I’ve only felt a sense of calling this clearly and strongly on one other occasion. That’s when I first saw my wife and knew in an instant that I would marry her. A certainty something like that attends this call to be a part of the Anacostia River Church mission.
Two weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, the spiritual family of God called Anacostia River Church (ARC) launched its first public service. The service came with the swiftness of a flooded river. Before we knew it, we were busy about ordering supplies, organizing ministry teams, and “launching” a church. I don’t know who first coined the term “launch” when it comes to church “plants” (an interesting mixed metaphor), but they were onto something for we were jumping and flinging ourselves fully into the work! And what a joy it’s been!
People frequently ask me, “How’s the church plant going?” I’m grateful for the love and interest that prompts that query. But I’ve yet to find an adequate way of describing the great privilege I have of shepherding along with two incredibly gifted and godly elders, or the slight staggering I feel when I think of the amazing people the Lord has sent on this mission, or the awe at seeing how the Lord has provided for us at every turn, or the quickening happening in my soul as we work to evangelize the neighborhood. Starting a new church produces a lot of good fruit when the Lord blesses it!
But one thing amazes me more than any other. I don’t know why it amazes me so, but it does. It’s this: the number of people who pray for our efforts in southeast DC.
Now, I know Christians pray all the time and pray for all kinds of things. And I know a lot people who say, “I’m praying for you,” really mean “I wish you well” instead of actually praying. But that’s not what we’re encountering. God’s people are interceding for us and I’m convinced that’s why we’ve seen so much early blessing from the Lord.
Like the sister who approached me following a panel at TGC’s conference this week. She used to work in Anacostia. She feels passionately about the people there and she’s been praying for a gospel preaching church to start in the community for over five years. She wasn’t praying for me or Anacostia River Church by name, but her prayers called us into being.
She’s not alone. There’s Stephanie and Jayme and Jodi and Chelsea, who all work and live in the neighborhood and have for years prayed that the Lord might send the reign of the gospel. There are the many churches already serving the Lord in the neighborhood who in spiritual maturity and utter unselfishness have prayed that the Lord would send laborers into the harvest. The Lord collects all these prayers and we have been seeing His answers.
Then there is the legion of people who began to pray for the plant when they first heard public announcements about it. Over a hundred people receive one staff person’s prayer letter and they faithful pray. On Twitter, via email, in blog comments and bumping into them, they tell us they’re praying. Beau Hughes and the saints at The Village flooded us with notes as they prayed for us during their morning service. That’s one congregation among many who tell us they’re praying for us.
The outpouring of prayer simply amazes me. We walk in the wake of these pleas with God.
And can I be completely honest? It comes during a season when personally I’m finding it difficult to pray. There’s no struggle with sin, no major family problems to distract, no overscheduled diary squeezing out time—just old fashioned difficulty in prayer. I do pray. I like to pray. But it’s a fight right now.
How kind of the Lord to show me that His blessings are not limited to my petitions. And His work will have intercessors even as He uses people who need intercession. Reminds me of something the apostle Paul once wrote: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 10:11). That’s what’s happening with us.
I guess when people ask, “How’s the church plant going?” I should reply, “God’s people are praying for us!”
Thank you very much for your love expressed in prayer! Reminds me of a little song we sang in my mama’s church and in Black churches everywhere:
Somebody prayed for me | Had me on their mind | Took the time and prayed for me
I’m so glad they prayed | I’m so glad they prayed | I’m so glad they prayed for me