After much debate and tribulations, the wife and I have decided to join and take part in the process of planting a new church in downtown Flushing. It took us quite a while to decide if this was the right decision for our family and if this is what God really wanted to do in our lives, but it’s quite fascinating to see how God had, to a certain degree, initiated his plan four years ago.
In 2008 on May 4th, the wife and I were scheduled to have dinner with Peter and his wife, a relatively new couple at our church that joined the previous summer and wanted to get to know us, but they also had plans to eat with Gary and his wife at the same time. Gary then graciously invited all of us over to dine at his house. It was a fine meal with good conversation, but what stood out was that Peter wanted to separate into guys and girls so that we can pray together. I recall a sense of awkwardness and intrusion, as if I was ambushed by prayer. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a good and deep conversation, going to places that were surprising and a bit uncomfortable, but relieving to be open and honest. We left that night thankful for the opportunity to fellowship with two gospel-centered couples, but had no idea that the six of us would meet more often in the future.
Then in January of 2009, our Pastor recruited a bunch of us to begin a college ministry, a budding need in our church as more students were graduating from our youth group and needed a place or group to belong to. After much planning, it was decided that we would focus on a weekly college community group and work on expanding that to other possible venues and ministries on and off various campuses. Our first group met in the Spring and we all gathered for two years, changing, fluctuating, and growing together in Christ. It was a great time as the wife and I really enjoyed meeting new friends and feeding off of the youthfulness and energy that these young people had. And as time would have it, many of them would graduate and enter their post-college, graduate level, and early career phases in life. So much so that a majority of the group were out of school, thus needing a young adult group.
So on April 27th, 2011, the college group multiplied and the wife and I branched off into the young adult group. We still retained most of the members from the college group, but now people were able to invite their friends who weren’t in school anymore, which opened the doors to something larger than what anyone could have anticipated or prayed for.
My sister graduated from college that May and began to attend our group, occasionally bringing friends here and there. But little by little, more of her friends started coming, and then they began to bring their friends too. Within two months, our group had doubled in size, and eventually tripling shortly thereafter. This was truly amazing, as each Sunday and Wednesday night I was constantly meeting new people and inputting their contact info into my iphone in which the CG email list was getting insanely long. And what was also great was that some of them were coming out on Sundays on a regular basis to worship with us at LFCC. This was good, but I noticed that because they were such a large group, they kept to themselves after service and they were intimidating to reach out and talk to from an outside perspective. Of course this was expected and no one was to blame, but I wanted them to feel more connected at church and to eventually get involved and serve. So in mid-July I contacted Pastor Ro, Peter, and Gary and his wife, all individuals who I knew cared for these young adults, but just needed an opportunity to spend time with them. My intention was simply for the young adults to get to know more of our leaders at church so that they wouldn’t feel as if they were on the outside looking in. As an aside, I also mentioned to Peter that since he was in the early stages of planning a young adult church plant, perhaps some of these young adults could go with him. They all graciously agreed to come visit the young adult small group and I scheduled for them to come in three successive weeks, guests stars if one can say. Everyone had a wonderful time and it really helped them feel more welcomed. In retrospect, I think this was one of the most impactful ministerial decisions the Lord has ever pushed me to make, at the time.
That fall, the young adult group got so large that we had to multiply into two groups, one being in Forest Hills and the other at Gary and his wife’s house in Fresh Meadows with Peter helping to lead. We did a joint Thanksgiving dinner and our apartment was packed. By Christmas, the wife and I had to step down as we had our baby at the end of the month, but thankfully, my sister and Jenna stepped up and became the new leaders, and a family also in Forest Hills graciously opened up their home to host the group. Both groups flourished with an influx of new people, with the Fresh Meadows group multiplying into three groups this past Spring, making four young adult groups. I have never experienced such an explosion of this magnitude like anything else before.
During this time, the wife and I hadn’t thought much about the possibility of joining the Flushing church plant because we just had our first baby and LFCC main-site has been our home church for over eight years. It has a nursery during Sunday service and it’s where our friends are at, those who also have young children that can help and support us as we grow into parenthood. It just didn’t make sense to us, but we met with our Pastor and Peter numerous times who helped to talk us through what this church plant was all about and what our options were and in what capacity we could support the church. Nonetheless, the wife and I were still sorely conflicted for months, one day excited to go and the next day wanting to stay, not really being able to decide one way or the other. With all that had transpired in the months and years preceding our decision, it did make sense for us to join and continue what God has blossomed into a flourishing young adult ministry. We love young people and have a heart for them because we have always seen a need for post-college people to find a place to feel connected to since the transition into the real world can be quite brutal and lonesome. Personally, my first year out of college was the darkest year in my life. I started teaching in the Bronx immediately after graduation while going to grad school at night, and I had recently settled on attending a new church, but I just didn’t want to make the time to get involved with my new church at the time.
So we definitely acknowledged the need, but with CJ we didn’t believe we could be impactful and committed to something so huge and important, and it’s not like us to give anything less than our all to a ministry. In the end the needs of our family comes first and so, although still conflicted, after a Sunday service we informed Peter and our Pastor that we were going to stay at the main site. The car ride home was silent and we both knew we probably had just made the wrong decision. It was a difficult week coping with it, but it was a good time spent struggling and really trying to understand what God was doing in our lives. In retrospect, I’m glad we made that decision, albeit selfish, at that time so that we could experience what it was like to say no so that we could make sure that we have no regrets, and we were having regrets, but we stuck with our decision for the benefit of our son.
Since our conversation with Peter on that particular Sunday was very brief, we met with him once more later in the week so as to be transparent and explain our decision and have some closure, and he also brought along Eric and Becky, two other young adults who briefly attended our Forest Hills group before all the multiplying took place. We spent a good time being honest and speaking out hearts and minds. We told them that we were scared, scared about taking care of CJ, about losing our friends at church, and fearful of transition into new jobs for the both of us. This was such a big decision for our family that I haven’t made such an important turn in life since asking out the wife and telling her that I liked her. I knew that once I told her that I had feelings for her, we’d eventually get married and create a family together, and choosing a church is just as radical a change as well. It’s not everyday that I’m at a crossroad between two churches, technically one church with two multi-site congregations, for our church community is super important to us, and our present life stage was all the more vulnerable. And so we explained that that is why we took so long to decide and why we ended up saying no.
The three totally understood where we were coming from and respected our decision, but they wanted to let us know that we weren’t alone in raising CJ. It was good to be reminded that we didn’t necessarily have to choose between our son and the church plant, but that it’s truly feasible to do both with the strength of the Lord. Furthermore, what was most powerful was that it was very encouraging to hear how the wife and I had impacted the lives of the two young adults. We had forgotten, before everything exploded and CJ was born, how much they loved us. That really broke our hearts because in a way we were abandoning them. This is not to say that the church plant will fail without our help, but our presence ministry was important to them in having us by their side supporting and building them up. We really didn’t know we meant that much to them.
So after discussing it once more, the wife and I decided to fully commit to the church plant. Of course it wasn’t their intention to convince us, but in the end we finally understood the need and our hearts really melted when Eric and Becky wanted us to come. We’re still scared, for the transition and many unknowns may prove to be difficult, but we believe this is what the good Lord wants to do in our lives, and if it means making some sacrifices and being uncomfortable and inconvenienced, then that’s okay as long as Jesus is glorified. And although it took 4+ years to convince us, we’re finally there with Peter, Gary, their families, and the rest of our friends.