M-Note 9.17.2021

On the morning of September 17, 2006, I woke up at 5am, got dressed, drove to church, and went into the sanctuary to practice my sermon out loud. It was the very first public worship service for a new church called The Gathering, and I was nervous. Along with a small group of people, I heard a call to start a new church in the city that would be compelling for new generations of people. But, visioning and dreaming was one thing. Actually doing it? That was something else. I was 29, I had 2 kids and one on the way, I had just purchased a house that I couldn’t really afford, and I was about to begin an adventure with no real map, timeline, or destination. I was all in. It was time to either sink or swim. And I was scared.
That day, 288 people showed up in an old brick sanctuary on McCausland. We worshiped, singing from slides being run from a computer and projector propped on someone’s lap in the front row. I preached a sermon in white robe and stole (and a full head of hair!). The next Sunday, 135 people showed up. I spent the better part of the first two months just praying that people would continue to show up. They did, and the adventure began.
Today is the 15-year anniversary of that first worship service. So much has happened since that day. This past week, Matt Fulmer did a little digging and came up with some incredible highlights of what God has done through The Gathering:  

  • We have dug 172 wells through our Mozambique safe water initiative providing safe drinking water for over a million people (many of which are children);
  • We have baptized over 600 people;
  • We have mentored over 400 students to help improve their literacy skills through the Literacy Project; 
  • We have given away over a million dollars to local mission – including investing in STL public schools, food for hungry families, books for kids, family support for low-income people, and basic needs for those hit hard by the pandemic; and
  • We have been able to reach countless people who have felt hurt or left out of church with the hope of Jesus through our 3 physical sites and thousands of people through our online site.
I did a little calculating of my own. I figure I have written about 800 sermons and preached just shy of 3000 times. Tens of thousands of new people have worshiped with us. Over a 1000 people have served. Kids have been baptized, shaped in faith, confirmed, and are now young leaders in the church. We have been a launching pad for numerous other pastors and leaders. We once baptized 50 people in a day. Jaime Garcia pitched wiffle ball to me on stage, while Chris Carpenter pitched to kids at one of our mission outreach events in the city. The app has been downloaded over 5000 times, and nearly 1000 people are now in a CoreGroup meeting weekly to grow in faith. The stories could on, and on, and on. But most of all, thousands and thousands of people have found in Jesus hope, renewal, encouragement, acceptance, strength, clarity, and purpose. And God has done that with and through YOU.
So Gathering, happy 15 year anniversary! I am proud of you. What you do matters. The ways that you stay connected and committed week-in and week-out matters. The day-by-day, week-by-week work you do matters. It adds up, and God is using it in truly life-changing ways. Reflecting is good. I am so grateful to have gotten to take this journey with you. I am honored that you have allowed me to be your pastor. But do you know what? We aren’t done. Not even close. The best stories are the ones that we will get to write together over the next 15 and more!
P.S. Join us in worship this weekend as we celebrate the anniversary and continue our series Jesus vs. Christianity. Also, Pastor Charity will be hosting and leading a series called Practicing Jesus-Centered Leadership covering topics like Vision Casting, Knowing How You Lead, Servant and Volunteer Leadership, Apprenticeship, and Building a Table for All. The course will be on Wednesdays beginning Sept. 29. You can sign up or find more details here.

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