Monday, April 15, 2013

Awaken 3 Year

Red Bull Rush:
Have you ever gone sky diving before?   I know people that have, but personally never have gone myself. It is a hard thing for me to understand.  People pay good money to get in an airplane that they know won't land with them on it.  Then you get 1000's of feet in the air, then open the door and say jump with a sheet attached to your back.  People that are crazy enough say, "What A Rush!"  I bet I can get the same kind of rush from a couple cans of Red Bull Energy Drinks with my feet planted on the ground!  

Parachute Drop Survival:
Though I have never went sky diving you could say that I did use a parachute, well sort of.  You see they actually term Awaken as a Parachute Drop Church Plant, and that was rush enough!  The term is  in comparison to a soldier dropping behind enemy lines into a new and strange area.  In Church Planting World a parachute drop actually has the lowest survival rate of any church plant, with less than 20% making it.  Many factors we faced made this true; having no local network built; not having a local sending church to parent us along and the need to learn a new culture.  I mean after all pop is no longer pop down here like it is in North East Ohio... it is soda!  In all seriousness culture can be a huge learning curve.  With these factors having Awaken just celebrate 3 years this past month is a huge milestone and miracle of God.

One of our Community Groups gathering for food, community, and learning to follow Jesus together

Beginning empty handed and alone frightens the best of men.  It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are that God is with them. 

This is a quote from Gene Edwards that I just ran across that rang volumes to me in light of our parachute drop.  This summer will be 5 years ago that Connie and I moved to the Hampton Roads area to see churches planted.  Why Parachute Drop in Virginia Beach if the success rate is so low?  Great question, but the only answer I have is belief.  We believed God's hand was leading us here and had no choice, but to step out in faith.  Getting started was difficult.  Early on there were nights we met where it was just Connie and I in our living room.  We started with us and 3 college students, of which one made it past our public launch.  Let me tell you none of us had a clue what we were doing.

Year 1 of Launch:
We initially met on Sunday Nights in our living room gathering a Launch Team.  For the next year and a half we worked tirelessly to build a team and a local network.  After building a small group of 9-12 we felt God calling us to start meeting publicly in a local Movie Theater.  Crazy when we could barely fill our living room.  But if there is one thing I know, when God says to go, you go.  During the next 9 months you could compare us to a newborn baby.  We learned how to coo, spit up on ourselves, and mess our diapers pretty good.  God was teaching us and putting together the foundation of a team to help lead this young church plant into the future.

Pastor Mike challenging at 3 Year from book Circle Maker

Year 2 Identity Forming:

After meeting there 9 months we were told the Theater was being torn down in place of a Target.  With only a 5 week notice we were on a frantic search to find our next place of worship.  With time not being a luxury another area church graciously offered their Fellowship Hall .  It was during this second year that God really started to show us the unique identity that he had in mind for Awaken.  We were not going to look like your typical church.  As our identity took more shape over the second year, God broke our hearts as a church for the Human Sex Trade in our area.  We have since partnered in the community to provide multiple showings of a film to build awareness of this atrocity.  God has also had us partner with a local organization VBJI, the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative on several things, one of which was seeing one girl rescued from Sex Trafficking.  During this year we also realized that God was telling us to do everything short of sin to reach people far from Jesus.

Click Link below to hear Awaken's Worship Team.  Great job Jeff Riggs our Worship Leader and his amazing team!

3rd Year Ridiculous Prayers:
As our identity started to come to light we started to impede on our host churches identity and knew it was time for us to move on.  Coming down to the wire with only 10 days until our contract expired, exhausting numerous options for public worship, and close to being homeless God opened up a new local theater that we were able to move right into.  Don't pray ridiculous prayers until you are ready for God to do something ridiculous that will stretch your faith.  We prayed that God would move us in only a fashion that He could get all the Glory for it.  Well he chose to show us just 10 days before we were homeless.  Talk about a stretch of faith and a test on our churches leadership team.  This trial was a blessing in disguise as people grew in their faith and commitment to see God move through Awaken.

People Worshiping and painting on a board what they want to see God do in the future of Awaken

We now have been meeting in a Cinema Cafe (movie theater with tables and chairs that serves food) for the past 6 months and are really starting to forge it to fit Awaken's Identity.  Since this past fall we have seen God do some of the following:
  • We have baptized 7 people new in their faith with 5 finding Jesus through Awaken!
  • We are running 3 mid-week Community Groups with plans of a 4th starting this spring
  • A new Men's Ministry started called Fight Club that challenges men spiritually, relationally, mentally, and physically
  • On our 3 year celebration we had a family give a one time $20,000 gift being obedient to God after we went through our Circle Maker series on prayer
  • Since the Fall we have seen our Sunday Morning Attendance grow by over 50%
  • As we enter our third year we are seeing maturity develop as we are able to support about 2/3 of our budget.  Our goal is to be self supporting by year 5 because of the transients of the area.
  • We have sent back out 2 family units, one of which we reached for Jesus and baptized 2 years ago.  She will be working for the White House.  We are getting ready to send a 3rd out to Japan this summer.  This fits in our vision of reaching the nations with the gospel through the Hampton Roads area.
  • I (Pastor Mike) am starting to work with the local Baptist Network as a Church Planting Strategist on a contractual basis, helping to identify future planters, training and equipping them, and seeing them launched out.  Truly a blessing and my heart beat to help raise up other leaders in the area.
  • We are excited about the potential of having an intern or 2 join us in the near future
One of our leaders Jon Walker baptizing co-worker Scott Christopher he had invited and seen come to Jesus

Top Five Prayer Needs Heading Into Year 4:

  1.  Pray for our Soccer Camp this summer July 8th - July 11th.  Last year we hosted just under 200 kids and roughly 100 of the kids and families joined us for Worship that Sunday.  This year we are praying to host 400 kids with having 200 of them join us for worship and awards that Sunday.
  2. Pray as this year we desire to take a larger stand against Human Sex Trafficking.  This year we plan on hosting more awareness building opportunities in the city, putting together a task force within Awaken to run this ministry, and look down the road at hosting an area walk and opening a home to rehabilitate women pulled out of this underground trade.
  3. Pray for our Leadership Development.  As a new church reaching people far from Jesus we always seem to be short on leadership.  So we are putting together several initiatives to help raise and develop new leaders.  Please pray for new leaders to be raised up and workers to come in and help with the harvest fields here.
  4. Pray as we try to start an internship program here at Awaken.  Our desire is to allow others to be exposed to what God is doing here and raise up individuals looking to go into Church Planting or Missions work. 
  5. Pray for our Local Giving to Support 85% of our Budget this year.  We are wanting to be Fully Supported by our 5th year.  Which will help set ourselves up to plant other churches as God helps us mature as a congregation to be financially responsible and obedient.  As we pray for financial stability we also pray for God to lead us consistently over 100 in worship as we are currently knocking on the door of this marker.  This will allow us critical mass in giving and to accomplish some of the other things we believe God calling us to.  Believe it or not most church plants in general (not just parachute drops) average 81 the 3rd year.  Please pray for our growth in these two areas.  
Thanks to the Akron Group who came in to celebrate with us!  Love NP Group!!

Thanks to those that have been a part of this sky diving journey the past couple of years; whether you have been on the ground here or part of the air support from afar, thank you for your partnership in advancing the gospel to a lost and dying world.  Thank you for your prayers and financial support.  It was exciting to celebrate 3 years this past month and remember the story of the miracle that God is creating through this local expression of Christ's Bride.  I thank God for you!

Pastor Mike Pumphrey

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