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My Favorite Church Planter

With all apologies to my many church planting friends, I have an announcement to make:

The 2012 award of Jim’s favorite church planter goes to Rev. Chris DeGraaf.  Here’s a little info on Chris: He’s not a church planter, but by unanimous vote still received the award because of the way God is using him.  He’s super tall.  He has three daughters.  He’s the pastor of a 100 year old church (they just celebrated it).  I’ve considered him for the award many times, but never given to him before because he isn’t starting a church.  That, and I just now made up the award. 

I’ve decided to award it to Chris for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost being that he inspires me.  Second because he is clearly a conduit of amazing “new” things God is doing in his church.  Third because I want to be like Chris.  I’ll tell you what put me over the edge in deciding about this award.  It happened this morning.

Chris has started a church on accident.  It meets on Tuesday nights and the people who come don’t worship anywhere else, and I don’t think they know they are part of a church.  They come to play basketball, and to see Chris who they know will pray for them, give them a ride home, call them to account, give sage advice, break the stereotype of pastor, accept them where they are and make it clear he hopes better for them, remind them of something greater than themselves, and generally love them.

There are probably 50-60 guys who come on an irregular basis.  It equals about 30 a week.  Two guys are now playing in the churh praise band, another family has started worshiping with them.  Chris has structured a few avenues for his church to get connected personally with the men who come to play, and this weekend will be a chili cook-off/free throw & 3-point competition with a lot of interaction between church goers and basketball players.

I’m not sure if his established church knows what to do with what is happening, but they better figure it out…and quick because it’s clear to this outside observer that God is up to something, and it could be big.  In fact, it already is big to those whose lives are being changed.  The question becomes what will a 100 year old church do when the Spirit decides to change them?  Embrace it?  Run from it?  Throw money at it?  Throw their hearts into it?  This question remains.

Here’s the brief story that made me give the award.  This morning Chris told me about a man he’s been building a friendship around basketball with for the last 3 years.  Finally the time was right to ask, “So, has church ever been a part of your life?”  The answer came back no.  Chris mentioned that he was always welcome to join them on Sunday (the guy already knew that, but an invitation goes a long way – aparently).  Yesterday this same fellow says to Chris, “Our family had a meeting about it, and we’ve decided we are going to come to church on Sunday.”

Chris just about fell over.  God is doing something to make a family sit down and have a conversation about going to church when it’s never been a part of their lives together.

My request: celebrate Chris DeGraaf and his highly coveted award of “Jim’s Favorite Church Planter”, but more importantly pray for the guy and his family who will come to church on Sunday.  Pray that the God who has been at work for years will keep at the mysterious work of reconciling people to Godself.

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