down. It was intense to say the least and it was abundantly clear God was calling us to step out and do something - but what?
I remember my wife asking me one evening "what do you think it is God is saying to us?" We stilled ourselves for a while before I found myself saying "plant a church and I will be with you".
I think we already knew in our hearts where this was headed. It felt a bit like we were being told to jump off a cliff but we were hesitant to even look out over the cliff edge. It was such a big life change to contemplate and yet the last six words which came out of my mouth changed everything - "and I will be with you".
The truth is we'd far rather be out of the boat with Jesus, than in the boat without him. We'd rather be taking the battle to the enemy with God on our side, than hiding in a ditch without him. We'd rather be out taking a risk which the Holy Spirit told us to take, than comfortable and dead in our faith.
God hasn't given us an instruction booklet for this task, there is risk, there is uncertainty, there are weekly challenges, but yet he has promised that he will be with us in the process, and that changes everything. As Alan Scott says, there is no manual for this task, but there is Immanuel (one of the biblical names for Jesus which means God with us).
In fact this has always been the promise to the followers of Jesus as they seek to advance the church on the earth. In Matthew 28 Jesus delivers the Great Commission to the church, calling his followers to go and to make disciples of all nations, but he finishes that commission with these words - "and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age".
We wouldn't be doing this without that promise. Thank God for Immanuel.