This weekend, I weep with joy.
Like a child’s conception, the dream of Vanguard was placed in Kelly’s and my heart long before she was born that March Sunday eighteen years ago. We were in our mid-twenties when God called us to come to Colorado Springs, of all places, to “plant” this church. That idea, that dream – well, it was a bit like when you first find out that you are pregnant. No one can see the baby; no outward physical proof appears obvious to the rest of the world. You proclaim that a child is on its way, and the world just has to take you at your word. That’s the way it was when God planted Vanguard in our hearts.
In the months prior to Vanguard’s birth, the dream became obvious to a few others willing to take notice. Friends like Melanie Beroth Dobson and Brian Beatty came alongside, to dream with us, to support us, to help us bring this spiritual child into the world. Believers, like families in Oklahoma and Texas, like the Southern Baptist Convention, like South Park Baptist Church, gave us financial support, so that we could do what needed to be done to care for this soon-to-be-born baby.
The due date was marked on our calendar: March 2nd, 1997. As this date came closer and closer, I was also expecting Kelly’s and my first child. Nausea, constant hunger and extreme exhaustion marked my days, physical reminders mimicking what was happening in the spiritual world around us. Planting and leading a church, I learned from the very beginning, is so much like being a parent. Perhaps that is why this church will always feel like a daughter to me.
The day of Vanguard’s delivery, I literally slept all morning until the very last possible moment, when I got up and pulled myself together in order to lead Vanguard’s first worship service. That night, an amazing 75 people showed up for Vanguard’s birth. The delivery room, at Chapel Hills Baptist Church, was a place of nervousness, joy and celebration. God brought a new daughter into the Kingdom, a daughter already destined to be part of the Bride of Christ.
Eighteen years later, this weekend, this daughter becomes an adult. There have been many, many times when Kelly and I did not know if she would survive another month. Yet, God has always made a way for her. Kelly and I have done everything we could possibly do to love this child, to lead her to God, to guide her to spiritual maturity. We’ve learned along the way that, despite church planters’ best intentions, the X factor in a church’s survival is not her spiritual parents, it is God’s sovereignty. He has sustained this daughter through the highs and lows, through the good times and the awful ones. I have wept with grief and in prayer over this church.
This weekend, though, I weep with joy. In the last eighteen years, 3, 091 people have made professions of faith and been baptized at Vanguard. This weekend, as we celebrate Vanguard’s 18th birthday, more new followers of Christ are being baptized. We have partnered in birthing 27 more church plants, and we are thrilled beyond words to host the SBC’s Frontline Church Planting Center that is strategically giving birth to more churches. Multiplication, that’s what it’s all about in the Kingdom, and we are so grateful to be a part.
If I have loved Vanguard too much, if I have cared too deeply along the way, if I have put other lesser things on hold for her sake, it is out of the love a parent has for a child. I find the Apostle Paul’s words in 2nd Corinthians to beat with the same rhythm of my own heart. He wrote: “I promised you as a pure bride to one husband – Christ…Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you.” With that heartbeat, I present to the Lord this big dream that, this weekend, becomes an adult. A pure bride to one husband – Christ.
So, Happy Birthday, Vanguard Church. May you live a long, godly, fruitful life to the glory of God. I am so honored that, along the way, I have gotten to be like a mother to you. That the dream of you is a full reality brings joyful tears to my eyes.