Six Years of Hope – Greatest Challenge, Greatest Joy
Yesterday I was asked a familiar question, “why new churches?” This is typical from two groups: 1) The church member that seldom imagines life outside the walls of their church, unless they are bribed or begged to try to think of an unchurched friend that they can invite to a special event or Easter service. For this person, a new church is either a threat or is unneeded because “our church can handle that area on our own.” 2) It is also typical for the guy who has been begged and bribed by those church members and then found the church to be irrelevant or uninterested in him or unwilling to answer his questions and unable to meet his souls deepest needs. For this guy, church is a waste of time, space, and energy. Weekends are better spent in entertainment that medicates the soul and those questions are deferred until they’re forced to be dealt with or until an apostolic believer or church comes along and does the work of the evangelist and in love, makes time to share an authentic witness of Christ.
These two groups represent for me the greatest joys and the greatest challenges of church planting.
Greatest Challenge. As a young church planter I encountered the first person early and often. Honestly, I was not prepared to persuade church members that the world was lost, new churches are part of the New Testament plan for reaching that world, and it is there duty to “Go” into that world with said plan. In a community and nation devastated by addictions, divorce, suicide, and false teaching I have had to accept the fact that many church members are unaware or unwilling to see the needs and do something about them, like host a Bible Study, help with a block party, volunteer for a community org., start a church, etc. More challenging has been to watch the church we planted begin to take on some of the same characteristics. One of the challenges for the church planter who wants to start a church focused on the needs of people is to keep that church, including himself, focused on the needs of people instead of their own likes and dislikes. I believe that this is what the Apostle Paul sought to do with his letters to the churches he had planted, now found in our New Testament.
Philippians 2:2-4, “… make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also the interest of others.”
1 Corinthians 1:10, “…agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
1 Corinthians 10:33, “I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
Greatest Joy. Seeing people get it. The greatest joy has been to see Terry, who found Christ, brought a friend who found Christ, married that friend and now serves together with him at Hope Church. To see Flint and Jennifer, who left jobs to move four hours to help start a church that was meeting in an unairconditioned fire station. To see Greg who overcame personal tragedy and hurt from former church relationships to become a minister to young people at Hope Church. To see the people who have given up vacation time, money, and comfort to travel around the world on mission trips to reach others for Christ. To see those who are willing to put aside personal preference and in obedience to God, and out of love for others, serve instead of seeking to be served, so that people can know His joy in their lives.
I’m praying for a lot more joy at Hope Church in the coming years.