Christians always want to put themselves in positions to be used by God. On Sunday, August 7, 2016, a group of Christians will do just that at 10:30 inside of a school cafeteria. Refuge Church will officially launch in Franklin, TN.
We have come from different churches, from different areas of town, from different backgrounds, with one sense of calling: to plant a church in Franklin for Franklin. We believe Jesus has called us to this work. He has led us here, for this moment, at this time, for this purpose. He is building something new, and we are along for the ride.
As I look forward to Sunday, I am grateful for a few things, and hopeful for a few more.
I am grateful that Refuge is already a church body. Sunday, in some ways, doesn’t change much. Our worship service will look much the same as it has the past few months. We will sing praises to God, we will come before the throne of grace in prayer, we will preach the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will come to the communion table in remembrance of him. We will come and gather together and go and scatter throughout our city during the week. We will meet in our Community Groups to help one another press the gospel deep into our hearts. We will pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, confess sin together, be needy and hopeful Christians together. Our commitment to church planting in our city, our country, and throughout the world will not falter. The same Jesus Christ that we love and follow will be the same Sunday as he was yesterday and as he’ll be today.
I am grateful that Jesus has called us into this mission. He has provided for us. We have a place to meet, we have a large core group that has been faithfully praying and working toward this new work, and we have many partnerships all throughout the country. Our sending church, Immanuel Church, has prepared us well and sent us out with great joy. We are, in the hands of the Lord, as ready as we can be.
So in one sense, on August 7, 2016 nothing changes for Refuge Church. We will continue meeting and continue preaching and continue praying and continue pressing the gospel message out into the world. But in another sense, everything is about to change.
I'm also hopeful for a few new things. Of course, I have no idea what God might do with this new church, but I believe that as we give it all to him, day by day, he will work within our church miracles of grace that will ring throughout the heavens and outlast this dying world. He will save and he will restore and he will make all things new to the praise of his glorious grace.
So here are a few things for which I am praying and hoping.
I am hopeful for an influx of unbelievers and tired Christians. I’m praying that Refuge Church will become a Refuge to our city. That those who are tired of church, who have been wounded by the church, who do not know the Lord, and don’t even want the Lord find Refuge underneath his wings of salvation.
I am hopeful for an explosion of joy – the kind of joy that heaven is filled with. Franklin is a great city. It’s my hometown. I love it. And in so many ways it is already filled with joy. Families rush downtown for the latest festival, business move in because of new opportunities, houses can’t be built fast enough. There is joy in that. But the kind of joy I’m praying for is the kind that can only come from above, not crafted by human hands.
I am hopeful for new opportunities. Franklin is one of the wealthiest and fastest growing areas in our state. The median income of Franklin is twice the median of the state of Tennessee. If a majority of the city were to come to saving faith and cause an explosion of generosity our state, our country, and the entire world could be changed. Now, that might sound overly optimistic, but isn’t that what the gospel inspires? What if just 10% more people were to have their conscience cleansed by the Holy Spirit? Let’s say a new 10% begins giving 10%. At our current medium income level and current population, which are both growing rapidly, that would release over $55 million annually into mission. How many new churches could be planted? How many new missionaries could be sent? That’s not just a financial impact, that’s a people impact. 10% more people loving and following Jesus wherever he leads.
I am hopeful for an awakening. I believe that God is not done with this country. I believe that God will bring a renewal to our country as more and more people bend their knee in repentance and faith. Every city has a tipping point. The pastor of Immanuel, Ray Ortlund, calls this the threshold of non-ignorability. It is the point at which something reaches such a height such that it becomes a topic of conversation. I’m really ready for a new conversation, one centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. What would it look like for Jesus to become the topic of the town?
I am hopeful for the advancement of the gospel. One way Refuge Church will advance the gospel in our time is through church planting. Our pastor, Dustin Neeley, is uniquely gifted to do just this. He understands the ins and outs of church planting well. God has prepared him. But Dustin isn’t the only one in Refuge that longs for, works toward, and prays for more churches. God has brought people that want to see the church multiplied. I am hopeful that in our life as a church, for as long as God gives us, we will be involved in training, sending, and planting churches throughout this world. The gospel is going to go out from Franklin, TN and many who hear the message will never know our names. That’s fine with us. This is not about us at all, it’s about Jesus.
Finally, I am hopeful for fresh grace. In Ephesians 3 Paul prays that God may grant us to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in our inner being, so that we can have the strength we need to comprehend all that Jesus is. Essentially, he’s praying for our hearts to be strengthened by grace for grace. Our weak hearts are too frail for all the wonder of Jesus Christ. So God strengthens our hearts to experience more and more of him. That’s fresh grace, and Jesus never runs out.
On Sunday a new church will officially open her doors to Franklin, TN. But it is not flesh and blood who will unlock that door, it is the Holy Spirit of God who will do that. This is, and has been, and, by God’s grace, will always be Jesus’s church. Refuge Church is a gift from God coming through his people to a city that needs the love of Christ. Whatever he asks of us, our answer is "yes."
Pray with us as we near our launch. May Jesus be glorified. May people be saved. May the gospel go forth. May we find fresh grace and everlasting joy in the only Savior in all the world.
God be praised for his overflowing grace!