Who would have thought there were so many soccer and hockey fans? Over the last few months, so many people have been talking about and tweeting about the World Cup and the Stanley Cup. I have to wonder if all those people are actually soccer fans or hockey fans? At the suggestion of a few coworkers, I tried watching some of the last World Cup, but I honestly could not make it through an entire game. I found it to be quite boring, however, the more I heard people talking about it the more a part of me thought that I should probably be watching it and liking it. This year, I resolved to not watch a single game, because I’ll just be honest, I don’t really care about the World Cup. I also don’t really like hockey, so I didn’t watch a single game leading up to the Stanley Cup. I like sports, but I really just like the sports I like and I’m just fine with that.
The world of sports is an interesting space of endless bandwagon riding. We have all probably called someone or have been called a front-runner before. You know the type, they had the Dallas Cowboys jacket in the 90s, then they probably had a Green Bay Packers jacket, then a New England jacket, and now they switch between it and their Steelers or Ravens jacket. Or then there are those that only like a certain sport when the championships are on like our aforementioned World Cup and Stanley Cup friends. There are entire markets of consumer goods that thrive off of such people. When teams win and excitement grows, everybody wants the t-shirt, but soon enough it will be on to the next thing.
Unfortunately, the same thing can happen in the church. Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you probably know that there is quite an upsurge of interest in church planting. There are numerous church planting organizations who host conferences, write books, and get everyone excited about church planting. If you have had a conversation with me over the last five years about church, you have probably heard me say something about church planting. I have read the books, listened to the podcasts, taken the classes, had the conversations, and even done some of the work to prepare for church planting. Over the course of these last five years, I have prayed earnestly about the prospect of church planting. I began to discern that this was what God was calling me to and that He was calling me to plant in my community.
I strongly believe in church planting and feel that, if done right and done in God’s will, it is a necessary part of the church’s job. I think it is a wonderful way for unbelievers to come to know the Lord. I think that through church planting God does amazing works in communities and cities. I think church planting can revitalize and encourage existing churches nearby. I think that existing churches should be about the business of being church planting churches. I think that God specifically gifts some men to be church planters. I also think that church planting is incredibly attractive, edgy, trendy, and hip right now, which is quite dangerous.
It is because of the novelty of church planting right now that I have been consistently cautious as I have discerned my call. My community does not need another cowboy that thinks he and only he is going to have the right “whatever” to bring scores of people to Jesus. My community does not need another guy who is frustrated with his calling and thinks that no other church around gets it right. My community does not need a guy who can accumulate resources and attract people, but is not called by God. My community does not need another guy who thinks he is Matt Chandler. My community does not need another guy that will not submit to church authority and chooses to go it alone to the detriment of everyone that follows him. My community does not need another guy that tries to find people gullible enough to buy into his sales pitch. My community does not need another guy trying to build his own kingdom. My community does not even need another church if it is not God’s will. What my community needs is the will of Christ for it and only that. My pastor told me just two days ago that Christ’s will is the safest place for us to find ourselves.
As of today, I have not been convinced that the time is right for me to plant. I’ll be honest, even typing that last sentence is hard and a bit of a breakthrough for me. If I would have went forward with planting at any point in the last five years, I am convinced that it would have been in and through my own strength. The burden of church planting has not left my heart and I don’t know what that means yet, but I will continue to seek the Lord about it. What also burdens my heart is the so many that I see running after church planting as the answer without any discernible heart or passion for people to actually know Jesus as a result. At least, that doesn’t come out in the conversations with some about church planting. The conversations seem to revolve around the availability of resources, “what else am I gonna do?”, so-and-so says its right, we just love community, I’ve been reading this book, and so on. The reality is that many who consider the work of church planting probably shouldn’t even be planting a garden, let alone a church. There is a real possibility of many of these works being successful from a fiscal standpoint, but I’m not sure from a spiritual one. Only God can know what the success will be.
I do not stand in a position to be able to determine the genuineness of others’ callings. I’m not God; thanks be to God for that! I also cannot cast judgment on others’ ministries just because it is the very thing that I felt God was calling me to all these years. If I was operating out of that, then anything I would say would be motivated by jealousy. I can say with honesty before God that I am settled on not planting right now. Though it may be just for right now, I know that it’s not for me for right now. My concern for those looking into church planting is that they would proceed with discernment, seeking counsel, and submitting to authority in the church. My concern for those that they submit to in the church is that they do not send out planters to build up the name of the sending church, but that they rightly assess planters who will build up the name of Jesus.
May God continue to guide and bless those He has called to serve in ministry and may He strengthen and bless His church to the glory of His name!