…Or rather why are we planting a church.
Before moving, when I mentioned to people that we were moving to Plymouth to plant, or start a church a lot of people asked things like; “have you got a building?” Or “what…are you…like, building the hall?” Many times I had to resist violent urges welling up and reply graciously with a calm “no, not really.”
If you are to mention the football club Manchester United to anyone, most people would think of the athletes, clad in red, following a small sphere rolling around a field. Or boystrous fans screaming at the ‘ref’ or some other player. Or perhaps a man with a blotchy red face looking as stern and as burdened as if he has the life of tens of thousands in his hands. Very few would immediately think of Old Trafford or a football match per se. Their thinking would be directed to the people who embody the club. The ones wearing red. Or screaming. Or organising.
So it is with church. It is not a building or simply a service that you attend on a Sunday. Church can be found in the eternal plans of God. A people group. The People of God. Disciples of Jesus. The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Existing to bring the very presence and power of God into the world. Constantly pointing to the love and glory displayed at the cross and resurrection.
“But there are plenty of other churches around. Why not just join another church and help them out? Why do we need another church?”
When we were living in Belfast for a time. The leader of our church there quickly sold me the idea of church planting in a very heavily churched city in a country where nearly 1/2 the population is “churched”. I remember him saying that he wanted to do church differently. I know that sounds rather arrogant, but his point was that a lot of people’s understanding of what church is, has nothing to do with what they think they are as people or what they think they want. Or to put it another way, the church is answering questions that no-one is really asking.
The church we envisage to plant will hopefully connect with people who might not be reached by another church. Research has suggested that new churches are more effective at reaching new people with the transformative power of the gospel.
We wrestled a lot with whether or not to assimilate into another church. But we really felt called to the city, particularly the west side of the city where typically people are more deprived and their are fewer churches at work.
A lot of times during these first few months, I have worried that this has been a huge mistake and moving here has amplified the horror of my own arrogance. As if I needed to move my whole family to plant a church because God is busy elsewhere and needs me to step in and cover for Him. Time and time again, His goodness has gently reminded me of the overwhelming privilege that the reason we are doing this is precisely because God is here. In Plymouth. In the churches. Us being here is but a small part of what God is doing.
Why not join another church? Because we as a new church can move with the gospel into new areas and introduce new people to a mighty Jesus. We are here to compliment what the other churches are doing.
“You don’t even have anyone with you. What about resources, money etc.”
That’s absolutely right, I am working, we have nothing really and I feel like time is stretched too. I think that there is a misplaced expectation that church planting should be left to the ‘big’ churches with people, money and resources. These churches should not be left on their own to thrust leaflets into peoples hands, croak the gospel in to peoples lives and place sweaty palms upon people and pray. All of us, wherever we are have the opportunity and power to take more ground for the gospel! It is so exciting and there is so much joy (and risk) to be experienced in starting something new. There is though, a more sublime reason for church planting.
Ultimately what it comes down to for us is being obedient to God. To be involved in introducing people to Jesus, showing His power, to see people strengthened, maturing and seeing every aspect of their lives eventually affected by God. That is thrilling to us! We want to gather up and run with His mandate given to ‘go and make disciples…to the ends of the earth.’
It has always been his intention to have a people for Himself. It is seen all through His great story in the Bible. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to.
He has not stopped.
When the first people took matters into their own hands.
He loved them and kept them.
When the people of Israel turned from Him again and again and again.
He went after them.
Or when Peter the disciple betrayed Him 3 times and claimed that he did not even know Him.
He did not stop.
Or even when, on the cross, His own heart did stop beating…
He will not stop establishing a people who are distinctively His, transforming the world around them, committed to each other, following Him and joyfully leaving everything else.
He gave up everything for me, and has given me everything, he will never left me go, he has no limit on what he can call me to do. That is why I am/we are so excited to be doing this with Him…
In the coming days I hope to share with you a little more detail on what we want to be doing and our story to Plymouth.
There are many great articles on why to plant churches. The best one I know of is “Why Plant Churches” by Tim Keller and can be found here: reviveaus.com.au/pdfs/Why_Plant_Churches-Keller.pdf. Most of what I have said is adapted from that paper.