Have you heard of the new Ben Affleck movie, The Town?
You would've heard a lot about it if you have a husband planting a church in Charlestown, MA.
It's a crime film - think Gone Baby Gone meets The Departed meets Mystic River.
It just happens to be set in the neighborhood that we're working/praying/fundraising our little behinds off to get to.
Going into the seeing the film - here is where I was.
This past week, I've just started to really feel the weight of what church planting is going to cost us. I mean, I still can't fathom it - not what six months in will be like or six years, but I started to get a glimpse of how big the mountain in front of us was. I started to realize why everyone's eyes get a little bit bigger when we say what we're doing or why women sort of gawk when I tell them we're living in transition with our three kids while we fundraise. Because when you're not right in front of the mountain - and you're looking from a long way off - you can definitely see how big it is. But honestly - something about realizing that church planting and specifically, being a church planter's wife is hard (not only in theory, but ACTUALLY hard) has been a blessing for me. Because here is what I do when I catch sight of the incline looming before us - I ask the Lord to sustain me till bedtime and then I quietly sob my cares to Jesus and He puts me back together.
So far it's been not too big stuff, nothing compared to what we're up against in the future I'm sure - just "boo hoo hoo fundraising is hard" and "bwaaaaa, how do I encourage my husband when he's working so hard and it's hard to see fruit". Stuff like that. But when the sobbing is over, I feel like literally the Spirit just pats me back together with truth. I can do all things through Christ.... anyone who asks for wisdom.... consider the birds and the flowers.... he who began a good work. These sort of things.
So back to "The Town". I was prepared for the violence. And to swallow it for what it's worth, and remember that in any city there are bad parts, etc. etc. etc. But this was just a whole new viewing experience. I imagine it would feel a lot like David watching a movie about Goliath and his friends just before heading over to battle. Except I don't want to battle these people, I want to love them and serve them and be Christ to them. But the resounding feeling I get from seeing them is the same. Impossible. I am an actual nobody with no abilities, a heart full of fear, and these are giants with hard hearts and movies made about them. And moreover, I'm taking my children there who have two options: a) adapt and grow hard-hearts or b) let the love of Christ control them and consume them and be on mission in their own city. Now in reality, this is every man's choice but in a spiritually bleak place, the divide feels so much greater. At least in Seattle or Mt. Pleasant, there is a middle ground they could fall into: good kids, protected from harm, protected from bad streets a few streets over, but also maybe protected from the ravishing grace of Christ.
So leaving the movie, Nick prayed for us and answered some of my basic questions
with biblical truths. Think something like this.
me: Did we have to pick the place with the hardest spiritual climate?
him: Well, we didn't pick it - the Lord did. And it is the most needed.
me: What if Elias wants to be a police officer?
him: Well, good. I hope he does it to the glory of God.
me: Can't we go somewhere easy, where there are already believers and where people will like us and want to hear the gospel?
him: We could, but we'd be being disobedient and we'd miss out on the fruit that God has for us.
me: Do you think Glory is going to end up like Blake Lively's character, cracked out and selling oxy in a nasty bar during Sox games?
(this conversation could possibly be paraphrased, I was sobbing a little)
But last night, when it was time for the Lord to put me back together again, I just sat and prayed that he would make me into an actual Christian. I mean, obviously I know Him and love Him and have a relationship with Him - but I prayed that He'd make the kind of believer who believes His promises and believes that people with hard hearts are the ones who need the gospel the most. I prayed that He'd make me the kind of mother who can protect her kiddos while still safely exposing them to the hurts of others and spurring their hearts onto prayer for their neighbors. I prayed that he'd make me the kind of wife who doesn't ask for the easy way out.
And I woke up with some hope. Not pictures of Elias and Benja getting in gang fights at the Boys and Girls club, but pictures of us inviting their friends over for dinner. I woke with the nagging feeling that the love of Christ is stronger than the strongest neighborhood bond that might make us feel like an outsider, and a deep burden to walk forward and love our people. I also woke up with a strong conviction that I need to know some of God's promises for me inside and out so that when the furthering of the gospel is hard (literally, not figuratively) and when we face opposition and when we hurt for the Kingdom, I can repeat some scripture to remind me of the worth of doing hard things.
So, want to pray for us? Moreover, want to pray for the people of Boston, specifically Charlestown? There are a million good reasons to pray for them, but a big one to start with is - it's a spiritually hard place. Which means we shouldn't shy away or go to sleep pretending it doesn't exist or leave them to their own advances. We've got to press in, love them like Jesus, serve them, and share the gospel with them.
Some specific prayers I'd ask for - that we'd know the promises of God found in these verses [Jn. 1:12, Ps 46:1, Matt 11:26, Is 40:29, Psalm 32:8, Phil 4:7] and that today, tomorrow, and for the next few weeks - the Lord would keep advancing our church plant. And while you're at it, as we're finishing up this initial fundraising push, please pray for families, small businesses, and other churches to come on board and partner beside us financially.
Or if you are a part of one of those families, businesses, or churches - I know my husband would love to hear from you. We need help, saints. People to go with us and the Spirit to go ahead of us and prayers to go up for us.
But remember, the harder it is - the more it probably needs to be done.