Dave Jacobs, a church planter from southern California, recalls a time when he first started his church: "Some of my leaders had chosen to go boating instead of coming to church (Sunday morning worship time) and I was upset. I said to my wife, 'Don't they realize I'm trying to do something here? How am I going to grow this church if my leaders aren't as committed as I am?"
His wife responded with the wisdom of the Lord: "Dave, this church is your life. Your whole focus is on it. Nobody cares about this church like you do. No one will be as committed as you are. They've got church and then they've got their lives out of the church. You don't. For you, it's all church. You better understand this and get over it or you're going to push your leaders away, be unhappy all the time--- and make me unhappy!"
Church planters: I can relate to Dave response, and to his dear wife's retort as well--- mostly because once-upon-a-time, that was me! Starting a church from scratch is hard enough, but when others aren't appearing to "appreciate" the difficulty of the mission, it hurts.
What might YOU do in such a situation? Bellyache about it? Yell at people? Guilt them? Go ahead and try all that if you wish, but I'll tell you right now--- it will only make matters worse for the momentum of your church start.
So here's what I believe can be one remedy for such dis-ease: start a church where its DNA is all about training, equipping and encouraging people to be daily disciples in the marketplace (practicing Ephesians 4:11-13). This way, your folks are never only "in or "out" of the church (facility). Instead, they are being the Body of Christ everywhere they go--- including boating!
Here's an example: let's say the above true story was the only time the new church leaders could go boating together with another couple from the neighborhood who are not Christian. If trained well by the planter, the leaders see this outing as a grand opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with the unchurched couple. The leaders see it as "an act of worship." So, not only have they been trained by the planter to minister to each other on the boat, but they are boldly sharing ministry over the new couple as well!
This way your boating members become boating missionaries of your message. They are living out worship as "fishers of men."
The same can be true for your countless families that follow their kids to weekend softball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, basketball, chess, checkers and hopscotch tournaments. Instead of letting their absence drive you nuts, you focus on intentionally building-up your church body to BE JESUS to those other parents who are also at the weekend games, but are not familiar with the hope only Christ offers. The same practice of faith can be implemented by your church youth towards their friends! So planters: equip your members to pray over other people in the daily marketplace--- and be ready at all times to share the hope they have in Christ Jesus!
Perhaps, over time, these newly connecting, faith-sparking relationships will lead more people to showing up for the Sunday morning gathering--- to hear YOUR great messages! Bottom line for this blog entry: please don't think I'm not advocating for Sunday morning worship time--- indeed it's crucial to faith development. I'd prefer that no one ever missed! If believers, however, are going to reach unbelievers, then we planters need to focus on equipping our people to be marketplace ministers on Monday, and not just pew sitters on Sunday. It's a both/and outlook of faith.
This way, Dave's earlier laments (see paragraph one) are cancelled in the power of Jesus:
-Your people WILL SEE what you're doing--- and will be thankful.
-Your church WILL GROW in numbers and influence because others are serving with you.
-Your leaders WILL BE more committed because they are personally participating in the new church's mission.
For past blogs on church planting, see www.danclites.blogspot.com