This week’s topic of Church Planting is one that gets my creative juices flowing. I love visioning and imagining what might be. In reading Tom Brackett’s essay "Midwifing the Movement of the Spirit", in Ancient Faith, Future Mission, I got so excited that I used up all of the ink in my highlighter! Yes, that is what I am called to do! Yes, the Spirit is out there and is at work! And yes, I want to be part of the new life and new birth!
But here’s the problem… I am a horrible gardener. Last winter I opened a gardening catalog and ordered a ton of seeds: flowers for the yard, carrots, green peppers, onions, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, raspberry bushes and squash. I couldn’t wait for spring to come! Luckily, my husband, Brandon, knew what he was doing. When the day finally came, he instructed me to start digging a hole. I lasted about 20 minutes before my hands were sore and my husband was telling me to move out of the way. I asked what I could do to help and was sent to the garden center to buy some fencing. Within a week I had given up on the garden.
Brandon on the other hand was dedicated. He watered and weeded and cut back the branches of the surrounding trees to allow for more light. His tomatoes were so impressive that the neighbors stopped by throughout the summer to ask him his secrets. He has that gift. He understands the fine balance between just the right amount of nurturing, but also letting them be and checking in regularly.
So what does this have to do with planting a church? Maybe the most important thing I that I learned from the readings and from my own experience with gardening is that I am not in control. Not only am I not in control, the seed is not even mine. It is God’s, and the Spirit is already at work in our midst. It is our job as church planters to recognize that Spirit and to discern what is already happening.
One size does not fit all in this church and in this culture. As Stephen Cottrell says in his essay, "Letting Your Actions Do the Talking," expressions of church need to fit the local context. Sometimes that means a weekly service on a day other than a Sunday. This may worry some who feel like they are fighting to fill the pews at 10 am on Sunday. Why would they want a competing service in the same community and possibly even the same building? It’s important to realize that it’s not about competing with one another. If we are truly one holy catholic church, and if we are truly one body of Christ, we must be intentionally seeking and sensing the Spirit.