It has been about seven months since the Air Force uprooted Jennifer, the girls and me from our comfortable plot in Santa Maria. I suppose enough time has passed that many of you are new to Element and may not know me. Well to you I say, welcome. You are truly blessed and I hope you find Element the community of loving Christ followers that I knew when I worshiped at that strange used car lot between Orcutt and the airport.
Just a quick introduction (or reintroduction for some of you with sketchy memories), my name is Jonathan and I was blessed to serve at Element as an elder while stationed at Vandenberg AFB. It is a job that I never expected God would entrust to me and that I took very seriously... although those of you who know me will raise an eyebrow since I am not the most serious person.
Though Jennifer and I have been worshiping at a new church here in Maryland, our hearts are still in many ways with our beloved family at Element. So much so, that we are sharing your journey of Planting Roots. Each morning before I head to work in D.C., Jennifer and I have a couple's devotion and review the daily exercise in our Journey Guide.
Earlier this week in one of our regular conversations, I asked Aaron if Element was experiencing an influx of new folks corresponding with the summer military move cycle. He informed me that there were new military families among other new people who have joined the worship since I left in April. Our conversation then turned to how new folks might respond to a church entering a building campaign. More specifically, how folks like the military families who will move in 3 years fit in to a roots-planting movement.
I laughed at Aaron a bit, because I know that this puts him in a position that he is uncomfortable with. He fears that he and the church will be perceived as being after your money and that's all. First, let me reassure you, as a person who attended several church business meetings, if Element and Aaron Carlberg were after your money, they are not very good at getting it. So your wallet is safe. Second, as a person whose job and life have only allowed me to plant shallow roots in this world, all I can offer you is my testimony on root planting and resources.
Jesus found me when I was 11 years old at a Fundamental Baptist summer camp. There I professed that Jesus is Lord and I believed that God raised Him from the dead. (Rom 10:9). It wasn't until I was married with a kid on the way that I got serious about knowing my Savior. Living in San Antonio, Texas I submitted to a more mature Christian in discipleship and realized that God wanted me to know Him intimately. Really it wasn't me seeking as much as it was Jesus sending people into my life who pointed me to Him.
One of the key ways that we can know God is through fellowship with other believers (1 John 1-2). At my small group Bible study in Texas, I first experienced Christ's love for believers, which is lived out through His Church. I hope you all are able to experience authentic community in the way I did; praying for one another, serving one another, laughing and crying with one another. So much is revealed about Christ's love in this setting. 1 John 2:3 tells us that we are known to be His servants if we keep His Commandments. In verse 10, John goes on to tell us that keeping His commandments means loving your brothers.
On a personal note, I am convinced that within Christ-centered community, God Himself is present. I know this because when you have to say goodbye to a true loving community of believers, it is painful. In the summer of 2010, Jennifer and I had to do just that.
After three months of wandering, we moved to Santa Maria and found Element. It was there that God taught me my next lesson: His Church is bigger than I thought. God is loving, and as Jennifer and I yielded to Him and trusted Him, He led us to a community of deep loving relationship at Element. After being at Element for a month or so, I met with Eric Djafroodi and Aaron (separately) and told them I would like to serve in a small group ministry. My honest desire was to serve God at Element. God turned the tables on me. Over the course of three and a half years, He gave us a home of worship, grew our understanding of Him, gave us a new family of believers, and ultimately we received tenfold the service that we gave.
My journey with Christ has shaped my perspective of planting roots. God's kingdom is vast and His Church is global. Though in my heart I desire to be with you at Element, Christ has shown me at least twice that He will give me real community wherever His Church is. God wants to be known by His children. Community is a key means by which believers can know God. No matter how far you wander from home or the Church family you love, seek God and fellowship -- wherever you are -- with others who seek God (Phil 3:10). He will be known and you will find that your roots are deeply planted in fertile soil.