Monday, July 28, 2008

One of those Conversations...


It's one of those conversations you never forget. Vince and I were talking about Vegas. This was becoming a normal occurrence. But this time it was different. As he was talking I began to have this surreal experience. I can't really describe it. All I know is that it hit me sometime in the middle of the conversation. It's like God spoke to me, not audibly, but inside of me somewhere. I knew at this moment that we were moving to Las Vegas.

And then my world crashed in. I did what any of you would have done. I ran upstairs, hid under my covers and began to cry. This wasn't a normal, "I'm sad, poor me" kind of cry. This was a wailing, hyperventilating, grieving and mourning the end of our time in Virginia Beach kind of cry. It was serious. I kept picturing different things: moving into our first home, bringing my son home from the hospital, the first Sunday of Forefront, moving into our second home, all the dance parties and memories from our home, all my friends and the experiences I'd had with them, and on and on.

At this point we hadn't made a final decision. As far as Vince was concerned we weren't going anywhere. But I knew it! He came upstairs and was like, "What the crap is going on? Why are you crying? We're not moving! Why are you so upset? We were just talking!" But he didn't get it; God revealed it to me and I knew at that moment that we were supposed to go.

And I was not happy about it.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another Pipe Dream?


I thought I'd live in Virginia Beach at least until the kids got done with high school (they are 7 and 9). I know Vince is the kind of guy who likes to start things, but I never thought we'd start another church. He'd talk about other things he wanted to do, but none of them included starting another church.

In the past I've said, "I'll never start another church!" Why do I continue to say such stupid things? Every time I say, "I'll never..." it inevitably happens. I just need to shut up.

When Vince started talking about Vegas I ignored him. He talks a lot and has tons of ideas. I thought this was just another idea that would never actually happen.

Like the good wife that I am (ha ha), I listened and shared my input. Again, I never realized that this would actually happen. I mean, why in the world would we move across the country into the desert? We're east coast people. Our families are within driving distance. I live about 15 minutes from the beach. We love our church. I have tons of amazing friends here. And on and on...

Unbeknownst to me, God was on the move. And the world as I knew it was about to fall apart.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From the Beginning


It all started with our stupid dog, Kuma. Vince took him for a walk (which rarely happens) and during the walk Vince heard God tell him to start a church in Las Vegas. He didn't tell me for a while, and when he finally did I was like, "WHATEVER! We are not starting a church in Las Vegas!"

You can get tons more details on Vince's blog by clicking HERE.

What you can't read on Vince's blog is my story. As you well know, if you've started a church or are in the process, there are two very different perspectives on the whole thing. The husband's and the wife's. Sure the topic is the same, but so much is different. My goal is to invite you into my journey through this blog.

I've heard some of your stories. I know your pain. I know your loneliness. Hopefully from reading my journey BACK into church planting you will receive encouragement and comfort.

So hold on, because I'm bringing you with me. You'll see the good, the bad and the ugly. Hopefully you're up to the adventure!

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

You're Nuts!!!!!


Vince had been talking about it for a few months. Everyday it was the same thing, "What do you think?" he'd ask. For the most part I was like, "Whatever! You're nuts, that's what I think!"

Overtime I began to see it differently. I saw with different eyes. I understood. As much as it didn't make sense, it made sense.

God, what are you doing? Why, God? Are you sure...?

He was sure.

And thus begins the next chapter in our lives. We're moving to Las Vegas to start a new church on the Las Vegas Strip. A church for people who work and live on the Strip.

Strippers...Gamblers...Alcoholics...Drug addicts...People infected with greed...

I can't really think of a better place, can you?

Welcome to Sin City!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If the Shoe Fits...

I have a pair of shoes that I love! They're nothing special; not expensive or fancy. I just love them. They're cute and comfortable...a perfect combination.

Upon entering my closet yesterday I noticed little pieces of fabric all over the floor. I gasped and yelled, "Kuma, I'm going to kill you!" Yep, my little Pomeranian puppy had destroyed my favorite shoes.

I immediately started searching for them online. Surely someone would have them. My search ended and I was depressed. I couldn't find the shoes.

This morning in my quiet time I talked to God about my shoes. I said, "I know they're just shoes, but I love them!" I realize the stupidity of my prayer. People are starving for heaven's sake, and I'm worried about a pair of $30 shoes.

I think sometimes as Christians we don't ask God for things because we're embarrassed or ashamed. We look at the world around us and think, "Why would God care about this (finding the perfect outfit, getting a good haircut, finding something on sale, etc.) when there are much bigger things for Him to be concerned about." And so we don't ask Him.

1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Did you notice the word all in there.

I have two kids. When they're upset about something or want something I really want them to tell me. I want to hear about every baseball card that Dawson wants. I want to know when Marissa is upset about a situation that happened at school. I want to know all of it; every detail.

What's on your mind and in your heart? What are you hoping for? A good parking spot? Ask him. No line at the Walmart check out lane? Ask him. A friend for your daughter? Ask him. A nice day off with your husband? Ask him. Nothing is too big or too small. Invite him in to every detail of your life, even the mundane and seemingly stupid.

As I walked into Kohl's today Marissa and I prayed, "I know they're just shoes, but could you please have them here in my size?" We went up and down every aisle. I turned the corner and there they were, in my size (and on sale!). I literally screamed with delight. I hugged Marissa and said, "God heard our prayer! Here are the shoes!" We hugged and I was elated for the rest of the day (and still am).

I keep picturing God watching the situation from heaven, seeing me scream with excitement, giving glory to him the whole time, and thinking, "I know they're just shoes, but look at her!"

Are the shoes important? No. Are there more important things I should be praying about? Yes. But according to 1 Peter 5:7, God cares about it, simply because I care about it.

And yes, I really do pray before I get a haircut!

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Leave Me Alone!"

My son's Nintendo DS got stolen out of my car last week. All of his games got stolen too. I've been spending the past few days replacing everything that was stolen. I didn't lock my car door, so technically I'm to blame.

My dog, Kuma, got fleas. To say that I'm over it would be an understatement.

I got a virus on my computer, locking me out of everything.

Our bedroom closet broke so everything is strewn on our bedroom floor.

My house is totally trashed from traveling and having company at my house.

Does this sound familiar to you? Do you have days or weeks like this where you just want to scream, "Leave Me Alone!" and crawl into bed?

Do you know that as church planting families we have a large target on our backs? Satan is really not happy with us. Because of us, people's lives are being changed. Because of us, light is being brought into darkness. Because of us, people are being saved.

What does your target look like? What is the most effective way for Satan to knock you down? Maybe it's a temptation or addiction? Maybe it's money or your job? Is it the kids or your marriage?

One of the ways Satan knocks me down is when I feel like I'm out of control; when things are in chaos (pretty much life right now)! So what do I do about it? First, I need to spend time with God before I start getting things in order (which, by the way, is the exact opposite of what I want to do). I need to ask God to chill me out and to give me His perspective. Then, in the words of Nike, I need to just do it! So often I feel overwhelmed and depressed and end up doing nothing. I feel horrible, but don't do anything about it...how lame is that? And finally, once I'm feeling better and my life is back in order I need to prevent it from happening again. I need to live my life proactively instead of letting life hit me upside the head.

Think about your struggles and temptations. How does Satan get you down? Figure out a plan and fight against him with everything you've got!

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:11).

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Lindsay Kuhl

Throughout the summer I'm going to be posting stories from other church planting wives. Please email me your story at j_antonucci@hotmail.com. Today's post is from Lindsay Kuhl.

1. When and where will you be starting your church?

The plan is for Mosaic to launch on September 14, 2008 at the Muvico Theater in the Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, Maryland…about 20 miles northeast of D.C. and 10 miles southwest of Baltimore.

2. Where at you at in the church planting process?

We moved here on January 12 of this year and have been getting settled, trying to get used to the area and meet as many people as possible. So, according to all of the church-planting terms we are in the middle of “pre-launch”.

3. Give us some history about you, your past, family set up, etc.

My name is Lindsay Kuhl, and I’m married to Carl with a 1 year old (July 16) little girl named Reagan. I’m also 9 weeks pregnant. I grew up in a Christian home and met Carl at Bible College in Cincinnati. We dated for about 9 months in college, but because of my stupidity, we broke up for 2 years. During that time, I learned a lot about humility and my relationship with Christ became mine and not just my parents’.

While Carl was in Virginia Beach doing is internship at Forefront (this is how I know Jen), we got back together and quickly got engaged and married. We got married in June of 2003, and in August, we moved to Virginia Beach where Carl became full time at Forefront as the Creative Arts Director. We met some great people while we were in VA Beach and it was great for our marriage. It was also good for me to be a part of Forefront because I grew up in a more traditional environment. Being a part of Forefront helped me be more compassionate for the lost and more forgiving, less judgmental of the saved.

In the summer of 2005, Carl was contacted by his home church in Louisville, KY, Southeast Christian Church, to come on staff for a year (give or take a few months) as the Resident Church Planter. Southeast had been involved in church planting before, but only financially, and they felt like it was time for them to become more “hands on” in the church planting world. The deal was that Carl would be on staff at Southeast as a resident, to learn the ins and outs of church leadership, programming, and more, and when his residency was up, Southeast would send him out to plant a church with not only financial support, but with a lot of experience and leaders behind him.

Carl’s dream has been to lead a church through preaching for a long time and God just happened to open this door for us to plant. There was a long process of deciding where to plant, but basically, Southeast wanted us to focus on the northeast part of the country because of the fact that a lot of the stats on the un-churched change starting from D.C. and going north. So, we looked at several places north of D.C. from Baltimore all they way up to Providence and Boston, and settled on Baltimore.

Our time in Louisville was great. We loved every second of it. Most of Carl’s family is there and my family is all in Cincinnati, so we were close to “home” when Reagan was born, and Carl learned so much being at Southeast. Now, we’re here, in the thick of it…trying to hold on for our lives!

4. What are some of the good and bad from your experience...lessons learned, etc.?

Since we are so new at this, I don’t have a lot of “good, bad and ugly” yet so to speak. I guess some of the good is also some of the bad…since we knew no one when we moved, we have had to spend a lot of time together…this can be good, but it can be bad as well. Especially for me, I think, because I love girlfriends, and there are some things I love talking about to girls that Carl just doesn’t get…as much as he tries, he just doesn’t. It’s really strengthened my faith to be here because at times, it gets really lonely and I have to constantly remind myself that God is all I need.

5. What's one piece of advice that you think every church planting wife needs to hear?

The one piece of advice I have comes in the form of a question…”Are you a drip?”

About 2 weeks before we moved here, our marriage started to struggle more than it ever had before…I didn’t really notice it until about a week after we moved here and we had unpacked all of the boxes, his family had left to go back to Louisville (his mom and brother helped us move) and it was just us, all by ourselves. We were arguing more than we’d ever argued…about nothing important, of course and we were just becoming distant.

I’m in the habit of reading a Proverb every day, along with whatever else I’m reading in the Bible, and of course, one day when it was really bad, I got to Proverbs 27:15. It says, “A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day.” You know sometimes when you don’t turn the faucet off all the way and there is this drip, drip, drip, drip, in the sink? Maybe the drip is subtle, or maybe it’s really annoying because of what it’s hitting...water in a dish, the bottom of the sink…no matter what, it’s really annoying.

When I read that verse, I realized, that’s what I had been. I was being really annoying. I was nit-picking, whining, short…all things I didn’t want to be. After really reflecting on this verse, I realized that the majority of our problems were because of me. Things didn’t get perfect overnight, but once I acknowledged that I was a “drip” and confessed this to God, my spirit and attitude toward Carl began to change and our relationship has been getting better ever since. It’s a good question to ask yourself…”are you a drip?” If so, don’t be…turn the faucet off all the way!

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Juli Cason

Throughout the summer I'm going to be posting stories from other church planting wives. Please email me your story at j_antonucci@hotmail.com. Today's post is from Juli Cason.

"What?? I am not pastor’s wife material!”

I’ll never forget gasping those words on my honeymoon in 1999. It was the last night of our cruise and my husband, Chuck, had just told me he was pretty sure he was supposed to be a pastor someday.

We weren’t even Christians. Chuck had grown up going to church. In fact, his father was a pastor for a number of years. But, when Chuck was 16 he decided it was all junk and decided to do life his way. I grew up as a “holiday Catholic.” We went to church on Easter and Christmas Eve. I was never “confirmed,” nor did I ever learn about having a relationship with Jesus. When I was 16 I chose the path of partying and did so as often as I could. Chuck and I met in a bar.

Fast forward 15 months from our honeymoon. We gave our lives to Jesus and got baptized.

Fast forward another 15 months. We moved to Virginia Beach, VA.

Four months after that we found Forefront Church. It was wild and crazy and we were sure the small southern Baptist church that we’d come from wouldn’t approve. We got involved in a Gel Group (small group) and each began serving in various ministry areas. Our lives really began to change for the better.

About a year and a half after coming to Forefront, I became Vince’s (lead pastor) administrative assistant. I was very excited to work for Forefront and in preparation I read a TON of Vince’s messages that he gave at various conferences. It was then that I truly fell in love with Forefront. I realized that every opening secular song, wacky video, top ten list, etc. was so completely intentional. Chuck realized this all along and loved that Forefront did church in a way that made people truly far from God comfortable enough to come and learn about God.

In 2005 Forefront revisited its original vision to be a multi-campus church. I was pumped. I lived 35 minutes away from where we met on Sunday mornings, so inviting people was a challenge. But, if we opened a campus closer to where I lived, I could invite my neighbors and friends. I’ll never forget the staff meeting when it was announced that we wouldn’t open our 2nd location until September of 2007. I was so mad! I was ready to get started on reaching more people who otherwise might not come to know Jesus.

Unbeknownst to me, the reason that the launch date was set so far in the future was because the leadership of Forefront wanted my husband to lead the new campus. You see, Chuck was in the military, but due to a major back injury and surgery we knew it was a matter of time before he was medically discharged. He was already attending Bible College online in preparation to go into ministry. In June of 2006 the first launch team meeting took place and that fall it was announced that Chuck would be the Campus Pastor. We began having monthly meetings and planning events. In May 2007 Chuck was medically retired from the military and joined the Forefront staff full time. We were so excited about what God had in store for Chesapeake, VA, which was where our new campus was to launch.

Unfortunately, planting a campus of a church isn’t always fun. Chuck was on staff a total of two days when he learned that a group of people had spent their small group session questioning whether he was the right person for the job. Chuck handled it well. Me, not so much. It was very hard. These were friends. It hurt.

The summer of 2007 was a whirlwind. We had events most weekends. We tried to do random acts of kindness wherever we could in Chesapeake. We had a prayer calendar and people prayed every day for the new campus and the people who would come. The last ten days before we launched we had people praying every hour. The morning of October 7, 2007 will forever stand out in my mind. The campus was finally launched!

This journey of planting a campus has definitely had its ups and downs. Sometimes I wonder what we were thinking. However, I know for certain that we are doing what God wants us doing right now. Probably the moment that shines the brightest in my mind is the first baptism service after we launched. Peoples’ lives are changed for eternity and we got to be a small part of that! Hearing the stories of how God is moving in the lives of people at our campus is awesome.

One of the saddest things on this journey has been the people who’ve left along the way. Not all of our original launch team are still involved with our campus or attend Forefront. The thing that makes me sad about that is that they had the opportunity to do something really cool for God and they walked away from it. They are missing out on some joy and that hurts my heart.

If I can give a church planting wife just one piece of advice, it would be this: Get to know other church planting wives!! Seriously. Because we planted a campus, I was lucky and had a church planting wife who was already my friend. Jen Antonucci has been such a tremendous support to me along the way. She’s been there and she understands. I ask her questions all the time and she shares her experiences with me. She’s who I turn to when I’m not sure what my role is or what I’m supposed to do. If you’re going to be on the church planting path, you need a Jen!!

The Chesapeake Campus has been open for nearly 9 months now (I can’t believe it’s been that long!) and I’m continually blown away by God. No matter where you’re at on the church planting wife path, I wish you the very best. When we are following the path that God has for us, we are on the best possible path – no matter how easy or hard it is!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cincinnati

I'm in Cincinnati right now, at the North American Christian Convention. Vince taught a workshop today. Me and the kids hung out at the pool and explored the city. We're headed to Cleveland on Friday. Vince is preaching at Momentum Church on Sunday. Forefront helped Momentum get started, so it'll be really cool to see their service.

I'll be traveling a lot this summer. One of the things I'd like to do is to post your stories and experiences (ups and downs) about your church planting experience so far. If you're interested in sharing with other planter wives, please email me at j_antonucci@hotmail.com. I'll post your story on my blog.

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