Saturday, August 18, 2018

Big Dreams Start Small

We celebrated our 10 Year Birthday as Christ Fellowship in Stuart, Florida!

Dreams are exciting.  Dreams are what living is all about.  To dream is to move.  Without a dream, there is no forward motion.  Life would become boring.  Static.  Monochromatic.  
What a privilege it has been for me to get to do ministry with my nephew, Alex Burns! Such a gifted Leader.

All of us are designed for dreams.  It is in our DNA, implanted by God.  

If you are privileged to have a dream, you have experienced the absolute joy and excitement that is produced in your spirit.  Your dream wakes you up in the morning.  It gets you searching on the internet.  You become distracted by your dream because it has captured your heart, and fills your mind.

However, at some point in your dream journey, you will inevitably experience what I call "dream-drain.”  I am talking about that point where, after months, or maybe years of working towards your dream, you are not seeing the results you had hoped for.  You have invested so much time and energy, only to see that your dream has not yet been fulfilled.  Not even close.  

A dream-drain makes our heart sick.  We go from dream to depression.  From faith-filled to frustration.   Our dream becomes our detriment.  What once filled our heart with oxygen now fills us with pain.  Are you there right now? Did you dare to dream only to become disappointed?

I had a dream to start a church.  I was raised in church.  Not only was I raised in church, My parents were the Pastors of our church.  My mom and dad started a church with a few families in a small town called Turlock, California.  Growing up, I had a front row seat in watching them launch, lead, and love.  I saw them sacrifice. I saw them sow. God used my parents to build a church made up of great people.  That church reached their community.  Many lives were transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.  The church grew and thrived.  It stands today and continues to have impact in that community.  

So proud to have our daughter, Madison leading worship in our church!
Ten years ago, an opportunity came for me to start a church.  Up to this point in my life, I had always focused on music.  I served in the church, but always as the musician, the back-up to the Pastor - never the Pastor myself.  When my Pastor at Christ Fellowship church called me up to help launch a Christ Fellowship campus in Stuart, Florida, my dream leaped inside of me.  It was if God was confirming to me “Matt! This is it.  This is your time I will begin to fulfill the dream I planted in you years ago.  I AM going to do it in you.” I was so excited, I began planning, recruiting, and working.  I began dreaming.  I had big dreams, big goals.  I remember driving around the little town of Stuart one day by myself praying big prayers for what our new church campus would do, where we would serve.  I was scared AND excited.  I was faith-filled AND fear-filled, all at the same time.  Is that even possible?

With many long months of preparation, we launched our church in Stuart.  It was awesome! We had 1250 people attend our first service.  I had my Pastors, Tom and Todd Mullins come.  Many friends from other Christ Fellowship campuses came to support.  But, when all of the friends and Pastors went back to their campuses, I was left with 300 people in a high school and a portable church to tear down.  In the beginning years, we did not have as many people give their life to Jesus.  We did not have opportunities in the community that I had hoped.  Doors were not open to us.  I could not preach very well - I had been the musician, remember? Other Pastors from great churches would share great stories of life transformation and community impact.  Hearing these stories did not inspire me.  Instead, they drained me.  Dream-drain.  

Portable church events were awesome!
Moment of honesty: In those times, I had moments of temptation.  I was not good at being a Pastor.  I did not have the developed skills.  I felt like I was playing catch up to Pastors much farther along than I was.  When I received opportunities to go be a music leader in a church, I must admit, I was tempted.   I remember refreshing my resume, if not for anything else, to just remind myself that I was good at something, even though not as a leader or Pastor.  However, God did not release me from my role as Stuart Campus Pastor at Christ Fellowship.  If God was not clearly leading me away, I knew that I needed to just bear in and stay committed to where I was. 

Teachable Moment #1
If God does not say GO, you STAY
When the dream does not seem like it is working, our logic tells us that we missed it. It’s time to quit, time to re-focus.  In these seasons, we must slow down, get quiet, and go back to the dream that God gave us.  Is God changing His mind? Did God miss a detail? No! God did not put this dream in you to frustrate you.  He gave you this dream to fulfill you!Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.  If God does not clearly say GO, you STAY.

We met in High Schools for seven great years

I remember my mom encouraging me when I would share my insecurities with her.  She understood all too well the dream drain I was experiencing.  She could relate with my tendency to move on, having lived through starting their church in Turlock.  She would quote me a verse in the Bible: “Despise not the day of small beginnings.” Zechariah 4:10.  

Teachable Moment #2
Big Dreams start small
What my mom was teaching me was that BIG dreams start small.  Dreams take time to develop.  Just like a child does not start going to college at one year old, neither will your dream take off and be all that you see it could be.  We think that if we are not seeing big results now, we had the dream wrong.  No! You are sowing the sacrifice now that will reap the success later.  

Pastors Todd and Julie Mullins recently spoke to our Christ Fellowship students before they were starting a new year of school.  They taught them that there is a gap between their dream and where they are now.  They said “fill that gap with faithfulness.”  Faithfulness is the path to your dream.  It’s the quickest way from point A to point B.  It’s not talent.  It’s not who you know.  It’s not cutting corners.  God honors our faithfulness.

Luke 16:10 Whoever is faithful with little things can be trusted with much

God was teaching me lessons as we were building a church in a High School in Stuart.  We worked hard. We gave our best.  We remained teachable so that we could be usable.  God kept me in the background, in the hidden.  Every week, set up, tear down.  Loving people.  Earning trust in the community.  We were proving ourselves.  We were demonstrating our heart for God and our passion for people. I learned the power of staying faithful and staying committed, whether I saw great results or not.  God would honor our faithfulness.  

The last service in a high school.  We were finally moving to a permanent church location!

Teachable Moment #3
God is Faithful
What was amazing was that as I was faithful, God was faithful.  While I was working, God was working.  We began to see impact within our church family.  Leaders began to emerge, the most unlikely people.  The community slowly began to embrace our church and doors began to open.  Our church started to grow and reach more people.  God provided a beautiful piece of property in Stuart.  Our church family all pitched in to purchase the property, from all Christ Fellowship campuses. God was developing my skills.  The best training is not in the classroom – it is on the battlefield.  

So many lives transformed.  This is my friend, Dorothy!
This Sunday, August 19, 2018, Christ Fellowship Stuart Campus is celebrating our 10 Year Birthday - Wow! Our first Sunday in Stuart was August 24, 2008.  I was 35 years old.  My kids were very small, and I was full of dreams.  Our church has had great impact, and God has done great things:

  • Hundreds of people have made decisions to follow Jesus 
  • Our church property and building are paid for
  • Stuart Campus helped birth the Port. Saint Lucie Campus
  • Pastors, Community leaders and ministries have emerged from Stuart Campus
  • Stuart Campus supports ministries and Martin County churches through Church United

This is what I do at church - I see the God-potential in people.  Here, I am talking with an up-and-coming leader for Stuart Campus!

I want to encourage you.  Hold on to your dream.  Do not go.  Stay. Fill the gap from where you are to where you want to go with Faithfulness.  God measures success not by results, but by our faithfulness. Remember that as you are working, you are sowing.  As you are grinding, God is working.  I can tell you from experience that God will fulfill the dream He planted in you!