Monday, April 16, 2012
Being Kingdom Minded
Some people come who to your church plants mean well, but they do not understand that church planting that goes too quickly runs the risk of not growing deep roots. They do not understand why you don't start off with a one-stop-shop kinda church. Even if I personally had the kind of funding that would allow that mode of planting, I would not want to go that way. I've been part of a church that did not grow roots and it was painful. In addition, I am convinced that real church is not a service shop - rather, it is an expression of God's relationship with us and we fool ourselves to think that any relationship worth having isn't a lot of work.
There are also those who come to your plants who need a lot of personal care. While these are the backbone of any church, they are not always the ones ready to give the leadership needed to build a strong community of the Kingdom. Definitely, the church planter needs to nourish and treasure these relationship, but they also need to not allow these relationships to overtake the formation of a core community that will continue to mature, equip, and release the ones the church cares for. I've also been part of groups that turn inward to their own needs and lose their willingness to grow as a people and grow out into the world that God calls the whole Church to love. This is always a tricky balance and I don't pretend to have mastered it. But such is the challenge of church planting.
I wonder if established churches forget how hard church planting is? In my city there is little tangible support for many planters. Some of the more established denominations in our city might have it easy, but I seem to know quite a few planters who are lonely and misunderstood. I think part of the problem is that plants are seen as threats to established churches. Plants will steal our best people! Actually, I think established churches should give planters their best people, but that is not an easy sell. Don't hear me wrong, I've had lots of encouraging words and even had one amazing church offer us facilities to use for special services, but there is no continuing sense that churches around you are willing to invest the necessary resources of people, time, deliberate mentoring, and yes even money - to see church plants grow. It is an odd thing to me. Sort of the opposite of what Doc and I understand as being Kingdom minded. Most of the church planters I know are not interested in making a church out of transfers anyway, but are planting as a way of reaching those who have yet to find a place where they can begin their relationships with Jesus.
I often think about the story of Wimber when he was at the memorial service for a church in California (I am not sure what book that was in). He describes being at this memorial where all the churches that this one church had planted came to celebrate the life-giving history of the church that was dying. I believe Wimber said it was like seeing an old bitch dog who had given birth one too many times. The sense was that this church had given so much of herself birthing churches that she had completely spent her life. Crude as that phrase is, I've always felt challenged to be like that mothering church, to indiscriminately (at least from an earthly perspective) spend myself for my King. Sure I make lots of mistakes and risk a lot - but isn't that what it is all about? Isn't it better to see our metaphoric kids grow up with a legacy of giving everything for the King, even if that means we completely give ourselves in the process?
I know this flies in the face of everything we think we know about church. For instance, today there is a strong sense of the need to fight for our relevance in society. Unless we build structures that are meant to last and keep the revenue streams flowing, then of what value are we? I'm convinced that the way to be relevant is not to play the game of establishing good corporations - but rather to be willing martyrs for the sake of the Kingdom, spending our very selves on spreading the good news of the Kingdom near and far. I often think that in playing the worlds kingdom building game we've made the situation worse for us because we are no just like every other organization competing for the public space. Church planting, messy as it is, is central to overturning this trend.
So what did I do? I actually put out the call to a few other planters that I know (and some awesome folk who will hopefully plant in the near future). I said, "we need to do this for each other. We, of all people, know how necessary it is to bleed for each other regardless of our denominations or affiliations." Last week I sat in my dining room with three other pastor/leaders and we talked about the challenges we face planting churches in our city. Then we did what Kingdom minded people always do - we invited the King to come and meet those needs and build in us a strong sense that we are doing this together.
I've set up a network and we are inviting others into it. My hope is that at the very least church planting in my city will no longer be a lonely prospect. I hope that this will encourage many more to join in the work - to give themselves for the Kingdom. What about the church plants in your city? Will you take up the challenge? Will you allow yourselves to be Kingdom minded? I hope you will.
Frank Emanuel - Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa