In early 2019 we set plans, as a leadership team, to launch one new Mariners congregation in Orange County each year for the next five years. Orange County is filled with 3.2M people spread out through 34 cities, and we believe Jesus loves each person and each city. We were in early stages of planning a campus/congregation launch, and then it was CoVid.
While at first it seemed that the plans to launch new congregations would be slowed, God used the pandemic to do more than we could ask or imagine. In July 2020 we started having small gatherings outside in alleyways, hotel gathering places, and courtyards of coffee shops throughout Orange County. We called the approach “Mariners in the Neighborhood,” and at first it was a few televisions, tents, amazing hosts, and amazing volunteers. In those gatherings God formed community, brought people to Himself, and raised up new leaders. As the gatherings kept growing, kid’s ministry, programming for teenagers, discipleship groups, live worship, and local outreach opportunities were added.
God used the pandemic to birth four new congregations, officially launching last weekend. My heart is so full as I write this. I am so proud of our team and so thankful to be able to see new churches in those amazing cities. As I reflect on this season, here are five leadership reminders:
1. God has gifted His people.
God’s people are amazing. I am blown away by the volunteers at these four new congregations and how gifted they are caring for others, how passionate they are to serve, and how skilled they are leading others. God has gifted His people to serve others, to steward His grace, and it is beautiful when it happens.
2. There is power in new.
As Christians, we understand the power of new. We receive new mercies, are new creations, and will one day enjoy a new heaven and a new earth. And God uses “new” to advance His kingdom. Research I have been part of has shown that new Christians share the gospel more than those who have been Christians a long time, new churches reach more people than existing ones, and new groups connect new more than existing groups.
3. Pressure both exposes and develops.
Pressure exposes us and pressure develops us. In our spiritual lives we are wise when we allow pressure to bring to the surface places where we need to repent and to allow the trial/struggle to push us to maturity. The same is true organizationally. In the last several months launching four new congregations put pressure on “the system,” (communication plans, consistent training, all those important nuts and bolts processes) and the pressure forced us to develop.
4. There are young leaders ready for big opportunities.
Early in the pandemic our team commented that we would likely see some younger leaders emerge through the new opportunities God was putting in front of us. And we have seen many passionately and humbly step into new opportunities and God is using them in profound ways.
5. A moving ship is easier to steer.
A mentor shared that with me years ago and it has stuck. Instead of overanalyzing and getting paralyzed, just start moving. Things never go as planned anyway, and if you are moving it is easier to steer. I am not advocating for haphazard planning (I am a planner) but for not getting bogged down to the point that you never move, or never move joyfully.