It’s a conversation that seems to play on repeat throughout my week. It goes like this: I meet a new acquaintance, a friend catches me on the street, or a concerned church attender finally gets me alone for a moment. Then some variation of these two questions is asked, “So…Why church planting… and why Boise?”. Honestly, those are great questions, and ones that after my wife and I made the decision, were not easy to answer answer.
“…everything else felt like running away.”
There was an intangible gut feeling, that ruled a lot of the ‘why’ behind our initial leap. It was that undeniable sense of ‘rightness’ we felt that made the decision possible.
Erica and I have been married for 11 years and together for 15. In that time we have had a love hate relationship with church planting. We met at a church plant. My dad was the planting pastor and Erica was friends of friends, from the youth group our church partnered with. Our dating relationship happened over rows of folding chairs we set up each week, quiet conversations whispered to one another as we spooled speaker cable across the gymnasium floor, of the local elementary school. Our mindset as a couple had always been ministry driven, however, we saw the realities of church planting.The stress, fatigue, strain, and cost of church planting, where things we were not particularly excited to jump back into.
About a year ago, Erica and I were wrestling with the question of “What next”. There are times God seems to say “Choose either, whatever you choose, I’m behind it.” This was not one of those times. We had considered a few lead pastor positions at existing churches, and actively pursued one. Throughout those conversations and prayers, Erica and I kept pushing the thought of starting a new church, in a new place, out of the light. Yet the idea was always there, refusing to let us sleep soundly. It would not obediently fade out of existence.
When Erica and I had a true and honest conversation about planting, everything else felt like running away. We were left with two option, to plant a church or step out of God’s calling. Once we finally said it out loud, everything shifted in our hearts and mind. The decision felt natural, almost obvious.
As daunting of a future as church planting appears to hold, it has some outstanding stats to back it up. According to the studies referenced in Tim Keller's article “Why Plant Churches”:
“Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations.This means that the average new congregation will bring 6-8 times more new people into the life of the Body of Christ than an older congregation of the same size.”
Church plants have also been found to be more effective in reaching new generations, new residence, new people groups. It seems to be Apostle Paul’s entire church growth strategy. With potential like that, church planting became a top contender for something to dedicate our life to. Besides, every church you’ve ever attended was planted at some point.
I know it's not an easy road, but I have fallen in love again with church planting. I still love existing churches. The ones I have been apart of are doing phenomenal things to spread the Gospel. They are striving to get stronger and more effective every year. However, not all churches are that way. Some can become stuck in the rut of trying to revive existing churches that have empty seats to fill. They have forgotten the vision of multiplying Jesus in our communities.
Ed Stetzer, a guru of church planting and Christian missiology shared truth on this subject. In a recent podcast he said.
“It’s easier to give birth than it is to raise the dead”.
Those are hard words to hear. To be honest, they make me squirm a bit in my chair. They are also true. We need to understand how to utilize time and resources to bring salvation to people in a broken world. We are asked to become disciples who make disciples. Multiplying the kingdom may be, rejuvenating an existing church or planting a new one.
“A call to step out of what we know and what we find COMFORTABLE”
If we are serious about seeing the kingdom of Christ exponentially expand, we have to think exponentially about His Church. The Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) was never a call to dig deep roots, put our blinders on, and focus solely on the spiritual welfare of ourselves and our families. The Great Commission, is a call to “GO” make disciples, everywhere. A call to step out of what we know and what we find comfortable. For some, that means staying exactly where God has you now, using your gifts, influence, and resource, to see God’s kingdom spread. This means, continually investing and discipling new believers. We have to be willing to see our communities as a multiplication opportunity for the Gospel. For some, it’s a call to: move neighborhoods, change jobs, start a new community of believers. All these actions can have a unique impact in these areas.
For my family, and those going with us, it has been a call to leave what we know behind.
An unmistakable call to church plant. After accepting that call, it led us to one question, “Where?”
Let’s talk about Boise in part 2