BridgePoint Bible Church has been in transition for years now. Several associate pastors transitioned to other ministries. The senior pastor transitioned to an associate role. The women’s coordinator transitioned, the facilities director transitioned, and I transitioned from the professorate in Louisville to the pastorate here. “Transition” has been the buzzword around BridgePoint. And we were all excited to strike it from our vocabulary.
The Gundersen family arrived in June. We put our stuff in storage day one, housesat the first month, and house-hunted the next two, living in a rental and anticipating our move into a permanent home.
At church, we kicked off the summer with three guest speakers helping us turn the page. In July, I started preaching through Titus. In August, I was officially installed as Lead Pastor. The launch of our fall ministries and “Vision Series” were just weeks away.
The elders were forming critical priorities. The staff was getting resettled. Every ministry had performed its own SWOT analysis, and we were reorganizing personnel to match our talents with our needs. Hiring processes for three new pastors were building steam—youth, worship, and executive roles—and committees were getting excited about candidates in the pipeline. We were all excited about the new chapter we were starting to write.
Then came the storm. And with the storm, the rain. And with the rain, the flood. And with the flood, the kind of baptism that holds you under for awhile—and washes away your plans.
What is God doing?
Is this muddy water flowing through our church just a runaway inkstream unleashed from heaven by a merciless editor?
Is God simply blotting out our plans—or writing his?
Our answer all depends on who we thought was writing the story in the first place. If this is our church and our chapter, we should view this disruption as an unkind and irritating detour, and we should get back as quickly as possible to doing exactly what we were doing before—no lessons learned, no adjustments made, no divine editing allowed.
But what if this is God’s church and God’s chapter? What if he’s the author, and we’re the page? What if he decides where to set the quill, and where the paragraphs begin and end, and how one chapter follows another?
As the rains fell and the waters rose and the floods seeped into our homes and buildings and lives last week, they also soaked through our plans. But maybe God isn’t just soaking our plans, but cleansing them.
We all say we want to be washed, and cleansed, and sanctified. We all say we want God to “stretch us.” We all say lovely spiritual things about “getting out of our comfort zones.”
But we all have our plan for how we expect God to wash and cleanse and sanctify and stretch and send us. Oh yes, we want him to work—according to our plans.
So perhaps the most direct question we can ask ourselves is this: Do we just want God’s blessing on our plans, or do we want his plans?
Although Hurricane Harvey and all its effects on our church have been a complete surprise, I stand convinced that God is the one kindly rewriting our next chapter. Because I certainly didn’t write this into the plan.
The swift changes we’re having to make aren’t coming from a renegade elder or a church split. The strange decisions we’re having to consider didn’t come from a half-baked church growth manual. The fresh opportunities and strategies blowing in with this storm didn’t come from a pastors’ retreat or a congregational vote. They’re blowing in from the Spirit of God himself, the Spirit who blew across the floodwaters in Genesis 8 and raised a whole new creation.
We’re entering a new chapter at BridgePoint. The stains right now forming on our underwater walls and carpets and shelves are not signs of postponement but deployment. God is sending us out by moving us out.
Not everything will change, but many things will. And we must welcome this, because this disruption is not just from the sky, but from the Savior. This is not from Harvey. It’s from heaven. And whether this flood drowns us or transforms us will depend on what we believe about people who go under the waters with Christ—do they come up the same, or do they rise up as a new creation?
I’ll tell you what I know: I’ve been baptized with Christ once already, and I came out of that water far better than I went under. So I expect no less this time around—even though it wasn’t my plan. Because God has always been the one writing our story. This time, he’s just using ink from the sky.