“Then after they fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.” (Acts 13:3)
On Sunday evening, January 31st, Mount Hope Church was commissioned by Grace Harbor Church in Providence to go forward in the authority of Christ and be planted in Bristol. This was a sweet night as we rejoiced in all that God has done and prayed with eager anticipation about all that He will do. 3 themes resonated loudly throughout the night:
Firstly, God has been at work long before we have. More than 8 years ago, Kevin McKay (lead pastor at GHC), was in a living room with friends, in Washington DC, praying that a gospel church would be planted in Providence. Not only that, but they prayed that this church would be a church that planted other churches. Shortly after, Kevin came to Providence and, through a series of events, ended up re-planting Grace Harbor Church. It was a few months later that Joel and Jen Sedam arrived. They joined as members and immersed themselves in the ministry. Joel began campus ministry at Roger Williams University and, through his own growth and the Spirit’s leading, increasingly felt the pull toward church planting in Bristol. Through the affirmation of Grace Harbor and acceptance as a church planter with the North American Mission Board the new journey began. They moved to Bristol in June of 2015. They began core team meetings in September. And on January 31st, they and that core team said goodbye and were sent out by Grace Harbor. This (abbreviated) timeline simply goes to show that before this day even came, God was stirring up His people to pray. He was connecting persons together. He was forming hearts for His mission. He was quietly working all things together according to plan. This is extremely comforting – to know that this endeavor isn’t an individual’s scheme or reaction, but the culmination of a process that began long ago. We trust that God will carry on the work He’s begun.
Secondly, churches plant churches. This can clearly be seen in the book of Acts. Jesus’ Great Commission to congregate disciples into gospel communities is central to the New Testament story. As those communities learn to obey all that Jesus commanded, they in turn are called to pass it along in both spiritual formation and church planting. Not only that, but a healthy, intentional local church will replicate itself both through evangelism and church planting. For years and years, Grace Harbor reminded one another in their church covenant of their obligation to “work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church… and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.” A church that is taking their covenant seriously and working together in unity will see the fruit of their labors. This is not a spiritual formula or fate, but something we believe. We pray, we work, we pray, we work, we wait and allow God to bring the increase. As our church has been planted out of another church, we pray that God will give us this same opportunity in the years ahead. We want to dream big, not just about what He will do in Bristol, but what He will do beyond Bristol. We pray that we’ll be found faithful to this task.
Thirdly, our church exists for God’s glory. It is not enough for God to save individuals into a relationship to Himself, but it is His desire that those individuals are baptized into churches where they will shine brightly together for His glory. The church is the outpost of His kingdom; the temple where His Spirit dwells; the community of reconciliation. It is the display of God’s glory. We have been commissioned toward that end: to give God glory as we follow Jesus together, declaring and displaying His good news. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psa.115:1).
We hope this gives you a snapshot of what we are all about. We want to be a church marked by health, not hype. We want to be a community of plodding visionaries, not reckless lone rangers. We want to be a church that leans into the Spirit’s work as we faithfully do what God has called us to do in His Word. We want the people of Bristol to see God’s glory displayed in our lives. It’s through this “long obedience in the same direction” that we trust that God will do a good work through us, even beyond what we could imagine. This is our commission. Soli Deo Gloria!
To read more from Grace Harbor on this night, click here.
Audio from Kevin McKay’s commissioning sermon can be heard here.