Before I flew out to a snowy Post Falls in February of 2013, I’m not quite sure I could have pointed out Idaho on a map. I grew up in the southeast and attended First Baptist Church of whatever town my family called home. From Tennessee to Mississippi to South Carolina…I had a specific understanding of church. Coat and tie. KJV only. Deacons on the front pew. Sunday school hour. Oh, and I will never forget the week-long revival every summer!
Relational Discipleship wasn’t a part of my vocabulary, much less a practice or understanding of how Jesus intended his church to function. Church often seemed cold and judgmental. No matter what happened during the week, on Sunday I would get dressed up and pretend that I was all good. Eventually this judgmental attitude and self-righteous spirit rubbed off on me. I comfortably wore the glasses with judgmental lenses as I approached the world. I had all the right Jesus answers and made sure everyone knew about it. Looking back, I can see as knowledge grew, my love diminished.
It wasn’t until God miraculously pulled me into the world of church planting that my eyes began to be opened. After feeling a call to ministry in high school, I would go on to fail out of college and squander the next few years spiraling too nowhere. I went back to community college only to drop out, I worked odd jobs, and I stayed out too late with my friends…I was a loser. This is why I say miraculous; I was simply not qualified to be in ministry. Brandon Bowers took a chance on me as he followed God’s call to plant Awaken Church in Charleston, SC. It was the month after our first service that he would invite me on a trip to attend a conference all the way in northern Idaho that would correct the lenses I wore.
My life hasn’t been the same since that experience. We rushed home and couldn’t wait to “put people in the game,” as we had learned. It was simple and brilliant all at the same time! The next seven years proved to be God’s faithfulness poured out on us time and time again. I fell in love with seeing disciples of Jesus made in relationship, which of course is messy! Jesus changed my heart from one that was a judgmental “bouncer” at the church, to one filled with love as a “greeter.” I no longer rolled my eyes at lost people with blatant sin in their lives, thinking they could never measure up or make the list. I was now filled with compassion, and loved nothing more than taking them to lunch to listen to their story. I was seeing ministry, the church and the world through a new lens. A Relational Discipleship lens that brightly colored ministry in a healthy biblical way.
Something even greater occurred, I was changing from the inside out. I was able to lead dozens and dozens of people to Jesus and baptize them! I now understood spiritual maturity, not as simply biblical knowledge, but as a life given to make disciples who make disciples. I was learning to love people the way Jesus loves them. I was looking more with His lens than a judgmental “churched” lens. Where it had once been ugly and mean, following Jesus had become beautiful.
And now I begin a new journey. God has called me from the beaches of Charleston to the mountains of Castle Rock, CO! The scenery…and humidity, has changed, but the calling to make disciples remains. My family and I, along with a few great friends, planted Meadows Church on Oct. 10, 2021. But, as you might have guessed, we decided to first build up for a year developing relationships through small groups. One group turned into two, and then three, and then four, and now five, soon to be six…all centered on relational discipleship! Church planting isn’t easy, but it can be simple… if we just trust Jesus and do it his way. And that’s what we’re trying to do. I pray every day that Meadows Church will remain faithful to Jesus. I believe there’s hope for the church ahead, and it’s found in that person sitting across the table at lunch eager to share their story. And the new glasses I wear… they help me hear someone much better as well!
Chris Lanier – Lead Pastor
Castle Rock, CO