Wednesday, 7 March 2012
Church Planting is a Costly Business
Church planting is about being sent (the team) and sending (the 'mother church'). In the New Testament there is a word group whose noun is transliterated into the English word "apostle", designating a person who is sent, but whose verbs just end up as our "send", "sent" or "sending." It's a pity we don't have a single word group in English which would give enable us to say things like, "Barnabas and Saul were apostled for the work...."
Now if church planting is about sending, it is a costly business. We know that because the first Sent One (John 3:17 and Romans 8:3) was Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And that sending was costly not only to the Apostle himself, but to the Sender too.
All "apostling" is Costly
It cost the Sender his One and Only Son, the Son he loved. It cost him the sound of a heart-wrenching cry from this beloved Son, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." Sending was equally costly to the Sent One whose anguish began long before the dreaded Good Friday, heightened in the Garden of Gethsemane and reached its apex on the Cross.
This is intentional and purposeful suffering - because out of this suffering would come the forgiveness of sins, the joy of ransomed souls, the joy of re-union with the Father. "For the joy set before him, he endured the cross."
It's no different for us: church planting
If this is what sending involved for the Great Sender and his Great Apostle, it will be the same for us. Churches and church planting teams must prepare for suffering.
Straight talk to the Team
No-one should join a church team if they want a comfortable life which revolves around their families, their work, their hobbies. If you are not prepared to put the Kingdom first, stay out of church planting. If you are looking for a church which ticks all your boxes (creche, Sunday School, Youth Club, etc., etc.) stay away from a church plant. Church planting is about giving not receiving.
Straight Talk to the Sending Church
The sending church must also adopt a spirit of giving and sacrifice too. Giving people, giving away friendships, giving away numbers, giving up money, forgetting about fame-by-numbers, being overlooked by organisational religion which counts heads ("that must be a top church, they have xhundred members"). Perhaps it is this great cost that prevents some churches from church planting: they want the glory and the fame that comes from being big, instead of the ignominy of deliberately remaining small by giving away.
Joy to Team and Sending Church
But sacrifice is never an end in itself and it always results in joy. The joy of seeing a new church born in a needy community. The joy of seeing souls saved, baptised and discipled. The joy of seeing the Kingdom grow. All true cross-centred ministry is about "death in us but life in others." (2 Corinthians 4:12).
Personal suffering, yes, but life in others.
"He who goes out weeping
carrying seed to sow
Will return with songs of joy
carrying sheaves with him."