In just fourteen days, my new book Discipleship Path will hit the presses! I’m excited about this project as many of our pastors and laity helped me to create the process that I discuss in the book. Here’s a brief excerpt from the book:
People are not looking for a church. People are looking for community and engagement. This news was the painful lesson I learned as a failed church planter a few years ago. It took me a long time to come to terms with my failure. After all, I sincerely believed that God called me to plant a new church. My thoughts were, if God called me, then God would also equip me for the work. With this assurance, I left my position as a college vice-president and leaped with faith to start a church from scratch.
I placed all of my “eggs in
this one basket.” I believed that I was carrying an Easter basket that promised opportunities for hope and new life. Little did I realize that carrying this basket also meant that I would encounter all of the elements of Easter: a Good Friday death blow, and a Holy Saturday of trying to figure out where I went wrong before I could experience Easter.
As a planter-to-be, I attended church planter boot camp, was assigned a coach, and worked alongside a successful church planter at a growing church. From all accounts, I had all of the support (both financial and human) and training that I needed to begin a church. And like most church planters, I had a lofty vision of what the new church could be. I also had a healthy dose of strategy and the understanding of the system necessary to birth something new. But having those tools in my tool kit was not very useful for the relational work of connecting with people in the community, including with my new team.
As I began to recruit a launch team, the individuals who would commit to helping me start the church, I discovered how difficult it was to make the shift from making members to making disciples. I recruited those who were no longer actively attending church as the people on the team, and they only saw the church, not the community around the church where we were to plant the new church.
In a short time, my launch team quickly discovered that planting a church is not the same as attending an established church. Instead, it requires shifting from insider thinking to thinking outside the box to engage people in the community. This shift was our most difficult challenge. Unfortunately, the team that I gathered around me could not make the shift, and I lacked the tools to train them.
At the time, I wished someone had told me that the best path forward for churches, especially new church starts, is a return to foundational church practices. I now know that the best path is less about reinventing the wheel and more about remembering the histories and building on the founding principles from the church’s origin.
The shift sounds like the standard operating procedure for all churches. Wrong! As simple as these shifts may appear on paper, they prove to be painfully awkward. This truth was especially real for my launch team and church plant. I eventually pulled the plug for not being able to make this shift in an acceptable time frame.
For long-time established churches, which likely may describe your church, the process is slightly different from a new church start, but the results are the same: Engagement outside the church walls involves exercising our atrophied muscles to push away from our comfort zones.
With proper diet and regular exercise, our churches can repair their muscles to do the heavy lifting of intentionally engaging their communities by facing continued uncertainty.
At times, the process may feel a lot like trying to turn a big ship moving at full speed on a dime. It will take several miles of travel to change the momentum of the vessel and to begin to turn the ship. Similarly, it will take significant time and energy from the congregation working together with the Holy Spirit to turn the church. But it can be done!
Interested in hearing more about this process? I discuss this and other issues further in my new book Discipleship Path: Guiding Congregations to Connect People with Jesus.
On the Journey,
Raw Spoon is the artist name of Ross Boone. He is completing a project to illustrate the stations of the cross in Mandala form to display at churches on Good Friday. If you would like to learn more about the project click here.