Although our heavenly Father does not reject our labor in cultivating his field, and does not allow it to be unproductive, yet he will have its success depend exclusively upon his blessing, that he may have the entire praise. Accordingly, if we are desirous to make any progress in laboring, in striving, in pressing forward, let it be known by us, that we will make no progress, unless he prospers our labors, our strivings, and our assiduity, in order that we may commend ourselves, and everything we do to his grace.1
As I write this, we have been living and laboring in Birmingham, Alabama for twenty weeks. My family and I moved back to Birmingham at the beginning of July. In the middle of that month, we had the privilege of attending a church-planting conference. Then, right at the end of July, we started up our weekly catechism study, going through the Heidelberg Catechism.
Since then, we have been meeting weekly, on Sunday nights in our home. We have also begun meeting throughout the week for fellowship. One of the convenient things about our Sunday evening study through the catechism’s Lord’s Days is that I never have to wonder how long we have been going—next week will be Lord’s Day 20 on the Holy Spirit. In our time together, we are singing psalms, reading the Word, and studying the catechism together. This centers us on God’s Word and his gospel every week. Each Sunday evening, we wrap up by praying with and for each other, and fellowshipping over refreshments.
As we have followed the catechism through the Apostles’ Creed, we have been greatly encouraged by the work of Christ, which we just finished studying in Lord’s Day 19. Every week we pray a prayer of illumination taken from the URCNA Liturgical Forms and Prayers, and close our time with the Lord’s Prayer. Even our evening study is saturated with Scripture, as is fitting for those seeking a church “reformed according to the Word of God.” For instance, this past week we sang Psalm 110: “The LORD said to my lord take your seat at my right hand.” This was fitting as we then confessed in the catechism that Christ as the Messiah sits at the right hand of the Father.
Our core group here in Birmingham is forming, with a number of very committed folks who join us week in and week out, and who give of their time and resources for the plant. We have a few others who come when they can because they love the psalms and the catechism. One family opens their home twice a month for dinner and psalm-singing. Another individual, a young doctor, has invited numerous friends. Many of her friends have come, and I have had a chance to connect with them and share about the plant. We pray God would continue to bring folks to us who see the need for a local Reformed church.
This past week I had the privilege of meeting with a young man who had been attending the church of a seminary classmate of mine and who recently moved to town. We look forward to him visiting us soon.
I have also had the opportunity to meet and reconnect with many supportive people during my time so far in Birmingham. Last month, I grabbed lunch with Westminster California alumnus Rev. Dr. Eric Watkins, who was speaking in Birmingham. He shared a wealth of insight from his time as a church planter in Florida with the OPC. I have had the privilege of getting to know some of the PCA brothers in the area as well. I do my best to visit their quarterly presbytery meetings, and to share fellowship and build relationships with other confessional churches.
Our most pressing goal is outreach to others—we need to get the word out to people. And the way we plan to do this is by personal invitations. This week, a core group member who works at a print shop delivered business cards that serve as an invitation to the study—they were wonderfully done. These are for myself and the core group members to hand out as invitations to pair with our personal outreach. With outreach in mind, I have taken to the habit of spending at least one or two days a week studying in public at a local coffee shop and trying to initiate conversations or reconnect with folks. I have been able to reconnect with people I bump into at these coffee shops quite often.
I have also undertaken to reconnect with college classmates still living in the area. Most attend churches outside of NAPARC and I hope some of them will visit us soon. Recently, I had the chance to have dinner with five classmates, and while there I bumped into another.
One unexpected development is that after a number of years away from Birmingham, my wife and I find ourselves having to culturally readjust to the South. We had adjusted to life on the East Coast, so now we are reacclimatizing and getting back into the flow of life in Birmingham. But this has provided a blessed perspective, as we have been able to connect with those who are a bit on the margins.
As a whole I have been reminded again and again that planting a Reformed church is work, but it is good and needed work. I take great solace in the words of Paul that “God gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). It is only by the Lord’s blessing that our strivings in the church will have results. It is to his glory and in his power that the work of the church must be done.
To that end will you join us in praying:
- That God would bless our work and grow us spiritually and numerically
- That we would have and make use of the opportunities the Lord provides for evangelism and outreach among our friends and coworkers
- For the core group
- For the families represented
- For the health of our members
- For encouragement for me as I continue in this endeavor, and that the Lord would bless his church.
For more information about Birmingham URCNA, visit their website.
- John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, trans. John Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1848), 130.
©Luke Gossett. All Rights Reserved.
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