I can guess what many of you may be thinking. “Wait a minute”, This church was established a long time ago.” It is true that Life Church had its beginnings in 1963 when Paul Cowell moved to Knoxville to begin a campus church that reached out to the University of Tennessee. It was a great success. A revival broke out that still reverberates today.
Pastor Morris Bagwell enjoyed a wonderful tenure at the church which ended when he died of a disease that he battled for a long time. After the church went a year without a pastor, my family came in June of 2012. There has been a whirlwind of activity at the church since then, related to relaunching Life Church. Launching can be tough on existing churches and ours has been no exception. While the church has grown tremendously, the pace of rapid change has been difficult on our entire church. In that short time we have changed our name, moved twice, and been through two building projects already. We grew from an average Sunday attendance of 40 before we arrived in 2012 to an average attendance of 103 for 2014. That is just over 150% growth. Last year we grew from an average attendance in 2013 of 82 to todays average of 103 which is a 23% growth. The future is bright but it is time for a breather.
One of our elders, Yulan Washburn, gave a talk on Vincent Van Gogh last autumn. He spoke about how Van Gogh was not appropriately appreciated in his lifetime. After his death, however, he has become one of the most well known artists of all times. Yulan concluded his talk by quoting this Psalm of Moses from Psalm 98:17 “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands.”
The word that stuck out to me while Yulan was speaking was “establish.” Establish means “to set up on a firm or permanent basis.” In my own words it means to put ones “roots” down and dig in for the long haul. Launching, is about “change” while establishing is about working systems well until they become deeply engrained in an organization. This year we are planning no major changes at Life Church. We are going to focus on the four things that we do which are 1) Weekend services 2) Small groups 3) Discover Life classes and 4) Dream Team. We want to continue to cast the vision of Life Church which exists “to move people who are far from God toward their highest potential as Christ followers.” We want the work that Paul Cowell founded to make an impact for generations to come. This year our prayer is “establish the work of our hands.”
Already the year is off to a great start. We plan on having more fun, making less changes, and enjoying each other more this year. We believe that by the beginning of next year we will say that we were “established” in 2015.