When All Seems Lost

By Keith Baldridge

I had just returned home to Denver after a long fundraising trip to a partner church in Dallas. As I walked through my front door – luggage still in hand – my phone rang insistently. I initially ignored it because it was Sammy Butterball, the quirky janitor at the church where we keep our church plant’s trailers. A few seconds later, Sammy called again. I knew something was up, so I reluctantly answered. He informed me that someone had stolen both of our trailers sometime in the early morning hours the night before. Sadly, all that remained were the broken locks in the parking lot.

As a portable, load-in/load-out church, that meant everything we use on Sundays was now gone! Think about what that would mean for you and your church if on Sunday morning you walked into the building and the sound system, lighting, staging, chairs, live-streaming equipment, coffee supplies, signage, welcome area and everything in your kids ministry was taken away.… What would you do? How would you respond? How would you lead your people? It’d be natural to feel violated and angry, but hopefully you’d be reminded and stand in confidence that all that stuff isn’t really the church … and the bricks and mortar – that’s not the church either. We are the church!

Throughout a great deal of 2020, the governor’s mandate here in Colorado kept churches all across the state from meeting in person. In fact, we weren’t able to meet in person again till late summer. The COVID-19 pandemic may have taken our building, thieves may have taken our equipment, but absolutely nothing can take the hope we have in Jesus! The Holy Spirit is still leading; the Gospel remains intact; and our mission hasn’t changed!

Thankfully, we were able to borrow some sound equipment and a few other things for our kids ministry so that we werent a true first-century church.… I gotta tell you, that first Sunday back together was so simple, but oh so sweet! All morning, I kept hearing our people say things such as, “We don’t need all that stuff to worship God,” and “This doesn’t change our heart for our city.” Our people were simply rejoicing in the fact that we were together and worshipping God – and that’s all that mattered. As a church planter who led many of these people to Christ, I cant tell you what that did for my heart! The church we had envisioned years ago, when we began this plant, was now taking shape before our very eyes.

Since our insurance would only cover about a quarter of what was lost, we put out the word that we were in desperate need of help. As a church planter, doing pioneering work in a “Send City” can sometimes feel lonely and isolating – as if you’re in the fight alone, even though I know that’s not true. However, in a matter of days, the Lord began lifting my head as prayers, calls, letters and financial support came pouring in. Truth be told, I was blown away at the amount of love and support coming in from all over the country, from the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between! I was truly humbled and grateful to know that we’re not in this alone. Within a few weeks, we had raised most of what we needed to replace what was stolen, and we really began reimagining what we could do to make a greater impact moving forward.

This time around, we decided to go with Portable Church Industries, a company that specializes in portable churches such as ours. The entire company pulled together to help us build out our first phase in record time. Portable Church Industries delivered our first of two trailers the day before Easter. They even trained our people on how to use the new equipment, and we were able to pull together an amazing worship service! We had the largest attendance in our church’s history with roughly 400 people on Easter Sunday!

For many of us, the past year has been challenging. With everything in our world feeling so unstable, so uncertain, it’s easy to want to withdraw and become inwardly focused, fortifying our defenses. However, if this season has taught me anything, it has been a solid reminder that even though we live in a broken world where death and chaos reign, God is still in control, He is still on His throne. With this truth in mind, we shouldn’t be rattled or surprised by anything, because God certainly isn’t. Everything that is happening and will happen is filtered through His sovereign, mighty hands. No matter what the Enemy brings, we choose to stand firm on the promise that our God is greater. His calling on our lives and the mission dont change. When faced with challenges or attacks from the Enemy, I often think to myself, “How would Paul react?” or “How would Jesus respond?” I inevitably come to the conclusion that both would seek to spend more time with the Father.

A few years ago, I attended a church planting intensive led by Vance Pitman and his staff at Hope Church in Las Vegas, where I was introduced to this statement: “God’s primary calling on my life isn’t actually ministry. My primary calling is intimacy with the Father.” That’s it, plain and simple. Ministry is actually what the Father does out of the overflow of intimacy with Him. For me, this mindset has been revolutionary in my own life and ministry. Growing up in the Bible Belt, I have always wanted to do great things for the Lord, to live for Him! There’s nothing wrong with that, but He didn’t call me to “do” anything for Him.… All God asks me to do is “be” with Him. Everything else will flow from this type of intimacy with God.

You might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “That sounds a little new age,” or a little too “crunchy” for you. Listen, I live in Boulder County; this is far from crunchy. Let me show you an example of what I’m talking about. In Mark 3, we see that Jesus has just called the 12 disciples to follow Him:

And Jesus went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. —Mark 3:13–15

The underlined phrase above is the Greek word hína, which simply means that this is the entire reason or purpose for calling His disciples – so that they would be with him. Then, and only then, from the overflow of time with Jesus, would the disciples be sent out to preach and cast out demons. Ministry is the overflow of intimate time with the Father. I believe that when we choose to be with Him first, we’ll be less rattled by the attacks of the Enemy and more emboldened to carry out the mission God has placed before us.

Keith Baldridge serves as Pastor of Teaching and Vision at The Living Stone Church in Broomfield, Colorado.