Old Thoughts on a New Church

***This is a blog I wrote several months ago right after the first public gathering of Communion.  I don’t know why I didn’t post it.  But here it is***

Tonight was the first “public” gathering of our first church plant, Communion Church.   Intended as an “information-service”, the evening was book ended with worship as Jim shared about why we’re planting a church at all.  And though I doubt he’d agree because he’s that cynical and self-deprecating (as all lead pastors tend to be), he spoke very well to the honor Jesus and His bride the church.   What an experience to see 45 people,some who go to Damascus Road, others who do not, all whom didn’t know our church existed when was planted 4 years ago, stood worshipping Jesus together.  And while some sat at home watching dancing with the Stars, I watched God begin to plant a new church in the small city of Mount Vernon, Washington.

Perhaps for the first time since we began to talk about planting a  church, I feel genuinely excited.   It’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed every small step in this experience, but it was always in a more cerebral sense.  Tonight, I was visibly, emotionally, and spiritually reminded of God’s commitment to His Mission.  As he has for over 2,000 years, he still intends to see the gospel GO into the world.  And he does this through people, men and women he calls;  men and women he equips;  men and women he sends; men and women who, by His grace, come to love Him more than anything this world might be able to offer–more than comfort, wealth, security, or fame.   Who in their right mind would plant a church, unless the love of God is driving them?

God loves established churches.  And most people will come and join those established churches, grow at those churches, and even lead at those churches.  But there is a smaller number of people who will leave those churches to continue God’s mission in a unique way.  There is something undeniably amazing about planting new churches; about watching God build something out of nothing from the front row.  As Jim spoke, the memories of planting Damascus Road flooded my mind.  Four years ago, God gathered a group of men and women who didn’t have a clue about a lot, brought them together through His gospel, and sent them into the unknown of church planting.  From an earthly perspective, this was as foolish as it gets.  But from the perspective of Scripture, this is a spirit-guided fulfillment of what Jesus commanded his disciples to do.  There is an other-wordly energy in planting a church, an energy that often only the first few “willing” experience.  There is a joy in setting up every public gathering–knowing that if you don’t show, it doesn’t happen. There is an incredible bond that is built among the committed few charging the hill, taking on an impossible task without guarantee but WITH the promise that Jesus, by His Spirit, is there. 

I remember having our first “services” for Damascus Road in my garage.  Looking back, I would have called myself psycho or a cult-leader wannabe.  Who lines their garage with black plastic, lights some candles, arranges some lawn chairs, and hosts a worship service?  In retrospect, it honestly feels scary and foolish…but in the moment, I vividly remember, there is something (or someone) driving everyone–you feel like you are walking right behind Jesus, standing on the front lines of mission, waiting to see where God leads next!  More than anything, there is a raw simplicity to what you are doing, a love for Jesus, a love for one another, a love for speaking God’s Word without apology, and a love or seeing lives changed.

As I watched a new core of people,a new family, begin their own journey, I couldn’t help but wonder how our church will stay on mission.  Is this the first or last church plant Damascus Road will send?  Is this church plant an accident or the result of solid understanding of the Great Commission?  I ask this because planting churches doesn’t appear to be the norm.  In fact, most churches will never plant a church.  And as they focus on everything they think they’ll lose if they “do”, they fail to realize what they’ll lose if they don’t.  It’s very subtle, but a commitment to church planting changes EVERYTHING you do in a church.   It changes how church positions themselves financially; it changes the kinds of buildings they pursue (if at all); it changes they way they develop leaders; it even changes the leaders and they train their people to live missionary; and it changes the people in how they actually do.  I firmly believe that if a church, from its beginning, doesn’t understand church planting as integral to what churches are commanded to do, they never will.  There will be no commitment to raise up new leaders (have the same ones for 25 years), no commitment to teach people about mission (that’s the pastor’s job), and no commitment to send out people (the goal is to keep them here!).  Without church planting we lose a genuine sense of “sent-ness” that Jesus intended for us to have.  I believe it is this loss of “sent-ness” in the church that is making Christians spiritually depressed.

Tonight I watched 45 people excited to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  I don’t doubt that most of them feel ill-equipped, but I’m confident tAs Jim shared tonight, it is in the planting of churches that faith is often truly found.  There is nothing inherently wrong with big or established churches.   It is the big and established churches, however, where it is easiest to sit and hide, to sit and “feed”, to sit and watch, to sit and feel like you’re a part of something and yet, do nothing.   New churches demand new people do new things that are new to them. Ironically, perhaps the best way to snap people out of spiritual depression, to shake them out of a stagnate faith, or to get them excited about a God who is on mission, is to actually GO, as Jesus commanded, and plant churches.

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Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.

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