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!