My blog for the past year and a half or so has been a review of my first 20 years in ministry.  It began in September 1982 and ended in June 15, 2003, the day we entered the new building.

It’s strange to look back on life and assess where you’ve been and what you’ve done, what you accomplished and hope yet to accomplish, where you succeeded and where you failed, what you’d do the same and what you’d do differently, and most of all – what your life meant and continues to mean.

I came into the ministry in 1982 with a lot of ideals about which I was certain and confident.  I was critical of large churches.  I felt they worked like machines pushing people through an assembly line of programs to produce one-size-fits-all disciples.  I felt like they were focused on programs rather than people and that they were impersonal and distant.  I believed in personal ministry – preaching the truth and people carrying out the truth.  I believed in the church as a community -- loving one another, encouraging one another, trusting one another, growing together, being faithful and loyal to the Lord and to one another, generations growing together like a spreading tree of deeply connected meaningful friendships.

During the first twenty years of ministry, I believe we had a good bit of that at our church.

But I truly believe that although the Father is interested in His church, He is also interested in molding me.  And in doing so, He seems to be having the last laugh.

The things I was aiming to develop, we had at our little church.  As a result, our little church grew into two services – two congregations.  And we had the tight fellowship I was shooting for in both services/congregations.

But things were getting stretched.  We started to experience discomforts.  There wasn’t enough parking.  The building was too small.    There wasn’t room for new people or growth.  Our bathrooms were downstairs.  They were small and there was no access to them for the disabled.  We were running out of space to handle burgeoning children’s ministries and a booming nursery.

I had been raised to “make-do”.  But not everyone else was.  Some people were getting disgruntled and wanted me to do what it took to handle the growth.

But that would mean becoming a big church.

In my prayer times I could almost hear God chuckling as He checkmated me.  I was not wrong – small, personal churches are a wonderful thing.  But when you have a wonderful thing – it grows.  And when a small church grows, it becomes a big church.

And the Lord’s personal challenge to me for the next leg of the journey was to learn to become the thing I didn’t want to be, the thing I had always criticized:  a big church.  It was as if the Lord stood back and said, “Okay – you’re the one with the ideals and the confidence and the certainty.  You’ve been the one who’s criticized my other servants who have led larger churches.  Show us, now, how it’s done.”

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God – even when He’s laughing at you!