I like to know what’s coming. So this whole season of life had been difficult. I had spent years asking for feedback from church leaders, and received little to none. We had been in prayer for 5 months over where God wanted us to go, being very open with Him that we were cool with pulling up stakes and going on an adventure, and we hadn’t received clear direction until the opening of the North Carolina direction, and the breadcrumb trail that lead us to the Church Planters Assessment Center (CPAC) beyond that, we had nothing. We were being made to wait, to look, to listen, and we didn’t know what we were doing, where we were going or if and when something was going to open up. But God had led us to the CPAC, so we paid everything out of pocket, made arrangements to have the kids taken care of, and we did whatever needed to be done to get to CPAC.
Since we had no idea what was going on, just a date and time to be in Raleigh, I was starting to get antsy. I like to plan and prepare. I am hard-wired for preparation, I enjoy the work that goes into preparing and I tend to geek out a little when I get to just run with this kind of stuff. But the answers I kept getting were very nebulous. “What do I need to bring” would get “Don’t worry about it.” as a reply. “Should I prepare anything, gather some books or resources to have on hand?” received “You’ll get what you need as you need it.” as a reply.
Folks, this stuff kills me. I thrive on open communication. I live for feedback. I work best when there’s defined purpose, and when that purpose is unclear, my mind goes 1,000,000mph trying to work out all the scenarios. “Don’t worry about it” and “It will come as it comes.” are not acceptable answers in my book. But get this, my consistently highest spiritual gift is faith. I am endlessly trusting. I am a conundrum in this regard. I acknowledge that wholeheartedly. I trust God, but I still ask questions. I can trust people, but I like to know basic direction, motivations and direction. When I hear nothing, I begin to worry. I start playing out worst-case scenarios, and I have to wrestle within myself to regain lost ground. I have faith in God. But because of then-recent, deep-seated hurts I was in a very tough place to find trust in people. And if I’m being honest, I’m still struggling with it.
When we arrived at our hotel, checked in and made our way over to the church, I asked for a schedule for the week. When did we need to be where, that sort of thing. I was promptly told there wasn’t one, and that we would receive direction as it was needed. (Deep breath.) Okay, so we just roll with things as they come. That was our instruction. We were here, we were ready to do something. We just had no idea what CPAC was even going to be, we had literally ZERO expectations, no understanding of what would happen, and every session would have us trying to play catch up and learning wheel we fly by the seat of our pants.
People would later tell us how CPAC was the worst 4 days of their life. They hated it. It stressed them out. People were moved to tears. They made it sound like insanity.
I. ABSOLUTELY. LOVED. IT.
I know, right? Read that again. It sounds crazy. Everything was pointing toward a crazy time of not knowing what was coming at any given moment. It was mystery shrouded in vagaries, and coated in obfuscation, and I loved every minute of it. Apparently I’m a little strange. People who have gone through it tell me as much with their eyes, if not with their words. It’s intentionally difficult, and I love a challenge.
And, I’m not going to tell you anything about it either. I’m not going to let you cheat. But hear this: it breaks some people, and others it energizes. There was a couple at ours that didn’t fare well. The husband was called out, with all love and direct conviction that punch in the face might deliver, in front of everyone else. He was carrying something that was dangerously unhealthy, and it was manifesting itself in the middle of a group project…and he belittled his wife to deflect the blow. He was called to the carpet right then and there, and I admire the assessor who did it, too. He was spot on, he was right, and it was good to hear someone with that skill set and credibility simply and clearly say “No. This stops here. It is not acceptable.”
Again, I loved it. I highly recommend it.
We don’t have to know everything. There are some details in life that we need to have, things we need to nail down. There are others where faith has to take the lead, and where trust needs to come with the experience, not be earned after the fact. That’s a hard line to walk, I admit it. But coming through that experience, I was glad we did it. It was there at CPAC, that I was reinvigorated for ministry. It was in CPAC that the God-given skill sets gifted to us through the Holy Spirit were confirmed and we were told not to compromise ever, ever again. It was life-giving in every way imaginable and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I was in a place where I was, for the first time in my life, doubting my call to ministry, and CPAC cleared away every lie and doubt the enemy had worked so hard to sow in my life. Beth had a great experience, too, but that’s for her to share in her time and in her way.
Sometimes the hardest things are the best things. Sometimes they are just the worst. But this time, we struck gold, and it was wonderful. There’s so much more to it, but suffice it to say, I’d heartily recommend it to anyone in ministry. It’s a great litmus test for your heart and calling, and God’s fingerprints were all over it.
If you’re interested in church planting, or in going through an assessment, I’m happy to answer (some of) your questions without ruining the experience. I’d also suggest reaching out to Stadia, the church planting organization that conducted ours.