Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hope along the path to church planting

Sitting here at Starbucks in the midst of Amazon and wondering again how I got here ... Not in Starbucks, that's an easy one.  I'm wondering how I find myself in a place where, once again, there is little to guide me accept a combination of feeling and fleeting whispers to keep going.  The feeling pushes me forward and the whispers assure me of the path ... Or so I am imagining.  Some people think that we, my wife and I, have gone off the deep end in this new adventure.  I'd be likely to agree, if it weren't for the whispers.   Before it is confirmed that I am crazy or that I'm now hearing voices, let me clarify that the whispers come in moments that I get to experience the unquestionable assurances that I am in the right place.  I would call them unquestionable because they are moments that don't happen in ordinary life.  I believe that they are ushered in by what those of my faith would call the Holy Spirit... As in the Father, Son and ...
Let me give you an example that gives me great hope as well as the whisper that we are in the right place and in the right time.  It comes in the form of two churches in the community that God has placed us.  You may not be aware of this, but churches often times don't really exhibit a spirit of cooperation nor do they exhibit a spirit of comradarie.  Instead, there is another "c" word that tends to surface.  It's known as competition.  It happens between churches of different groups.  It happens between churches of same groups.  It happens a great deal when a "new" church comes to town.  It's understandable, I guess.  In our culture and context, despite the reality that we are called to relationally convey our faith, our default mode is marketing.  Social media, signage and promotion are far more prevalent than "one beggar telling another where to get bread".  The problem with this method is that it needs an advantage to gain an audience.  It's basic marketing, why is one better than another ... Bigger, better, newer, or the faith based term "relevant" are the messages of choice.  As a result, they can't see Jesus for the churches.  I'll say this ... If this church planting thing was an issue of bigger, better, newer, or more relevant for me, I'd go back to delivering Domino's.  For my wife and I, it is simply to establish a life changing community that points people to Jesus.  It'll be different, for sure...but mainly because we are.
So here is where the whisper comes in... As we arrived here in our new neighborhood, seeking to partner with and come alongside those already here in Jesus name, we found 2 congregations with the exact same heart.  Neither threatened by our arrival.  Neither feeling that they were being judged and found wanting of "relevance".  To be quiet honest, and this won't sit well with some of my tribe, they have been more encouraging than some whose heritage that we share.  We have been invited in to each congregation, we have been encouraged, we have been prayed over, and Jesus has been lifted up.  Let  me tell you that this isn't often the case in the "real world" of church planting, and for that I have great hope.