May 9, 2013

Removing Parameters on Church Planting

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went with some prospective church planters to tour D.C., which is about two hours north of where we live. We heard about how many people live within the District (700,000) and how many evangelical churches are actively reaching those people (a few). We learned the many obstacles that church plants face in the District, such as the cost of living and few logistically-good places to meet, but also about the pastors and planters that are laboring faithfully there in the name of Christ. To sum our trip up: the harvest is great but the workers are few.
I recently talked to a pastor's wife whose husband is considering church planting. She's willing as long as they stay in close proximity to where they currently live. They live in a place where there are tons of gospel-preaching churches and where almost every school has a church meeting there. I know the company line--just because there are already churches doesn't mean there isn't a need for more--but I genuinely wonder sometimes why God would call people to saturate one area but leave another alone.

I don't pretend to know how God moves, and I also know where she's coming from. When we were preparing to church plant, my husband and I tried to think of every possible way we could stay near our families. But when we were honest with ourselves, we knew we felt scared to leave the only culture we'd known and become outsiders, and we also knew that fear couldn't be our compass in choosing a location. We knew it would be easier (if you can call church planting easy in any place) if we kept the parameter of comfort around our willingness to church plant, but that we had to hold our hands open.

I carefully broached the subject with her, imploring her to think of the great needs in areas even within the States that are almost completely unreached. Don't discount these places because you're scared, I said. Don't automatically focus on what you know already, I said. You, of course, have to go where God leads you, I said, but please promise me you'll pray about going somewhere you never thought you'd go. Hold your hands open.

I almost want to encourage prospective church planters to seek places outside their comfort zones. Why? Because I know what it's like to go somewhere uncomfortable and to find out how incredibly faithful God is! I know what it's like to jump out of a plane without a parachute and be caught by the hand of God. I know what it's like to live in a place where the harvest is great and the workers are few and see the harvest start to come in. It's incredible, simply incredible.

In our first few years here, I said to anyone that would listen, "We will never do this again! It's too hard." Now, I'm not so sure. Now, I see places like D.C. and recognize the great needs in our own backyard. Now, too, I know the faithfulness of God. My hands are open.

My point is this: If you are considering church planting, I encourage (urge) you to take off any parameters you've put on your surrender to God. Taking off the parameters will, I promise, open you up to experience the extreme faithfulness of God.