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This is the final post on our history up to now here at Church of the Suncoast. We are a 2 & 1/2 year old church plant as of November of 2008 and here is how we got to this point from where we left off in September of 2007.
Last time I talked about how right when things looked like they were about to explode we got kicked out of the school we were meeting in. I don't know if you have ever had a moment when you felt like God let you down but this was one of those times for me. I was so confused and on top of it all we had 1 month to find a new location to meet in. At the time there were no other schools in our area and no other locations big enough to house us. So as I started looking outside our community I drove past a middle school down in Hillsborough County on Lutz Lake Fern Rd. I stopped in and the vice principal was a joy to talk to. She said sure we could meet there and by the end of August 2007 we packed up everything and moved our portable church to Martinez Middle School. The school's cafeteria was smaller, the school was hidden, and maybe most damaging it was 15 minutes away from where we used to meet. Over the months there we lost a lot of people and again I felt like God had let us down even though I had tried to spin this as a win.
BUT, during those months at Martinez we had our biggest baptism celebration to date and almost weekly people were coming to Christ. Even though our overall numbers dropped into the 80's God was still doing stuff and still connecting new people to the Suncoast. Many who made the move back to SR 54 in Feb. of 2008.
During this fall at Martinez Middle we also opened up the Warehouse. The Warehouse is... exactly what it is named, a warehouse. We found a spot near the center of our area on 54 and rented out 2,400 sq ft of space. Half of the place holds our "stuff" and our 21 ft trailer that we store our Sunday stuff in. It also has an office that two of us share. There is also space for another make shift office we use and the other side we did up like a Starbucks. We painted the floors, added A/C, hung black movie curtains on the walls, and filled the place with furniture. It will seat about 50 people and has been used for Community Groups, student groups, volunteer dinners, and my HOA even meets in there. The Warehouse serves as our base of operation even though we still do portable church.
We ended our time at Martinez with a couple Christmas Eve services where I stunned everyone by wearing a suit jacket! And we had a couple weeks in January there to get ready for the big move back to 54.
February of 2008 comes and we planned two mailers to hit the week before our move back to SR 54 where we got things started in '06 & '07. We used a guy that was recommended to us but everything got messed up and not a single card hit for our grand opening back on 54 at Rushe Middle School. BUT, we still saw an instant bounce back into the 100's. Spring went by fast this year and for only our third Easter service we had 161 people and 3 people accept Christ!!! We were back. Go God!!! This summer our numbers blew up during a time of year you don't expect big numbers. We had 140+ people on the July 4th weekend. Crazy stuff. We also did One Prayer this summer which was our first try at video teaching and it rocked!
The fall of 2008 started a little slow for a few weeks but over the past month we have averaged 126 people and have seen over 10 people accept Christ! We feel like God is moving so we are moving with Him. In January of 2009 we will be going to two services at Rushe Middle School.
This journey has not been anything like what I thought would happen. I started this place when I was just 27 years old and thought I knew what would take place. I had read all the books, been to the conferences, talked to all the right people but nothing can prepare you for the high of the highs or the low of the lows. A church plant in many ways is a visible expression of the pastors walk with God. Like it or not the church becomes you. It is not all about you, but it is you. You can't help but be connected in a way that is very similar to marriage. So you obviously have to keep boundaries or it becomes your mistress. Or you get so hurt by people that you become bitter and burn out. By the grace of God neither of those has happened and I hold onto the vision God has given and the wife and partner He has blessed me with. The Suncoast was not my idea it was God's idea and I can't wait to see where it goes. Our best days are still ahead of us! Go God!