In 2012, I began the process of starting a new church in Toronto. In the early years, I spoke almost every weekend at churches to raise financial and prayer support. It paid off: many churches and individuals supported us. Later on, years later, I met people who told me, “I pray for you and your church every day.”
Over the years, I’ve had the honor of returning to those churches and giving them updates.
To my surprise, I began speaking at churches for another reason. Liberty Grace Church started meeting at 4 in the afternoon, which left the mornings available. I used to decline speaking requests, but then I started accepting invitations from churches who wanted to learn about How to Grow or Eight Habits for Growth. Along with our elders, I structured my role so that I served 80% for Liberty Grace Church, and 20% speaking and writing.
As a result, I’ve spoken in dozens of churches hundreds of times over the past decade, and I’ve discovered two of the best parts.
One is the encouragement of seeing God at work in all kinds of churches.
I’ve spoken in big churches, small churches, and everything in between. I’ve spoken in urban churches, suburban churches, and country churches. Most of the time, I feel really encouraged when I go back home. God is at work in all kinds of settings. Everywhere I go, I meet godly people who are serving sacrificially. I meet great pastors who will never be famous, but who are serving God and God’s people well.
Read the news, and you may think that churches are all a mess, and that scandals are the norm. But if you visit churches as I have these past years, you discover the opposite: God is at work, and he has faithful churches and pastors everywhere.
You can often tell the minute you walk in a church. You can sense something intangible and unmistakable. That intuitive sense if later backed up by evidence: a commitment to God’s word, a dedication to prayer, a determination to love, and lots of hard work.
Most of the time, these pastors and churches feel like they’re not measuring up. The churches are humble. Few of them try to be big deals. But, in God’s economy, they are, and I am deeply encouraged by them.
But that’s only one of the best parts of being an itinerant preacher. The very best part is returning home to my local church.
I enjoy speaking at different churches, but nothing compares to entering my own local church, seeing the people I'm dedicated to serving, and experiencing the blessings of being a part of it. Often, after speaking at a church in the morning, I find myself saying to our congregation, “I am so blessed to be your pastor. I love being part of your church.”
It's like going to other people's houses. I really enjoy visiting other people's families, but it makes me even more eager to return home to mine.
I have been encouraged by speaking at many churches. God is at work in more places and ways than we often realize. It’s also deepened my appreciation for my local church. I love seeing God at work everywhere, and then seeing God at work in the church of which I get to be a part.