A few Sundays ago, something struck me.
Our church has grown.
Duh. That seems obvious. There are more people coming. Therefore, we are growing. This is not rocket science. But for some reason, the growth has kind of snuck up on me.
I realized it as one of our pastors Dave was making announcements. He was talking about community groups (which is our version of small groups, home groups, life groups or whatever you want to call them). The slide came up on the screen listing all the different community groups available and the nights they are scheduled.
There were six listed. Six. SIX!
I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but to me, to us, it’s pretty significant. After all, we started out with three groups. One on the east side. One on the west side. One in the middle. That was January, less than a year ago. Three groups.
Now there are six. In less than a year, God has doubled our number of community groups. Doubled the number of small, mini-families-within-a-family in our church. Doubled the number of people being discipled, loved, cared for, prayed for and supported inside of community. Doubled the amount of sharpening, exhorting, encouraging, rebuking, building up, and strengthening going on in and among our little church family.
Isn’t God kind?
We know this is God’s work. Because apart from him we are selfish, sinful people- alienated from God and from one another. That is our nature. To hide. To focus on ourselves. To insulate ourselves from other people and their problems. To “take care of our own.” To “mind our own business.” Yet God, in his mercy, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, has freed us from sin and selfishness and enabled us to pursue each other in love, because he first pursued us in perfect love. We see evidence of that in how our community groups have grown and multiplied, making more room for more people to experience gospel community. Thanks be to God.
The growth in number and size of community groups is not the only thing we are praising God for around here, either. As active as the summer was for Covenant, the fall proved to be just as interesting. Our pastors preached through the book of Psalms, preaching on one category of Psalms each week, covering Psalms of praise, wisdom, lament, thanksgiving, cursing and more. It was such a powerful sermon series, as the book of Psalms deals with the gamut of human emotion and experience. We are so thankful to have men who are faithful to preach the Word, regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable the subject matter is.
This fall, Covenant had a few “firsts.” We had our first baby dedication and baptism service. This service was so cool because it fell on a Sunday when a thanksgiving Psalm was being preached (imagine that :). And so as Daniel’s sermon reminded us to give thanks to God for all things, we were able to thank him immediately for the precious children he has blessed our church with and the amazing gift of new life in Christ as we celebrated the baptisms of two believers.
The baby dedication service could really more appropriately be called a parent dedication service. Jude was one of the nine children dedicated. We as parents stood before our church family, promising to raise our children in a way that honors the Lord and instructs them in his Word. Our church family, in turn, promised to love, support, encourage, rebuke, care for and love us and our children and walk alongside us in the parenting journey. As our pastor Justin took us through this portion of the service, I was truly overwhelmed with thanksgiving at the blessing of children and also the blessing of community, knowing I can’t and don’t have to do this parenting thing alone.
The baptism portion of the service was great because we moved everyone- adults and kids alike- outside to the parking lot where a horse trough had been set up. That’s right, a horse trough. Filled with freezing cold water from a garden hose, nonetheless. Excellent. Two precious ladies read their testimonies of God’s grace about how He had saved and redeemed their lives. Awesome. I was so grateful to be able to witness this joyful occasion and pray for many more opportunities for Covenant to bust out the horse trough and garden hose.
Covenant also had its second set of membership classes. This time, instead of separating it into three different Saturdays, it was a marathon, all-day class taught in three different sections. This allowed people who had missed a class previously to make-up whichever one they missed and allow those who started coming to Covenant recently to get all their membership classes done in one swoop.
The first membership classes (in the spring) and the second set of membership classes (in the fall) allowed Covenant to do another first: install new members! We had a membership celebration Sunday, asking those who had completed their membership classes and interviews to come forward and sign their names indicating their desire to indentify themselves as members of Covenant Community Church.
I suppose these people would be called “charter members” of Covenant Community Church. This membership celebration service was really cool. Daniel opened the floor to allow people to give testimony about how they had seen God’s hand at work in and through interactions within our church family. Then Daniel brought all of the pastors to the front and read the pastor’s covenant, indicating what the pastors are committing to do in service to the church body. After this, we all read the membership covenant together, indicating what we were committing to as members of this church family. During communion, we were asked to come forward and sign our names on the membership roll. All in all, 27 names were signed. Whoa. A long way from 7 people in the Waden’s living room. God is amazing.
Of course, after all this was over, we partied. Something our church likes to do and does well. We had a catered BBQ lunch after service and a giant cake, and our entire church stayed to fellowship and share a meal. It was so fun to see how many bodies were in one place, eating, talking, laughing, enjoying one another’s company as members of the same family of God.
Our church is growing in mission as well. During the summer, we had our first movie night in an effort to invite and get to know the people in the neighborhoods surrounding our church. Since that first one, we have had two more. Plus, we have moved from hosting them in our church’s meeting space to hosting them at the clubhouse/playground/picnic area of a neighborhood down the road. This has allowed us to meet new people and reach out to an entire community with the love of Christ.
As always, there’s more going on that I could talk about. But I’ll close for now and leave the rest for another update (you know, in about three more months). Thank you to all who are supporting and praying for our church. God is at work in Pearland. We are humbled and grateful to be a part of it.