To be honest, there was a time where I never thought I would ever be what people called a ‘church planter.’
If I’m being equally (and a little bit more vulnerably) honest, there was a time where I thought that planting new churches at the rate that established churches were closing was counterproductive.
You know the type: Fresh out of or still in seminary, has a few conferences under their belt and has read a few books written by some notorious ‘church doctors’ that you wouldn’t find at your average Christian bookstore. That was the season I was in when I was denominationally affirmed and approved as a church planter.
As a self-proclaimed ‘church doctor’ myself I couldn’t help but recognize the struggle being felt in many local congregations, so I was still skeptical as to the importance of putting all of this effort into starting a new church rather than putting that same effort into helping out already established ones. If God is, indeed, “Redeeming the world and using the Church to do it!” then let’s just focus on the churches that are already here, right?
I soon realized that in conjunction with redeeming the world, God is redeeming the Church, too, and He’s using the Church to do it.
Church planters must, on some level, think differently. This is one of prerequisites for something new to come about. The Apostle Paul thought differently. Harriet Tubman thought differently. Albert Einstein thought differently.
As I was wading into the waters of thinking differently- talking with church planters and pastors that had gone before me and approaching the Scriptures in ways I hadn’t before- I began to realize that there were things that I was reading and hearing that I rarely saw embodied in the local church context. Something was wrong. We were missing the mark. We were off.
It never felt like a, ‘You messed up this one time and now your done,’ type of off- that would have been easier to process. No, it felt more like a, ‘Are you still so dull?’ kind of off (a question of Jesus, Matthew 15:16). The kind of off where your face falls in your hands and you ask to yourself, ‘How on earth is this being missed?’
The difference for the Church is that while our faces are in our hands there is a Spirit that says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19). Church: We must perceive the new thing that God desires to do.
To say your church has it all together and doesn’t need changing is to make a claim that Church history simply does not support. To say your church is hopeless and nothing can ‘fix’ it is to forget that you are the bride of Christ. God wants to redeem us, but Church, we must want to be redeemed.
There are churches out there that are having fruitful ministries in their communities. You can choose to be a disgruntled skeptic towards them, or you can choose to entertain the thought that maybe there is something you can learn from them.
Additionally, the Church happens to have its roots in the One who has been made both Lord and Messiah, Jesus Christ, whose resurrection from the dead inaugurates the Kingdom reality of the old things passing away and the new things becoming revealed before us.
The church where I serve as lead pastor, Reachway Church, launched in September of 2018 in Peoria, IL. God has called gifted leaders and led people to make bold decisions for this to happen, making it easy for us to say, ‘Look at what we are doing.’ But that’s just not to full story, and it certainly isn’t the most compelling.
This is God’s idea. God cares about this more than we do. Before He asks us to institute a new program or strategy He asks us to remain open and obedient to the leading of His Spirit. Of course, I’m talking about the Church- Reachway Church, your church and the Church.
Is God redeeming the world and using the church to do it? Yes, of course.
But God is redeeming the Church, too.