I was talking to some friends about planting churches. Actually, I’m always talking about starting new churches, because that’s where our energy should be in the mainline (Does anyone have a better term than mainline? Anyone?). And in the conversation, I realized once again that there’s an incredible vitality coming from certain corners of the church to change everything.
I don’t think we need to change everything, because, as a church we do so many things well. Really, really well. I have sat next to the bedside of too many dying people, and I’ve watched the members of my congregation streaming in with mountains of casseroles. There’s just no other place in our society where people will take care of you like that. Well, there may be other places, especially if a person has a lot of friends, but churches will take care of the friendless.
In one day’s work, I’ve seen our faith community feed the homeless, speak out for peace, support 12-step programs, house victims of domestic violence, build a health clinic in Ethiopia, and help get prostitutes off the streets. I don’t want to change that. There’s too much good going on here. And in so many churches. But I digress….
The point is that there’s a passionate movement. And, I wonder, what are we going to do? Are we going to take all of that exhilaration and intelligence, stifle it, box it up, and then force it to sit with the Ladies’ Afternoon Tea for ten years until it runs away? Are we going to make it to stay up late, enduring two-hour meetings every night, debating about whether the communion bread ought to be cut into circles or squares? Are we going to bide our time until the movement of the Holy Spirit has been damned up and the waters have run dry? What are we going to do with all of these seminarians who want to turn the world upside down? Do we have the courage to let them go?
When I was in my senior year, I remember a professor saying that he wanted me to go to a new church development, because, he said, “You don’t know about all the things that you can’t do yet.”
That was ten years ago. And now I know. Maybe I’m wiser. But maybe I’ve lost something.
This is a critical point in time for the church, and I don’t want our new pastors to lose anything. So, what if we give them a space, an income, a seasoned pastoral coach, and send them out to build congregations? We’re closing plenty of churches. What if we resisted the temptation to fight over the retired church’s assets for the next decade, and put that money to work right away? What if we allowed the new pastors to put all of their energy into planting the church, without having to worry about tentmaking?
I fully understand the ratio of success for new church developments. But this is a critical time. People out there have the desire, and maybe even the ability, to change everything. What if we let them do it?
photo’s by sickler