Editors note: This blog post was originally published October 20, 2014 on my former blog Road to Twenty-Something.
You would think visiting a church plant is an easy task. Especially if it’s half way across the state. You would think leaving only come natural. Especially if you’ve only hung around for a couple of hours.
It’s not. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in a long time.
Ellensburg, Washington left me sick to my stomach.
You see, three weeks ago Resonate Church launched their first Central Washington University service. Approximately 387 people filled a theater that could only seat 320 in order to welcome Resonate and listen to the Gospel.
I was there. I volunteered to report on it. It was intense. It was exciting. It was inspiring.
Being a student from Washington State University, a young member of Resonate Church, a disconnected by-stander in the middle of a party, it meant little if nothing to me at the time.
I was caught up in how novel it was. I was caught up in the positive atmosphere. I was caught up by the surface level joy of successfully launching a brand new church branch.
I quickly moved on afterwards. But moving on didn’t mean I would never take a step back again.
I took one of those steps yesterday when I spontaneously piggy-backed my way into Ellensburg for Resonate CWU round two.
To be honest, I really shouldn’t have been there. I have an exam this morning that I really should have been studying for. I have school responsibilities, and job responsibilities, and personal responsibilities I should have been attending first.
But, for completely selfish reasons, I traveled three hours east to avoid each of those things listed.
Once there, I sat in the message. I connected with strangers. I caught up with extended members of my community. I had heart to hearts with people I hadn’t talked to in ages.
And that’s when it hit me.
As I caught up with community I got to hear their voices crack, see their eyes burn, feel their hearts break. All from exhaustion.
These people were individuals who less than six months earlier lived in Pullman.
These people poured into my city. These people poured into my campus. These people poured into my life.
These people sacrificed everything to start something out of nothing.
They have the Gospel and a city. That’s it.
They were feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders and I couldn’t do anything to relieve it. Nothing.
As I stepped off of a curb outside of the theater and headed to my ride I couldn’t help but hold back tears and swallow the pain inside of my chest.
My soul was heavy and there was nothing I could do about it.
Three hours back to Pullman turned into an endless state of “what?.” Complete confusion. I was sad. I was happy. I had a beautiful mess of emotions racing inside.
What I was feeling is the result of a Gospel Goodbye. It was just hitting me later than everyone else involved.
Resonate pastor Keith Weiser often uses the term Gospel Goodbye to describe an unavoidable experience that repeatedly occurs while living on mission.
As the church builds, people are brought together for a time, accomplish work, and then move on to something else.
Some people feel lead to be on the field, actively connecting the Gospel to people and people to community and community to mission. Others know their responsibility is to stay back, remaining active in their own community by training and being trained further in their work.
This is something that goes back to Paul – arguably the most influential church planter of all time.
Paul helped plant churches all over Asia Minor. Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, and Phillipi were four cities he reached, to name a few.
I can only imagine the connections that were made, and the connections that were lost, because of his need to continue moving forward; to continue living on mission.
Paul wrote to each of these churches relentlessly. He poured all of his being into leading these peoples, leading disciples like Barnabas and TImothy.
But, when he began a new plant, he had to leave each of these behind. He saw these communities maybe twice more in his lifetime, at best, after leaving each.
Look what became of that. Look what became of him. Look what became of Jesus Christ.
Seriously, Christianity is dominant and the hope that comes with it is awesome.
I sit here, writing, and I wonder if I’ll ever get past the heaviness. Selfishly, I ache for my friends return, I ache for something different, I ache for this all to change.
Then I remember, we’re all on the same page.
Resonate is in Ellensburg to bring the Gospel to people, people to community, and community to mission. They’re also in Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho – right where I’m located – to do the exact same thing with a similar impact.
When realizing that, my entire perspective shifts. I don’t want to ask how I can change that mission. I want to know how I can play a part in that statement.
Being a church planter is not easy. Being a sideline man jumping into the mix for a visit isn’t easy either.
We want to hold on tight to those we think we need. We want to keep those people close we can’t imagine living without. We can’t imagine growing more intimate in our faith in their absence.
When you’re close to people involved, when your community divides to create more somewhere else, it becomes a pain equivalent to punch in the stomach.
My most recent trip to Ellensburg made me want to vomit, but for every right reason you can imagine.
There are some incredible things happening in that city and some incredible things happening here. The last thing I want to do is get in the way of that.
The Gospel is actively being shared across the state of Washington. If that’s why I’m sick, bring it on.