It is hard to imagine, but we have two weeks of worship services under our belts. We are getting ready for our third this weekend. We have spent so much time and effort and prayer and planning to launch Spring Hill Presbyterian Church, that it is almost surreal to think that it is actually off the ground. God has done amazing things, not just over the last year and a half, but from before the foundation of the world.
Sunday, January 21, 2018 began with a group of people and a trailer rolling up to Heritage Middle School. Tables from the cafeteria were put up and moved to the back of the room. The trailer was unloaded, container by container, chair by chair. With many hands, it made for light work. You could sense the joy and excitement in everyone’s hearts.
John Shand fearlessly led our unloading and set up process. He was joined by his faithful wife, Jennifer and their children. The Dolan family and the Heiny’s also arrived early so that they could assist. The set up came together quickly and flawlesly.
To make the day special, Lee Porter, our Worship Director, asked a few friends of the church to play instruments for us during our worship. Missy Tillman beautifully arranged flowers for the front of our worship space, and her husband Jason assisted her with several wreaths. Members of our Provisional Session (Paul Joiner from Zion PCA, Tony Giles from Cornerstone PCA and Brandon Goodin from Parish PCA) graced us with their presence and helped serve Communion. Mike Pollard assisted me in leading our liturgy.
We didn’t want to run out of seating, but we did not know how many people would come. We prayed that God would bring people in, so we were prepared for 200. God brought us 125. Many people were new and visiting for the first time. Others were old friends coming to show their support. Whether new friends or old friends, we all celebrated the start of something new and exciting at Spring Hill Presbyterian Church.
Talking to my church planting coach later in the week, he revealed that it was obvious that I was “caught up in the moment” when the service began. As one who is easily overcome with emotion, I felt the Spirit simply welling up inside of me and it was hard to maintain composure. It was all so exciting! It was so exciting, in fact, that I forgot to introduce myself! It is funny looking back on it now.
We began the service with a brief welcome and a “thank you” to all those who have offered their prayers and support to make the launch of this church possible. We have three amazing “mother churches” in Cornerstone, Parish, and Zion. The love, support, and encouragement that we have received is truly incredible.
With the pleasantries and housekeeping items out of the way, we joined our hearts and voices together to worship our great and glorious God. As we walked through the precious liturgy, my heart was full. I didn’t feel like I was focusing on the logistics and the details of our worship. Instead, I felt myself focusing my attention on the object of our worship: God himself. What a gift that is.
When I stood up to read our passage out of Ephesians 1:1-14 and preach, I was once again struck by the gravity of the moment. This was going to be the first sermon ever preached at Spring Hill Presbyterian Church. What would be said on such a momentous occasion? As I was preparing over the last several months, I remember thinking about that first sermon. What should I say? What should I highlight? What passage should I preach from? I never felt a peace about preaching a special Launch Service sermon. Instead, I felt God laying on my heart that I should preach a sermon that set the tone for our preaching at Spring HIll Pres. If our preaching is going to be expository, then simply begin with the first sermon of the book you will be preaching through. And that is what we did.
As I admitted at the beginning of the sermon, I was approaching this message from a heart filled with fear and pride. In my pride, I desired for this to be the best sermon that anyone in attendance had ever heard. I desired for people to be so impressed with my preaching ability that they would want to join this church. But I also admitted that I feared the opposite would happen. I feared that people would hear my preaching and decide that they could never come to a church with such poor preaching. Thankfully, God is sovereign and works in, through, and inspire of my preaching ability!
As we began our journey through the book of Ephesians, God informed us that he had “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” This means that we have a forgiven past, a grace-filled present, and a guaranteed future. We no longer live in the guilt and shame of our past. Our present is defined by a new legal status (holy and blameless before God) and a new relationship with God (his adopted sons). Our future is held secure for us, sealed by the promise of the Holy Spirit. All of this is ours because of what God has done for us in Christ. I pray that our church would always be defined by our belief in the gospel, what God has done for us in Christ.
After the preaching of the Word, we gathered around the Table to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, an act we will engage in weekly. My provisional session joined me in serving the elements, and we were blessed by the visible reminder that Jesus’ body was broken and his blood was shed for the forgiveness or our sins.
After a joyous time of celebration, our service came to an end. We enjoyed cookies in the back of our worship space as we talked with our old friends and got to know our new ones. In a spirit of unity, we all chipped in, picking up chairs, breaking down sound equipment, folding up tables, and tearing down our nursery. We loaded it all in the trailer, ready to pull it all out and do it again the next week (and the next and the next and the next…).
Following the service, the Launch Team joined together for a celebratory meal at Acapulco’s Mexican Restaurant. I thanked this special group of people for all their hard work and their willingness to be used by God to accomplish this goal. I then ceremoniously relieved them of their duties as a Launch Team. Spring Hill Presbyterian Church is now officially off the ground, thanks be to God!