September 2021 was a big month for me. It was the month our church plant finally started meeting. It also marked two years since we’d moved to Beckenham and one year since we originally planned on starting the church plant. They were pretty tumultuous years – lots to reflect on and lots to thank the Lord for. Here are five random things I learned…
1. I learned that success was a big idol. That the pandemic made church planting difficult was not surprising;what was surprising was how gutted I was. Everything in me wanted to run in the opposite direction once our original plans felt like they might crumble. The Lord began to show me how committed I was to a worldly version of success. He showed me that worshipping Jesus meant submitting to his will, especially when it meant shelving my own plans. He showed me the truth of James 4:13-15 – “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” I realised I needed to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
2. I found being a wife and a sort-of colleague hard. We went from a church scenario where I had had less to do with Matt’s ministry (part of his job was running midweek ministry to Canary Wharf workers) to a church plant scenario, which was a big step up in my involvement in the church’s ministry. He was and is really sensitive and protective of me and my role in church life – but despite that I found the change in dynamic difficult. It was important to acknowledge, verbalise and work through together what our partnership in ministry would look like going forward. Marriage can be hard in the most straight-forward of circumstances; and it’s worth acknowledging the extra pressure that comes with being a sort of colleague as well!
3. I realised I was an angry person. I got out of bed angry. I was angry at my baby for having the temerity to wake up at night. I snapped at my kids for doing normal kid things. I was angry at how things seemed to be going. Through this season I learned that the Bible is full of people who express the full extent of their pain and frustration to the Lord. I didn’t need to be British about it. Expressing my sadness, frustration and exhaustion to the Lord was a critical first step to processing it, repenting and being able to move forward.
4. Jesus re-taught me that church is where the mess, pain and joy is. Subconsciously, I thought we were gathering a crack-team of evangelists to reach Beckenham for the Lord. Instead the Lord was assembling a group of glorious, beautiful, hurting, suffering, sinful people to love, help and serve each other as we reach out to our community.
5. “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”(Eccl 3:12). Jesus, through the circumstances of 2020, taught me an Ecclesiastes-type lesson – that there is nothing better than loving the beautiful things he has given you and doing the good works he has given you to do. And that this can be done even as you mourn the crookedness of this world and the things that hurt.
These were some of the lessons God taught me in a difficult year. Maybe some of these resonate with you? Or maybe He was teaching you something else? Let’s keep remembering and responding to God’s prompting!
Mary Dew Jones is a minister’s wife in Beckenham, South-East London. Her husband, Matt, leads a church plant and they have three young children. They have been married for 11 years and in ministry for all of them. This is their first experience of church planting.