San Jose!

by Moon Choi

On January 25, 2009, Pastor John ended his sermon titled, “Make Disciples and God Plant a Church!” with a statement foreshadowing big news that would be broken at the members meeting later that evening. “It could be life altering for some,” he said before ending in prayer.

There was a lot of excitement and anticipation after the service ended. Some may have had no idea what he was talking about – others had heard things on the down low and made guesses. Whatever people’s knowledge of the situation was, they came with high energy to the members meeting, awaiting the potentially life altering announcement.

The meeting began with a very sober tone. But soon after, Pastor John made the announcement that the elders had decided during their retreat to pursue a church plant in San Jose. The announcement was met with loud cheers. A good number of members are originally from the San Jose area and some old members have moved back there but have had trouble finding a solid, Bible preaching church. “We have always considered the possibility of northern California,” Pastor John said. “But we were also considering other areas like Seattle or other major metropolitan areas.” He went on to mention that the elders felt as though it was finally time to act on our vision statement to plant churches.

There were a number of events and factors that culminated in the unanimous decision at the elders retreat. Mike Chon mentioned that while Pastor John took his leave of absence, Pastor Patrick was able to fulfill the role of senior pastor, giving him confidence in seeing him in that role indefinitely. Though you may think their discussion at the retreat was long and intense, Mike Chon said with a laugh that it was like a 20 minute discussion. Across the board, everyone had agreed that this was the proper course of action.

Even Peter Lim, the “voice of reason” among the elders, agreed. “As our church was approaching our 10 year anniversary, the elders were evaluating how well we had been doing on our MVP statement,” he said. They thought that the strongest area was the mission – making disciples with many people coming to know Christ in the past 10 years. The passion, to love God and people, was a weaker area within the church, resulting in 2009’s theme of “For the Love of Christ.” As for the vision, it had been carried out through short term missions to the Czech Republic and to Argentina which Peter said was “understandable for a church in its infancy” but said that they wanted to take a major step forward and actually plant.

Several different locations were in consideration. Pastor Patrick said that previously, they had tossed around the idea of Los Angeles, Seattle, even overseas to the Czech Republic or Argentina but that “these were just thoughts.” He had a feeling that once Pastor John came back from his leave of absence that he would want to plant a church. “By this time, I had figured it was a real possibility so I had already thought through it and prayed about it quite a bit,” he said. Then when Pastor John brought it up, they were able to talk about it. Though Pastor Patrick and Christine were willing to go, after talking to Pastor John, it just made more sense for Pastor John to go, as he was the visionary who kept moving forward and Pastor Patrick was fit to keep a programming running once it got started. “I know this is an overgeneralization, but it’s all to say that it made sense,” he said.

When Pastor John went to San Jose recently to speak at a college/singles conference, an arrangement that had been set up a year in advance, he realized that there weren’t many like-minded churches there, making it difficult for former Lighthouse members to receive the same teaching that they did in San Diego. There was a New Years potluck party with former and present Lighthouse members and people kept on asking whether they were going to plant a church in San Jose. “I could only reply that we needed to pray about it and that we were very hopefully in considering the possibility soon. I had also talked with my wife Angela as well as the kids to see if they would be supportive of the move.” This was a difficult decision, as their extended family was in San Diego, but regardless Pastor John’s family was excited.

As for the announcement of the church plant, Pastor John gave his perspective:

“I remember I was actually quite nervous as there were some other issues to address that were kind of a serious nature. But when it came time to actually share that we would plant a church, it almost became kind of like a movie scene and it felt really strange, almost a surreal kind of feeling that something very monumental was going to take place. So I gave the announcement and there were cheers from our congregation, probably the NorCal members being the most excited. But since I had kind of given a little preview in the morning service, there was actually quite a bit of anticipation and so it was really an exciting moment in our church’s history.”

Plans are moving forward. There have already been two interest meetings with more people than Pastor John had expected. Things are still in the preliminary planning stages as Pastor John has yet to become familiar with San Jose geography. During the second interest meeting on February 19, Pastor John asked a series of questions geared to get the minds focused on the purpose of the church plant. He emphasized that this church plant wasn’t an end to itself—rather, he looked to San Jose as a launching point for another church plant. He said that he didn’t want the next church plant to take 10 years. He called this a reproducing model, with a church being planted, growing as a baby would, then maturing, then reproducing. “Church planting is future-oriented with a multi-generational mindset,” he said. He pointed to Paul’s example and how missions was primarily planting churches. It’s a New Testament pattern, he said. Those who question church planting are questioning the New Testament. Before launching into his series of questions, Pastor John laid this principle down: “We’re going because we want to establish God’s redemptive plan.”

Among Pastor John’s series of questions, he asked for the number of the unsaved in San Jose. There was a silence before someone responded, “A big number.” He acknowledged that before asking if San Jose could use another church, though there were already churches there. He made it clear that it wasn’t about stealing sheep from other churches or even asking why we should plant a church if there were already churches there, he explained. As long as there are non-believers, we need to go because “there are people dying today who need to know the gospel.”

There were other questions but he prevalent theme of all of the questions and answers was trusting in God and praying desperately. Pastor John mentioned the early days of Lighthouse and said that there was a lot more prayer because everyone was desperate. There was even a fasting and prayer chain so that someone would be fasting and praying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There was a desparate need to trust in God. Then he pointed that out that we still need to be desperate, all the time, because we are always completely dependent on God.

Toward the end of the meeting, Pastor John talked about how we can prepare for the plant. He asked the group how they could personally prepare. Response included continually growing, praying fervently, practicing evangelism, and loving the people here at Lighthouse. However, these weren’t just things for the goers to prepare for – Pastor John mentioned that the maintainers, the people who will remain at LBCSD, will also have to step it up. Peter Lim expressed this concern, “The more important question centered around the people who might be involved in actually leaving San Diego for this church plant and whether our church in San Diego would be strong enough to send out some people who were majorly involved in San Diego.” This was a point that Pastor John touched upon many times and even said that some of those who may be considering going may actually be called to be a maintainer.

We as Christians should all be striving to grow, to step it up in the local church, to be practicing a lifestyle of evangelism and simply loving others as Christ loves us. Pastor Patrick said, “Chris Mueller and I were talking at the recent college retreat about how much we would miss John. But it’s not like with other church situations where this is a bad break up. It would be wrong to even call it a split. This church planting effort would be the church working together to fulfill the Great Commission God’s way, through the vehicle of church planting. I’m excited to be a part of this and hope God will grant us success as He did when we first planted Lighthouse in San Diego.” This plant will require a high level of commitment. Pastor John firmly said at the end of the interest meeting that people will have to commit sooner or later and that the elders were looking for a group of people fully committed by this summer.

As for the actual plant itself, Pastor John is looking to early summer of 2010. He joked, saying that perhaps they will have a U-Haul at Jenna’s graduation with a banner on it that read, “Congratulations!”

PRAYER REQUESTS

It’ll only be by God’s grace that this church plant is successful. As Pastor John mentioned, we should always be in desperate prayer. This church plant is no different. Please pray for the following:

  • Spiritual growth and maturity for those who go
  • A willingness to be sacrificial, work to the point of exhaustion, and love God and people fervently from the heart.
  • That we would establish firm convictions regarding what a church looks like according to Scripture.
  • That we would all be prayerful.
  • For the San Diego home base to be supportive and willing to sacrificially invest in the San Jose plant.
  • That we would continue to be devoted to taking a stand on God’s word and to actively share the love of Christ.
  • That we find a good site that would be centrally located in San Jose between universities and neighborhoods that would create a true sense of community.
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About

The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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