By David Jackson, BCM/D Missionary for Church Multiplication
I’m a traveler at heart. I love to see new places, meet different people, experience novel things. For example, earlier this year, I had the privilege of going to Alaska and seeing the beauty and wonder of our largest state. For me, it completed one of my “bucket list” items, a visit to all fifty of the United States in my lifetime.
In order for me to enjoy that trip, I had to do certain things to prepare for it. I had to learn certain things I’d be teaching while there, I had to secure certain clothes needed for the environment and I had to organize what I was going to need to take with me for the new and unique opportunities I’d have in Alaska. In other words, I had to pack appropriately for the trip.
Two months ago, I began a series of three articles dealing with the need for established churches to be involved in the church multiplication process, if and when the GCR Task Force recommendations are ever to become reality. In that article, I spoke about a “reality check” churches need to make as they think about who they currently are—in the present—and what they can do to get involved in church planting. In this article, I write to remind us that some of what established churches must do concerns how they handle their past.
“If we are ever going to see multiplication take place, all churches, whether new or old, will have to overcome personal interest and fear, in order to trust God to use them beyond their local congregation,” I wrote in my previous article. To that end, let me recommend three things that established churches should consider as they grapple with their past and embark upon a new venture into the church planting world.
First, learn what you need to know. I have previously mentioned that churches need education about church planting to dispel fear of the unknown and to equip them with tools that will help them be effective in this ministry effort. In addition, when churches are serious about dealing with their past, they will need to learn how their reputation will affect their church planting initiative. For example, if the church is planting near the parent church or is known in the new church community where it’s planting, then the parent church’s reputation may help or hinder the new church’s ability to engage the community. In addition, established churches must also learn about the new community where they will be “traveling,” as it will determine much of what is strategically appropriate when planting.
Action Point: What do we need to learn about ourselves and our reputation that may impact the new church we are seeking to plant? What else do we need to know about where we are going that may affect how we can influence the planting of this church?
Second, travel light. This is my way of saying, get rid of “the baggage.” Revelation 2-3 reminds us that this is a spiritual dimension to all that we are doing as churches. In fact, the spiritual ramifications are huge, if our sins and failures are not dealt with properly through confession and repentance before God. It’s never a good idea to “sweep these things under the carpet” of our church life; it can, and often will, affect our children in ministry, too. An unpleasant past history can jeopardize future ministry ventures. Healthy churches confront sin, listen carefully to God and follow Him obediently. In this way we travel light, without the burden of sin and the past weighing us down (and the new church, too!).
Action Point: Have we dealt with our past history in a healthy and spiritual manner? Is our corporate heart “light” before God? If not, how will we address this concern and its potential impact on us and the churches we may one day plant?
Third, expand your horizon. Travelers recognize that they will need to do different things when they are among new peoples and places. So they try new foods, seek out the customs of the people there and are willing to “do what the locals do.” In the same way, established churches need to understand that all their rich and valued personal preferences may not be the best way to experience a new community. There may be a better way to approach ministry in a new place. The last seven words of the church—“we’ve never done it that way before”—don’t have to be its final words. Churches that don’t necessarily expect their traditions to be “carried on” in the new church, without any thought as to why or why not, will find the experience more enriching and ultimately, more beneficial to others, as well.
Action Point: What traditions do we value and why? Are we willing to “let go” of them in the new church’s life, if it will remove barriers and enable the new church to reach people there more effectively?
The journey into church planting and multiplication is an exciting one! It affords every church the joys and excitement of new adventures, wonderful experiences and a lifetime of memories. Those who are already travelers would urge you to join us on such a trip in the future. In fact, most of us would be quick to say you really and truly don’t know what you’re missing.
Why not plan a trip like this for the coming year?
Next time: Ready for Reproduction: Back to the Future (Part Three)