As I returned from my mission trip up in Michigan at the end of summer, I felt unsure in what the future held for my church, HMCC of Austin. I wondered how God was going to work as I entered back into it.
What change was He going to bring about for the church in this coming semester?
In fact, our church was going through a lot of changes before the summer had started. When our team was sent up north, we had heard different things happening for the church.
Leaders were being sent out. People were moving on to another stage in their lives. And even though most of the students were gone during that time, there seemed to be some tenseness over the physical absence in members/leaders.
I asked myself very valid, but internal questions:
- “What’s going to happen this year? Will our church flourish? Will it stay the same?”
and the scariest of all
- “Is this possibly the last year our church will be around?”
Because, honestly, our church is small. We did not originate from Austin. We started up around 2009 as a church plant from Michigan, where the main church site is at.
And from the stories I’ve heard about the early years of the church, it seemed hard. Outreach and church attendance was rough. There was a cultural divide for Michigan church planters as they tried to squeeze into the vibrant Austin environment. Honestly, the church had a hard time finding some ground to root itself and there were moments where the church would’ve ended.
And we, as members these past 4–5 years, have been blessed by not experiencing that. We’ve been fortunate to taste the fruits of the labors that have been harvested by many faithful members of the church who’ve fasted, done all-night prayers, and day after day turned to God and surrendered themselves to Him.
I guess that previous situation of losing the church is a potential fear a lot of us members and the leaders have for our church currently.
So people prayed. Many stepped out in faith. We started our outreach week for the beginning of the school year.
And weirdly enough, I felt this crazy yet genuine dynamic of love for others.
Maybe I was blind to a lot of the stuff that happens in my ministry. Or maybe I had too much stuff to do, so I never had time to notice. Or maybe I didn’t even care...
But somehow, God decided to work powerfully over these past few weeks, even as school started. He answered many prayers that we prayed over. Prayers over faith. Over growth. Over genuine hearts that wanted to live out the Great Commission in their daily lives.
And great change happened.
I remember for my class (students who were all my college year — dubbed Empire) would gather and pray together sometimes. One of the things we prayed on and off for was the “open seat” in our class.
The “open seat” was, metaphorically speaking, an opening in our class that we hoped would be filled by another brother or sister in Christ from the same year. In other words, we prayed for another peer to walk the path of faith with us.
And God answered it — crazily enough, He answered it abundantly.
Not 1. Not 2. But many sons and daughters of Christ joined us within the first few weeks of school — current students, transfer students, exchange students, international students — We were given more than we (or at least I) thought that abstract seat could ever hold. (Ahhh Eric, O’ ye of little faith... Matthew 8:26 reference)
Additionally, God not only provided for us within Empire, but He also brought many people from all ethnic, age, and cultural backgrounds to our church.
I briefly mentioned it, but over the summer, there was an absence in members for our church. We filled in only a couple of rows for our small humble room that we rented from a church near campus.
But somehow, these past few Sundays, that room has been packed with people, both students and working adults. At baseline, these people that came out were willing to attend church, if not to worship/praise God and follow after Him! (feelsgoodman)
And I think most of all, I am overwhelmed by the growth in faith for many members of the church, and even people I’ve met outside the church. As I’ve been catching up with people I haven’t seen since the beginning of summer, I’ve observed many glimpses of God’s work shining in and out of people’s lives:
Miraculous ways that God has answered prayers.
Hearts of people who’ve reached out first to learn about faith.
And doors of opportunities to share the Gospel that have not only arisen, but ironically been kicked down by God (of course, figuratively) and forcibly shoved into people’s faces. (Oh Lord, you did invent irony...)
And that’s only a drop of the countless testimonies that I’ve heard!
As I heard these things, all I could do was sit, watch, and listen in awe and wonder. I was reminded about the love of God, and the faithfulness He had, and has, for us.
This was our Creator. Our Healer. Our provider. The sole rock and foundation that we stand upon.
Honestly, sometimes, all I can say when I experience these things are two phrases:
“Praise God.” and “God is good.”
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
— Rev 22:13 ESV
To be honest, I still have no clue what God has in store for our church for the rest of this semester, but I’m excited for the story He’s writing out. Like someone who’s been able to catch the fragrant smell of dinner before it’s served, I’m looking forward to what God has to serve for us as we attempt to live out our lives as a church and as followers of Christ serving Him. (And yes... you got served puns)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38–39 ESV