Last week I had the opportunity of attending Exponential, the largest church planting conference in the nation and maybe even the world. I had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with likeminded people to whom God has given the vision of starting a brand new church, i.e. “church planting.”
This year’s theme, “Sifted,” was taken from Luke 22:31 in which Jesus tells his disciple, Peter, that Satan wants to sift him and bring trouble into his life. Satan’s purpose in sifting Peter was to destroy him. But, God allowed the sifting to build up Peter’s character and faith.
Likewise, church planters constantly confront the theme of sifting due to the trials and spiritual warfare that come with planting a church. I was blessed by all the messages and workshops on this theme.
I had a chance to personally meet with Exponential’s keynote speaker, Wayne Cordeiro, who has always been a hero of mine. I highly recommend his book Divine Mentor, a heartwarming apologetic on having daily devotions in God’s Word. For my own devotions, I have been doing the Life Journal Devotionals (developed by Wayne Cordeiro) for about 3 years now.
I also met with all kinds of specialists in the area of church planting. The words of wisdom and strategy they gave were invaluable to me at this time of preparation.
My greatest takeaway from Exponential was that God is calling me to start a church. You’re probably thinking, “No duh! Isn’t that why you attended a church planting conference in the first place?” But this obvious statement is also incredibly profound and meaningful to me. Let me explain.
Last year about this time I attended my first Exponential Conference almost as an afterthought.
I was supposed to be in Orlando for another pastoral networking event and Exponential fell on the day after. Since I was already in Orlando, I decided to go for the first day of the conference.
I remember sitting in the first session and the speaker talked about God’s sovereign hand in planting a church. He said something like, “When God plants a church you will see the supernatural.”
It was at that point that God spoke to me. It wasn’t an audible voice. It was a strong impression and I heard him loud and clear. God was saying to me, “I have called you to start a church and I will supernaturally provide for its success! I will build my house!”
I knew this was God because the Holy Spirit so overwhelmed me that I started to bawl like a baby. Now, I’m not a “crier” — I’m an Asian man in my 40’s. I don’t cry at weddings, sappy movies, or sentimental occasions. But at that moment, I had to run out of the auditorium because I couldn’t hold in the tears. I ran to the bathroom and wept like a little girl. God was telling me I that must start a church for Him and that He would supernaturally superintendent its completion.
So, fast forward to this past Exponential meeting and I started where I had left off. The whole conference I cried, wept, and bawled. God reminded me of what He me told the same time last year: I am calling you to start a church and I will supernaturally do it!
Speaking of supernatural, in the airport the Holy Spirit hijacked me as I was doing my devotions. I was so overwhelmed with his presence and this truth that I had to write down a prayer of response. I didn’t have any paper so I wrote it on a napkin:
I am so excited to begin this adventure. If God has called you to plant with me, buckle up, it’s going to be a crazy ride! Let’s all enjoy as well as witness God’s faithfulness on this journey together.