In the past month or so, God has been at work in so many major ways.
I was really blessed by a weekend away with the @torchchurch staff enjoying a Vineyard church hosted “Extend Conference” to discuss Multi-site.
My biggest take away from that weekend was actually something that God spoke to me on the way there. He watered a seed that has been continually reaffirmed since and as I look back was planted some time ago. He put the impression on my heart that at my core, I am a church planter. Let me clarify to the best of my ability what I feel is true and maybe not true about that.
Why is this true?
1. The Beauty of the Body
I want with all of my heart to see the church of Christ expand locally and globally. I believe that the local church has such a great importance in the spiritual life and health of ALL believers. I see it as basically essential to complete spiritual growth.
I know from my past, having grown up in the church, that any extended period of time spent without a connection to a local family of believers can significantly stunt spiritual growth. It did not cause my falling away from the faith, but definitely left a void in my life that rather than being filled with truth as shared by believing friends and loved ones was filled with the lies and false promises of the world.
To that end I desire that the world be filled with thriving churches. I remember growing up in a small village, South Holland, that touted being a community of churches. What if that were the world’s claim? A world of churches? How amazing!!
2. Location, Location, Location.
As I travel from town to town and city to city, it warms my heart to see what looks to be a thriving local body, and saddens me when I find unkempt locales and crumbling facilities. I am not saying that God does not live and breathe in places that aren’t spectacular but I rarely find thriving life within places that look to be dying. We all know that the house of the church family does not need to look thriving to be thriving as well as we know that churches that look thriving can be the deadest of places. What I also know is that when I see a location that is well kept I think of a growing gathering that prioritizes the well being of their gathering and is healthy enough to be able to be warm and inviting. This is the church that pulls me in if I know nothing else about them and that is the church that I would send a new comer to as opposed to the run down place that might indeed on further inspection be high in faith and love. Call me superficial. The sad part of those places is that due to the exterior most of those needing God might not find Him there because they are turned off before they hit the door.
I say all this to say, for the past 3 years, I have found myself inspired by vacant areas, praying over abandoned buildings, dreaming as I drive by “For Lease” signs. I constantly imagine the church that could be born and bring others to Jesus in that location. When it first started happening, I thought it was simply a heart for one specific location. Then it expanded to almost every spot I passed, even some that were currently occupied. I actually know nothing abut building structures and renovations, but I am constantly imaging how rooms could be converted to sanctuaries, and how strip malls could be converted into places of worship.
3. Called to Leadership
As I write this portion I want to be clear that in no way do I feel that I am a great leader. I think of myself as an intentional leader, a loving leader, a driven leader, and often a fearful leader. However, I would never hold myself up as a model of leadership. In spite of that fact, I can say without a doubt that I am called to leadership. In all of my past experiences, either intentional or unintentional I ended up in a position of some sort of leadership. This fact has brought me to pour more and more focused effort into growing in that calling. Leadership is one of the most amazing things that I get the opportunity to be a part of, be it in my family, at church, in the office on occasion. However, it is also one of the hardest, most fear developing, and possibly stressful undertakings when the focus is off point.
As of yet, I haven’t had a ton of learning in what it truly means to be a church planter, but it seems to be that leadership is central. To take something from a God inspired idea and vision and to be used by him to bring it to pass, in some way must involve a great deal of leadership.
Gathering the right people, casting God’s vision for the church, building a team, inspiring…all these draw from a well of leadership depth that is either innate or learned but seems obvious that it must be present. And so…I press on toward developing as a leader.
4. Knowledge of the Darkness
Another reason I feel I am called to be a church planter is because I am acutely aware of the knowledge of the growing culture of darkness in this world. There are way too many people who live in darkness and separation from Christ for me to do nothing. Sitting around and blogging about my faith is simply a commentary on what I need to be daily living out. If this is the extent of my action toward getting the love of Christ out to His people, then I am a grossly deceived believer who needs a firm kick in the pants. But God is steadily awakening me to the spiritual illness of His people and calling me to greater steps of action in cooperation with His Spirit already at work.
I recently listened to the “Exponential” conference this past week and felt convicted to my core to take moves to get out of the comfort zone and engage the darkness with the light of Christ. A most compelling speaker, @Neil_Cole, said something so true that it stuck to my ribs.
We will never know the power of the Spirit unless we go to where the wolves are.
I think this firm foundational truth must be at the core of the belief of a church planter. The purpose of planting a church, in my mind, is not that you collect disappointed believers to a cooler body, but that you go into darkness and rip souls from its clutches. Neil also said something that I love. He spoke of bringing the Light of Christ to darkness and compared it to a light bulb in a dark room. Light will attract moths, and cockroaches will flee and hide. This is not to subtly call non believers cockroaches , but to make the true statement of some being attracted to the gospel and ready for the message and others not yet being drawn by the father and still hiding from the light. He simply says, collect the moths. That is the call of the church planter. We collect the moths.
5. Great Change Catalyst
I have a history of starting things and getting people excited. I can often inspire others and get them on board with something well. I hopefully am not sounding arrogant, because there are big areas in which I fail hard, disciplined leadership being one. However, I find it fun to take a blank canvas, create something and then rally folks to participate in it. I also have a way of interacting with people that God just uses mightily. That ability can often lead to an easier time motivating people as I have a skill of empathizing with individuals and understanding what makes them tick.
Why this could all be FALSE?
1. I’ve been wrong too many times before.
I can’t even count the amount of times that I’ve felt that God was telling me something and I was wrong. Thankfully God is a faithful leader, shepherds me the whole way, and leads me to where he wills before I go one mistake too many off course.
2. I can’t pretend that I actually heard His voice.
I have never actually heard the voice of God. Know that this is the experience of some in the faith. It is just not mine. I constantly get impressions, but God has made me very excitable and impressions often spark the excitement.
3. I am often prideful and arrogant.
There is always the fear that decisions like those to build and create something from scratch are falsely rooted in pride or a wish for people to celebrate my accomplishments. The whole “look at what I did” mentality really shaped much of my life. Pride is the biggest area that God has been working on me as I’ve grown closer to him.
4. I am not a great listener.
I tend to talk twice as much as I listen by nature so must be intentional to shut my mouth down often in order to restore that thing to balance and to learn something from others and for The Lord. As a result I am sometimes concerned that God’s leading and mine get mingled and that flesh may out weigh spiritual guidance.
5. I often change my mind.
As much as a church planter is a great starter or catalyst for change, I worry that I am simply flighty and lack the discipline to stick with something. This makes me think that maybe I am feeling called to planting because it is less maintenance heavy than watering and growing as long term pastoring. Planting may be simply building and securing the foundation for those who will follow behind you to grow and water. That attracts me.
Why neither matters?
It doesn’t matter because developing the skills I see necessary to plant a church can ONLY make me a more valuable tool in the hands of our mighty King. If I never plant a church it won’t be because I didn’t want to or because I wasn’t devoting my heart to it, but because it was not what God’s plan was for this season of my life.
I keep learning… While I prepare for God’s calling, He often uses what I’ve learned to achieve an even greater thing. Praising him for how he blows my mind.