Thursday, October 22, 2009

'Why' Series: Part 2 - Brenham

We have lived in Brenham for over 2 1/2 years now and are grateful for everything the Lord has been teaching us. However, I am still often asked "Why Brenham?" by friends and new acquaintances I meet on the road. I'm sure that different people have varying reasons for their inquisition, and there is no doubt that Steph and I have asked ourselves that on more than one occasion. So, I thought it appropriate to pose this question and offer some answers in the midst of my 'Why' Series. In order to organize my thoughts, I'm going to address the various reasons in a numbered list.

  1. We believe that the Lord called us to move here. No cliche intended. However, if you have known us for any amount of time, you would know that it would have to be the Lord to move us outside of our 'comfort zone' (Please forgive the overused phrase...) into a context that neither of us have ever known prior to moving here. While we do have a Starbucks here, we moved from Sugar Land, TX where we had 4 Starbucks in a 1/2 mile radius. We left a new home built in 2003 for a home built in 1936. This raises another question: Why would the Lord move us here? Which leads me to my second reason.

  2. To sanctify us. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy or more like Christ. We have experienced some of the most fruitful and wonderful times in our family and ministry and some of the darkest times as well since we have been here. There have been several occasions when all we had left was the Lord, His calling on our lives, and one another. We have struggled with sin, both that we have committed, and with sins committed against us. We have wrestled to understand why certain things happen the way that they did. However, through all the ups and downs, we have grown in the Lord and closer as a family. My wife has always been a huge encouragement to me, but over the past 2 1/2 years I have seen her experience a deeper intimacy with the Lord, and extremely consequential ministry in the lives of others. Our marriage has been stretched, yet strengthened through it all.

  3. To help plant Christ Church. Our good friend's Pastor Justin and Brandi Hyde moved out here from Houston to let their roots go deep and Justin had a strong calling to plant a church. To be honest, I thought he was nuts at first. After all, why would anyone choose to leave the city to live in the country (no offense to all my country friends!)? Also, church planting is tough enough in booming suburbs, so how in the world would we be able to plant a healthy church in a small town, especially coming in as outsiders? We have certainly faced our share of challenges, but we have received such hospitality from a few of the churches in town, and have seen God grow His church from 7 to 50-60 every Sunday in just 2 short years!

  4. To minister to students at Blinn College. This small Jr. College boasts of over 2,500 students enrolled annually. By and large, there is not one church here in Brenham that can minister to, disciple, etc. that many people. I certainly don't think that we have all this figured out, but I do know that we have seen several Blinn students come to faith, be discipled, and even become involved in ministry.

  5. To be blessed with great friends. We have great friends back in the Sugar Land area still today, so this is not to say that we needed friends due to the lack of friends. However, we have been blessed with some great friends that we would have otherwise never had if we weren't here. It is humbling to think about how we knew one couple when we moved here and then forced our Realtor and his wife to be our friends when we moved here. Since then we have made so many great friends!

  6. To help us learn to slow down. We did not realize how hectic our lives were back in Sugar Land. We were ALWAYS busy! While we were blessed with so many friends we all were so busy that it was tough to get good time together. Since we have been here in Brenham, we have really learned to value of being able to slow down, enjoy each other, spend plenty of time fellowshiping with our community, and flexibility to serve those who are in need. In a way, it has helped us to be a little less self-focused out of necessity (i.e. so busy that we didn't have time to be self-less). Also, being an itinerant (traveling) preacher, my life is often hectic enough, so it is nice to come back home and slow down.

  7. Because it was the hard thing to do. At the time when we sensed God calling us here we were also considering other planting options in Los Angeles, in town, or staying put at a thriving church-plant. Plus, I was still going to seminary in Houston, so it would make sense to stay put until I was done. However, I remember what Dr. Woo used to say (and I'm certain he still does), "When you have several options in front of you, God is usually calling you to the hardest one." This season has been a tough one in many regards, but we have been forced to be dependent on Christ in so many ways that I am grateful for the good and the bad. Blessed be His name, anyone?

  8. To be a nobody. As most of you know, I have the privilege of speaking to thousands upon thousands of people each year sharing the Good News of the Gospel. It is very humbling how God chooses to use people like us to do His work. However, being in front of so many people so often it is tempting to think higher of yourself than you ought to. This is a constant temptation for me, but being in Brenham has helped to balance that out. No one really knows who I am, or at least really knows me well, so they don't care who I am or what I do (I'm not saying this in a negative way at all). The people in our church and friends in other churches who know me and are my friends love me for me and aren't wrapped up in what I do or who I know. They just like me (or dislike me) because of who I am. This is definitely a blessing, because I'm not a big deal, but sometimes when you are entrusted with authority and a platform, you can become deceived. I really see how God has used this season to keep me in my place.

  9. To gain valuable ministry experience. There are many universal truths regarding church planting that transcend time, space, and culture. However, there are also many things you won't learn about ministry in a smaller town unless you are in this context. What I have learned is too much to put down in this post, but let's just say that through failures and successes I have learned things about God, forgiveness, grace, judgment, trials, and victories that I do not believe I would have learned in my previous context. I have learned how to love people, to serve them, to speak truth in love, and to let them love me in return.

  10. The Question is the Answer. Ultimately, the question, "Why Brenham?" is exactly the reason. This is not a strategic ministry location for my 'career' in ministry. This doesn't make practical sense in a lot of ways. Thus, God HAS to move and if He doesn't, then we will sink. The very fact that my family and I are here right now is a God thing that requires God to move, to bless, to provide for, to rebuke, to restore, and to bring His Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.
We don't have a strategic reason as to why we are here. In some ways, moving here has likely closed some ministry doors. However, we have opted to value faithfulness and obedience as our standard for 'success' instead of salary, position, busyness, number of people in church, etc. Perhaps we are in error, and if so, I pray that God would be gracious to us and correct us. Yet, if we are growing and maturing in faithfulness and obedience, then we rejoice in Him!


Steph said...

I agree completely on all points. I love what we've learned here together.

Just because most of the people here believe that you invented the Internet, doesn't mean it's not a great place to live. ;)

love you. great post!

Rastis said...

you left one reason off: Blue Bell!