Here are some excerpts from a letter to our Core Group after taking some time to process the St. Mark’s vote.

 . . . . the church voted in favor of the proposal and to move forward with allowing mission and ministry to continue through Seven Mile Road Church.

Stunned. Amazed. Awe.

Here’s what that means for the immediate future. It means that the church has voted in favor of moving forward with dissolving St. Marks, transferring the property to Seven Mile Road Church, and allowing members to decide whether they would like to join our church or find a new one. It means that we would need to form some kind of committee between the two churches to work through all the legal matters, contracts, agreements, etc of transferring the space. If all that goes well, then sometime next year, St. Mark’s would vote again to make this decision final and sign the papers.

Here’s what that means long-term and some reflections as I am trying to process all of this.

1. We have much work to do. By this, I don’t mean all the work that will be involved in figuring out how to receive the property (legal issues, contracts, etc). Nor do I even mean all the work on our end to maintain the property (raising funds, paying bills, financially pulling it off, managing property, security systems, painting, upkeep, repairs, etc). Ultimately, the church is not buildings or acres of grass. It is people. So the most work will be in loving and shepherding and caring for people. Even if the people of St. Mark’s Church go through with all this, they will do so with great hurt and pain. So much of their identity is wrapped up into St. Mark’s Church. We will need to be a community that goes over the top and breaks our backs in loving and welcoming any of them who would like to join Seven Mile Road Church. We have preached a great deal about being a community that receives people like Jesus. God may be giving us an opportunity to do precisely that.

2. We have much to gain from St. Marks Church. Should all this go through, what we will inherit of priceless value from St. Marks is not property, but people. Please know, from the depths of my heart, I do not care about buildings or grass. They will all perish and none of it can be taken with us when this life is over. Property is good as a servant to mission. It is a horrible master. While property has missional value, what does excite me is that we might inherit some of the people of St. Marks Church. I don’t suspect that all the members will come over, but some may. It would be so incredibly healthy for our church to have older people who will add to the diversity of our church. We have prayed for years that Seven Mile Road would be a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church. If this were one ways that God would answer that prayer, let us be delighted. Let us also be humble. We have made clear to St. Marks Church that this would not be a merger of any kind. We will continue to plant Seven Mile Road with all its distinctives. However, let us be ready to learn from the saints of St. Marks Church. Many of them have been following Jesus before we were born.

3. We have much to celebrate. I sincerely hope you are having as much fun as I am in being caught up on this ride the Lord has us on. How exciting is it to follow Jesus and see Him work! Who are we that we should be a part of any of this?

The people of St. Marks Church will tell you that they have been through a lot in the last several years and find themselves in a very unhealthy spiritual state…If we had taken a vote for this same proposal back in July, it would have been a unanimous “No.” But that God has done something in their hearts over these months is amazing. Think about what is on the table for a moment. St. Marks is considering letting their church die and handing over everything to a new church for free so that mission and ministry might continue! That kind of stuff doesn’t happen. Picture some of the churches you grew up in. Could you imagine your church deciding to give everything up to a new church, with people of a different race, for the sake of mission? Yet that is the work that God is doing in St. Marks. So here’s what I want us to celebrate. Not a building. Not acres of grass. Celebrate the work of God. The Gospel is true. It does change hearts. It does transform. It is miraculous in bringing life where there was death. It accomplishes what is impossible with man. I don’t know if eight months from now, we will have this property. But what I do know is that God is at work and He’s changing hearts and causing people to love Jesus more than themselves. That’s amazing. That’s worth celebrating.

4. We have much to be thankful for. When you sit down with your family to pray and give thanks, thank Him for being faithful to us as a community. Like a good Father, God has continually provided for us His children. Again, I don’t know if all this will go through, but I am being reminded that God is good. Our hope is not in inheriting land. Our hope is in God. His character is good. He loves us. He gives us more than we deserve. Let us not forget to be thankful. Look at the words of Deuteronomy 8. Read them. Hear them.

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Guys, I fear forgetting the Lord our God. I’m scared that after receiving all these blessings we will say in our hearts, “Look at what we’ve accomplished. Look what our hands have gotten us.” Give thanks to God and ask that He would keep our hearts from being proud. Whatever comes of all this, let God’s kindness continually humble us. If not here, He will provide another place for us to worship. So let us be thankful that He is faithful and generous and good.

5. We have mission to keep before us. Should this go through, the challenge before us is to never lose sight of our mission. This property is a wonderful blessing if it advances our mission. Otherwise it is a curse. Our prayer will need to become, how can this property be used maximally for the advancement of God’s kingdom? How can these buildings help us connect with people in the neighborhood and city? How can it be used to build relationships? How can these grounds serve the people of Philadelphia? How can this space house our mission? My great desire is that Seven Mile Road would be like the church in Antioch in the book of Acts. Antioch is this great church that becomes a hub for mission. It’s the church that sends out missionaries and helps plant other churches. Wherever God leads us, we need to ask Him to save sinners, disciple saints, train leaders, raise pastors, send missionaries, multiply planters, and plant churches through our ministry here.

There’s probably more to say, but I’ll stop there. I love you in the Lord and love serving Jesus with you.

With You For Jesus, Ajay

Seven Mile Road Church