Saturday, April 2, 2011

Church Planting 101: Be Broken!

It has been five years since my family and I moved from our comfortable home in the city of Schenectady, NY, to the very neighborhood and streets I ran and played in as a boy. It has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, to say the least. God has used this time to stretch us, test us, even cause us (many times) to want to give up and go somewhere else; perhaps even give up the effort to plant a church in North Troy, NY. But, the same God who has called us, anointed us and tested us, is saying, "I'm not finished yet, your journey is just beginning." So, after five years of heartache and frustration, and a deep seated feeling of utter failure, God is doing something in the midst of us and the small group of disciples we have been able (by the grace of God) to raise up. CONFESSION: they are mostly kids! Some of them we have known for most of the time we have been here, and all of them come from homes and families that are far from picture perfect; in fact, I would say, mostly dysfunctional. But, then again, who is truly functional without Christ? And that is the greatest lesson God has been teaching me these past five years; what it looks like to be dysfunctional and how to minister in the midst of this reality. Having worked in rescue ministry for more than a decade and having been to seminary, I thought I had all I needed to hit the ground running and plant this church. Yet, what I knew and had experienced up to this point was only scratching the surface. Real on the job training began when we said yes to God's call and came to the place He was sending us to. I now know, first hand, how Abraham felt when he arrived at the place God had sent him (and his family) to, and he then had to dwell in the land, by the same faith that brought him there. (Hebrews 11:8-10). I can imagine Abraham scratching his head in frustration, and wondering if God really had spoken to him, or of he had merely followed his own wishful thinking. I can imagine Sarah, his wife, not quite seeing things the way he did, and his son, Isaac, mixing in with the wrong crowd of youth, and all of the testing and stretching God put him through. I can imagine what it was like for Peter to be sifted like wheat by Satan Luke 22:31-32 (New King James Version) 31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” I've (We've) been there! But all for God's purpose and glory, so that we will be prepared to minister in the midst of this community. Paul said, 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (1 Cor. 9:22-23) NKJV I wonder if Paul did this on his own, or if God stretched him, tested him, and allowed him to be sifted as wheat? So, here we are, five years into this journey called "Church Planting" having desired to give up and walk away more times than I can remember, yet the grace and sovereignty of God keeps us here, because the work has just begun and we are better equipped to reach out to our neighbors. God has incarnated his Son into our lives so that we can incarnate Christ as He lives and breathes within His servants. The biggest hurdle we have had to overcome is ourselves; that is, God has had to break us of our own human nature and desires so that He can do what He desires through us. Church planting is not just about showing up with a plan and a strategy. It is about faithful obedience...going to the place God is sending us, dwelling in the land by faith, amongst the people who live there. Just as God had promised a land to Abraham, so He has promised a place to all who are faithful and obedient to His call, ESPECIALLY when we don't have the whole picture before we start, or even when we get there. Jesus prepares church planters today in the same way that He did with His first disciples. We must go through and endure the testings, trials and sifting. And when we do, we will be for the Master's use...broken of our own will and desires. I know what it looks like and feels like to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Him, because it is not something I did on my own, but a process He initiated and had brought me through. And not only me, but my wife and children as well. And as we continue in this calling we will be able stand on a solid foundation of faith and to lead others that we meet along the way!