Living Hope turns 18 this month. It is hard to believe how quickly the time has flown past! Yet many of the landmarks in ministry remind us that we have been at this for a while. It can be our first youth now raising their own families, to the loss of those early pillars of the ministry to Glory. It also reveals in the changing color or loss of our hair. Yet, through it all the Lord has been faithful!
Let me reflect on a few of the lessons that we have learned over the years. The first was to deal with our church anniversary date. If you know the whole story you know it is complicated. Way back in 2001 our plan was to do four monthly pre-services before launching on Christmas Sunday of that year. But God had other plans. Our first service at Living Hope was a practice service with just our team and those involved on September 9, 2001. Well, we all know what happened on the following Tuesday September 11, 2001. Our pastoral team and spouses happened to be hosting our fellowships Pastoral Retreat at Cannon Beach Oregon, when the news broke of the first tower being hit. Our regional representative encouraged each pastor to focus on the event the next Sunday and share the gospel message of hope. The following Sunday was to be our first “Preview Service.” We had already sent out a flyer to over 20,000 homes in South Kitsap on “How to Find the Hope You Need!” based on the name of the new church. It should be no surprise that God had other plans for the birth of Living Hope, and our first public service was held on Sunday September 16, 2001. One of the most important insights for each of us is that God is in control. I know we pay lip service to this truth. But there is real freedom in ministry when we surrender our plans to God’s plan!
A second insight that ties into the previous is that God blesses our plans (or more correctly put his plans on our hearts). We launched Living Hope with a degree of intentionality. This is probably reflective of my personality. Recently I was speaking with one of our founding members. He had mentioned to me that it was amazing how the Lord has blessed our plan for ministry. Let me share one small example. Way back in 2005 we purchased an old Baptist Church on a city lot in the downtown area. Port Orchard is the country seat for Kitsap County. The building is located on an adjacent corner to the the county buildings. The challenge was, the property was limited in it resale because it was zoned residential. We talked about possibly rezoning the building at a later point to make it more marketable. This would then allow us to use funds from the sale for a future church home. We learned in our first attempt at rezoning that we were stepping into a “civil war” between the resident on our side of the street and the county on the other. We heard of a cease fire agreement where the county would stay on their side of Sidney and the other side, where the building is located, would remain residential. Needless to say our first attempt at rezoning was unanimously rejected by the planning committee. Well there were many twists, turns, denials and at least one “Red Sea” moment where we needed a miracle to get the building rezoned. It was sold to an attorney in December 2018 and the funds from the sale have allowed us to begin the site work on the property. The second insight is that God does bless our plans. This has been an encouragement for me to keep stepping out in faith allowing God to direct and then to work.
I often wonder how many ministry opportunities are missed because of these two insights. First, we are unwilling to surrender our plans so that we can roll with God’s or we never get started because we fail to plan. It is my hope and desire that these two insights would become part of the DNA of Living Hope with a willingness to plan with the humility to let God tweak it or change it all together. How about you? Happy Birthday Living Hope!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson