February 26, 2007

Church Planting Foundation

A few months ago, I had an unbelievable conversation with a retired pastor. We were talking about my call to plant a church, and he said that he had planted a church or two in his day (probably sometime after being handed the KJV from Moses!).

I began to notice a disconnect when he said, "You have to give Christians a place to gather and grow."

"I know we need strong Christian leadership, but I am not really interested in gathering the Christians from the community. I want to reach out to people who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior"

"You are not talking about church planting," he said, "you are talking about mission work."

I couldn't believe that he did not connect church planting with reaching those who don't know Jesus. Of course, maybe in a sense the problem is deeper. In retrospect, I am more appalled at the lack of "missionary" effort attached to the local church.

The church is first and foremost a missionary effort.

Around the age of 18, God began to call me into the ministry again. I felt called when I was younger, but I didn't want to be a pastor so I stayed far away from God and from the church. But about the age of 18 I was searching for some direction. God called, and this time I responded. One day I took my Bible, a devotional guide, and rode my bike 23 miles down a bike trail to a secluded area.

The entire trip I prayed, "God, if you want me to be a minister You are going to have to make it obvious."

I opened the devotional guide and read the Scripture passage assigned for that day. It was the parable of the lost sheep. I instantly knew that I was being called into ministry. Why? Because I felt the first and foremost task of the church was to reach out to those who don't yet know Jesus as their savior. But I also knew that most of the churches I had attended didn't really organize to do this. Over time, God continued to lead me down a path that led to church planting.

Here is the thing...as I plant the new church I am determined to make reaching those who don't yet know God the first priority. This will mean doing service in a way that helps them feel comfortable. This means intentionally connecting with people with songs (even secular ones), movies, etc that they understand and speaks to them. I believe we have to balance reaching out with helping people grow deeper, but I also believe that reaching out DOES help people grow deeper.

Who knows what God has in store, but I do know there are over 60,000 people in the area that, as of the last census, were unclaimed by any religious group. There are possible another 20-30,000 people who claim a religious affiliation, but haven't attended in a very long time. I don't know about you, but that seems like a pretty big mission field!

1 comment:

  1. Hello Eric,

    I don't think I have responded to this many articles on the same blog in the same day before, but here goes.

    I am also preparing to plant a church in an area with similar numbers. Churches in this particular area really seem to struggle. When I think about it, I am often reminded of 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

    "I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries."

    Paul had a great opportunity to plant a church, but he saw the first step was to defeat his adversaries through the gospel. We see the beginnings of the church at Ephesus and it began through proclaiming the gospel to people who did not know Christ.

    Church 'plants' are churches that take new ground in a community. For a church plant to continue to take new ground AND in order to properly disciple the body, the church must always seek to be missional. I am on track with you, much of our sanctification is directly tied to our being on mission with God.

    I am currently in the process of assessing how best to go about that. For our particular community we believe that the best way to transform our city will be through the body of Christ in relationships throughout the city. We won't ignore that the church service is a big front door, but we plan to build this congregation through community based relationships.

    We are just getting started, but you can check out our beginnings at www.somadenton.blogspot.com. We are still just getting things together on that site.

    Again, blessings in your ministry brother. I look forward to reading you again.