Monday, April 23, 2007

Q&A: When Will We Plant A Church?

Since I started this blog, we've essentially been looking at questions surrounding our church's vision to become actively involved in church planting to reach the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family. First we talked about why, and we examined five different reasons why we should pursue this vision. Then, we explored other questions, like who, where, and how. Today, I'd like to share with you some thoughts about a timeline for when this might take place.

First off, I think it's important to understand that there's a critical balance that must be maintained between making plans and following God's timing. Without a plan, nothing will happen; no one has ever accomplished anything noteworthy that was not first made a goal, planned for, and then implemented. On the other hand, we gain nothing by sanctifying our own deadlines and ignoring God's leading. We must bathe each step in prayer, attentive to God's direction, and alert to whether we have the resources to accomplish the vision he's given us.

No matter how much we devote ourselves to the vision, God is still the owner of the vision--it is not the property of any individual or group, or even the church as a whole, but God's alone. We must follow his guidance and direction if we are to fulfill it successfully.

So, the question of when really becomes two questions:

  • What prevents us from planting a church right now?
  • How soon could we expect to clear away those obstacles?

Right now, we see three main obstacles that prevent us from planting right away (and some smaller issues that we are working on as well):

  • A Healthy DNA--If we want to reproduce, we need to make sure that we ourselves are healthy first. Church health is a rather complicated issue, but I believe we are really close on this one. Our main area to improve in is bringing in unchurched people and introducing them to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We have seen some of this, but we need to do more to be a fully healthy church.
  • Leadership Multiplication--We want our church plant to have every chance to thrive, so we will be giving them many of our qualified leaders. In order to be able to do that, we need to train and develop new leaders to take their place. We have developed a leadership multiplication plan for both elders and Church Council members, but it will take some time to increase our overall leadership pool.
  • Logistical Preparedness--The first thing we need is education and training for our church leadership about the church planting process. Once we gain more information and tools that will help us know how to proceed, we will need to select a community in which to plant, identify a planting pastor, assemble the launch team, and develop the details of the launch plan.

One other issue that comes into play if we choose to pursue the partnering model would be to assemble a network of churches to join us

In addition to these things, we need more money and people in general, but these things are really byproducts of having a healthy DNA. Healthy churches grow, and they produce spiritually mature individuals who understand the spiritual ramifications of giving to God's work. God knows we need these things, and I am confident that he will have them in place for us at the right time. The other issues I mentioned are all ones that we can affect directly; however, we can't make people attend or give money. So we are leaving those areas up to God to lead, guide, and provide.

All of this leads us to the question: How soon can we clear away these obstacles? I mentioned in the Vision Packet a target date of 2010--just three years from now. I still consider this to be ambitious, but achievable. We may have to revise that timeline if any of these areas lags behind where it needs to be, but my goal will continue to be to give birth to a new church as soon as it becomes reasonably prudent to do so.

Please be in prayer for these three major areas that we need to work in. Consider what God may be leading you to do personally to contribute toward the vision, such as:

  • Joining the Pathway Prayer Posse;
  • Inviting your unchurched friends and family to come to Pathway;
  • Pursuing a leadership position in the church;
  • Making a financial investment in the vision

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