By David Jackson, BCM/D missionary for church multiplication
My cousin celebrated the birth of newborn Gabrielle Grace Jackson last week. We, along with all the family, rejoiced in this wondrous occasion. New life is one of the greatest miracles of all and with it should come the recognition of God creative work. Each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
Unfortunately with Gabbi, she had some physical complications that made her health precarious. Doctors and technicians watched over her 24/7, but more than that, our Heavenly Father and an army of believers watched over her spiritually. Many of you prayed for her and for that, our family is eternally grateful.
This experience got me thinking: what if Gabbi did not have doctors and technicians to assist her in her short journey in life? What if she and her parents did not have so many people in the family of God surrounding them with prayer and support through these days? I can’t help but believe that her situation would have been markedly different.
The most neglected part of the church planting journey for almost every new church start is the time AFTER the plant has had its “birth.” These formative months and years are critical to the health and development of the infant church. And just like a newborn child, there are needful things that should be done to ensure its growth. We at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware do our best to provide the essentials for an infant church to thrive during this early period in the church’s young life.
Food, Rest and Play. These essentials for life are needed by all human organisms. Proper training provides the nourishment needed to fuel the fledgling church. With it, though, are needed adequate seasons of rest and “play,” found in the focused efforts to streamline “busy-ness” in the plants by helping planters get away for renewal and opportunities to have fun together with each other and as families.
Love and Attention. Crossing the major milestone “of birth” doesn’t end our support for the plant and its leaders. On the contrary, we seek to become a listening ear and a cheerleading advocate to encourage them on as they look to the future. We do our best to “brag on them” and even pull out the pictures and show others, given the chance. We want to be ready and available when they sense a need.
Prayer. We are constantly aware that this is a spiritual endeavor, not a business enterprise. As such, like parents and other loved ones, we recognize there are limitations to our abilities and even our insight into what needs to happen. Because of this we are earnestly and often in deep and passionate prayer for God to work in the plant’s life. We pray for God to reveal more of Himself to that new child in His kingdom work and for Him to do for His new church what only God can do.
Check-ups. At regular intervals in the life of the new church, we evaluate the health and development of the fledging congregation. Our attempt is to be prescriptive in our diagnosis, in order to keep the “child” healthy while very young, when it is often most vulnerable. These check-ups are an attempt to help the new church value the process of reflection and evaluation and learn how to make the adjustments necessary to keep growing, qualitatively as well as quantitatively.
Booster “Shots.” As the new work grows in a healthy manner, we initiate contact with those who need these injections to (1) protect it from outside threats and/or (2) to catalyze it so that it can grow faster and stronger. Like all injections, there is a process to follow for one’s safety and strength, but when followed, it can result in meaningful and significant development beyond whatever level the plant currently is experiencing.
Parental Support. Babies don’t come into this world alone; they have parents who also need support and encouragement on the journey. Churches who parent new works finds coaches and trainers to assist them in knowing what and how they should go about helping this new church plant grow and develop, as it should. Cautions against over-protectiveness and negligence are both addressed. More than anything, though, parent churches find friends for life, who will celebrate and serve them in whatever way possible to make the parenting experience a joyful one that will be repeated often.
Ultimately, Gabbi’s eternal well-being rested in the hands of our Lord; the same is true of every church plant. But like any good parent and friend, we seek to be good stewards over the gift of life that God has shared with us in these new “children.” Our hope and dream is that they too will become trophies of His grace and will, in turn, share His love with generations yet to come.
David Jackson serves as the Missionary for Church Multiplication with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. He can be reached at email@example.com or (410) 290-5290, extension 225.