I was fresh out of seminary, sitting in one of my first meetings with the provisional session of an OPC mission work in northeastern Georgia. Like much of that Georgia summer in 2013, it was muggy and rainy. Lake Hartwell was rising, the fire ants were thriving, and questions were swirling in my mind. Will this little church plant take root? How will it grow? Can I possibly minister effectively to these people? What on earth am I doing here?
As the meeting drew to an end, my dear brother, regional home missionary Lacy Andrews, prayed. He did not know then, and he may never know, unless he reads this article, that his prayer has proved to be an immeasurable source of encouragement for me since that time. He gave thanks to our God for the mission work, and then, without a trace of hesitation or doubt in his voice, he said, “Please cause it to grow; we believe that you will.”
That was one of the first challenges to me and my then tenuous faith as a church planter. His petition and example of faith urged me to lay the doubts and uncertainty in my own heart to rest. “We believe that you will.” I said amen after that prayer, and I am grateful to say that I have since been privileged to witness God’s amen to it as well.
The Lord who leads his people in triumph in Christ in every place has cared for our church plant as only our heavenly Father can. We have seen many significant changes since Heritage Presbyterian Church was formed in April 2011. Since then we have worshipped in three different locations, had many children born into the church, and witnessed covenant children profess their faith. A number of new households have joined, and many others have passed through our doors. We have worshipped our God and proclaimed the gospel of life in Jesus Christ to many. We have tasted the bitterness of death, and by his grace have rejoiced in the promise of life. Clearly, reflecting on the past gives us many reasons for thanksgiving. But we are also looking to the future.
Our Plan for the Future
During our session meeting in February, we approved a plan to guide us toward organization as a particular congregation in the OPC. Our plan is a simple one, balancing intentionality and flexibility. As I write this, I look forward to March 23, when we will conclude a course I have been teaching on biblical leadership and Westminster theology, which has been open to all the men of the church. Then, from March 27 to April 17, members of Heritage will have the opportunity to nominate men for the offices of elder and deacon. During that time, I plan to preach a three-part series on the rule of Jesus Christ in his church. Those who accept the nominations will then begin a period of more intensive and extensive training than the leadership course provided.
Herein lies the need for flexibility, since it is difficult to know how much time we will want to spend training and equipping the future shepherds and servants in this part of Christ’s church. Lord willing, when that is complete, our provisional session will examine and certify the men we judge to possess the necessary qualifications for office. Only then will they stand for election by the congregation.
Although a lot of work remains ahead of us, setting out into this new phase of our church’s development is a tremendous step. We give thanks to God that he has brought us to this point, and we continue to look to him to supply us with every need as we move forward.
Please pray that the Lord would guide our way forward in righteousness and peace. Ask him to protect us from division, strife, and pride. As you pray, be encouraged, because you will be praying for the continued work of the kingdom of God, especially that the Lord would see his church “furnished with all gospel officers” (Larger Catechism, 191). Finally, pray with confidence that we and all the churches of Jesus Christ will grow to his glory—and then believe that he will.