Before The Beginning
8 months ago we were in Richmond, Virginia, serving a great church (Gayton Baptist). Our ministry was fruitful, our kids were involved in a healthy children’s ministry and were attending a good school. Life was good.
After spending a couple of years in prayerful reflection, I identified several of my highest values that were not influencing my ministry or family. To put it in a sentence:
South Florida is an intersection of multicultural life and spiritual need. Grace Fellowship, a church in West Palm Beach, offered me a job so that we could begin shining a light in this region.
We left Richmond with a plan to start a new church, and were encouraged to do so in a city called Delray Beach. We moved to that area, named the church, and began gathering about 15 people at our house each week.
As I began to understand the city better, we found a part of Delray Beach that seemed to be a great location for our family to start a church. However, we soon discovered a new church plant in that area already doing a great job reaching people. So I shifted my focus to the western part of the city.
The next part of the story is hard to communicate in words. I began to sense this western part of Delray was not where I was supposed to plant our family and plant a church. On one hand, I struggled with the demographics of the area. As you go west the population becomes less and less diverse and the median age climbs into the 70s.
On the other hand, I just didn’t sense God’s hand of blessing on our efforts to start a church (I know that sounds kind of strange, but it’s hard to put intuition into words).
While I was on this journey of wondering whether or not we were starting the church in the right location, a far more concrete challenge was emerging. To put it succinctly, our family didn’t transition well into our new life.
Finding a good school situation for Nelly turned out to be a significant challenge. Further, because we wanted to get connected to the church we were starting and the new community we were trying to reach, we didn’t get Sara and the kids involved at Grace Fellowship more than attending services on the weekends. (By the way, if anyone reading this is simply attending a church on the weekend, don’t be surprised if you feel disconnected – you probably are!). Well, moving my kids away from a wonderful church family and not moving them to a church family was a mistake. They began to express feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.
As we discussed the possibility of moving to a new location and re-starting the process of planting a new church, we realized that starting over in a new place would not be a wise decision given what our family has experienced the past 7 months.
Convinced that we were not in the right location and knowing that our family needed to become part of a healthy church family, we have made the difficult decision to not continue the process of starting a new church at this time.
Our challenges are not unique – everyone reading this update has their own set of challenges. What is more unique is receiving support (financial, prayer, and just plain old encouragement) to go on a mission, and not fulfilling that mission. It brings me great sadness to share this update with you.
After the End
For now, we are trusting that God may open a door for us to continue to make an impact here in South Florida. The need is still very compelling, and there are many ways to meet that need besides planting a new church.
Please continue to pray for us. Pray that . . .
– God will lead us to an established church where I can use my gifts and provide for our family
– The church family we find will be a great church home for our family
– We will find the right school option for 2013-2014 (in a region where good options are hard to find)
We are so appreciative of everyone who has been a part of our effort to start a church here in the Delray Beach area of South Florida. Some of you have prayed. Some of you have shared your resources. Some of you have attended our gatherings. We thank God for all of you.
While our current situation is discouraging, we are hoping that God will redeem this experience. Regardless of what happens next, our real hope is not in how we serve God, but in God himself, who is always faithful to His children.
Shawn (for all the Allens)