It’s difficult to think of the word “launch” without imagining myself at 18 years old launching water balloons at unsuspecting house boat owners in the middle of a marina in Lake Mojave. We hid. People scattered. ( And we proved how fun and lame teenagers are.)
Whenever you launch something new at church, the response isn’t all that different. There are several groups of people that emerge. There are the early adopters that are on board, people that are slow to come around, some that are fully against it and run away, and others that are just ambivalent. When we first talked about starting the Woodcrest Campus, I just kept my head down and kept working. I was too busy to think about it. Besides, I didn’t get it. Why launch into something new when things are going well?
Before long, in God’s gracious sense of humor, I was asked to pray about becoming the campus pastor. Taken by surprise, I started to inquire as to why we were doing this, the vision behind it and personally consider my involvement. After a lot of prayer and wrestling, I heard God say yes, and so did we. In a short time, we were on this beautiful and difficult journey of planting a new work in the Orangecrest/Woodcrest area of Riverside, which we call the Woodcrest Campus. We pursued God, relationships and outreach as we built teams and worked hard to make the dream a reality.
However, it didn’t take long for the chatter of negativity to start. “Why do we need to do that? It won’t be as good. Why can’t people just drive down the hill? Is Sandals just trying to expand their brand? I can’t watch a video screen…” (said no one in America ever).
What is it about opposition to something new, opposition to pursuing things in uncharted territories? There is something within us that wants things to never change, to safely keep everything in its place so that we never have to step out in faith and trust God. Our launch team quickly discovered that trusting in God was the only thing that would work to accomplish this great task.
As we trusted God, we began to see more of the “why”. Why do you leave what is comfortable and go into unknown territory? Why leave the main hub for the struggling, brand new campus? Why leave the comfort of a beautiful new building for setting up and tearing down every week? Those questions are hard to answer unless you are looking through the eyes of faith.
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 NLT
When you step out in faith, it’s all worth it when you see lives changed for Jesus. Immediately upon launching, hundreds of people who had not been to Sandals Church in two years (since we moved to the Hunter Park campus), came back to church. We had people excited about inviting their friends to a campus that was five minutes away from their community, instead of one that was nearly a 30 minute drive. We saw people begin to serve that never previously had. New leaders arose. People were baptized. Small groups were formed and hundreds of people began new friendships and relationships. We struggled together, set up and tore down together, and lived life together.
It is hard to look back and not imagine doing this; it has been one of the most amazing things for not only my family, but the entire community. I’m not going to lie, it has also been the hardest five years of my life. There were times I wanted to quit, thought I was unqualified, wanted to give in to the naysayers, and do something that was better for me. However, that is not what faith does. Faith launches out because it is only by faith that we can please God, only by faith can people be saved, only by faith will hard things become good things.
“And it is impossible to please God without faith.” Hebrews 11:6 NLT
As Sandals Church figured out how to make multisites work, we began to do more, and more, and now we are approaching the launch of our 7th campus. Each new campus launch has experienced its own set of blessings that they never could have imagined receiving. God is being glorified and his church is growing in amazing new ways.
When you launch a new campus, you launch a movement of God. You expand his kingdom. That’s what he does. He calls broken, unqualified, and scared people who have just enough faith to say yes, and he does amazing things through them.
“All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” Hebrews 11:39-40
Even though every person doesn’t need to attend Sandals Church, every community needs the vision of being real. Many people won’t cross cities, drive freeways, and trek long distances to go to church. When you bring the vision to a new community, something comes to life.
Think about your own journey with being real…no doubt it has radically transformed your life. It opens you up to God in new ways, makes you lean more heavily on his grace, and expands the need for the Gospel to move forward in new ways in your life. Imagine your life without this vision… We are blessing people with a REAL experience of Jesus when we share the Gospel in a way that awakens their hearts and not their guilt.
Why Launch a new campus? Because we can’t afford not to. God has called us to reach every tribe, tongue, and nation with the Good News and if we stop here, we’ll never make it around the world. We must launch into new communities, unchartered territories, and boldly proclaim the Good News until God calls us home. Let’s continue to launch together.
Reflect on this…
How have you responded in the past when new ideas have been launched? Have you responded in fear or faith? With joy or apathy? Spend a few minutes with the Lord, asking him from where within your heart this reaction comes.
What does faith make you do? How would you like to grow or change in your actions?
How do you feel about God using the “broken, unqualified, and scared people who have just enough faith to say yes.” How do you feel about him using you?