We’re only a week away from launching Carlisle now and the core group have been hard at it: in prayer, in planning, in promoting the plant to others and in any other activities they can think of that being with ‘p’. Posting on Pacebook, perhaps.
There is so much that’s different about the second plant to the first, and plenty the same as well.
So much foundational work has been done and I’m glad it doesn’t have to be replicated. There’s no need to register an association or write our constitution; no initial branding or website required. Plenty of things that may have been fun, some that were tedious, all that required large investments of time.
In its place, there’s been productive gospel work. Gathering at growers’ markets to talk with people about a ‘new church in Carlisle’, praying in different contexts, conversations with the core group and friends about purpose and mandate, roles and logistics. And, amidst all that, an excitement and anticipation over the known and the unknown.
There’s one thing that is little different from the first plant: while we’re confident in Who is building His church, there’s still apprehension of this particular expression of it in Carlisle. What if no one comes? What if it feels clunky? (Don’t worry about that one, it likely will – it’s unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar is often clunky!)
While much of the apprehension is simply the product of standing on the ‘before’ side of a new venture, other dimensions of the anticipation are far more exciting.
Who will God bring into our community? How will we be used to bless others and one another? How will God use us as salt and light in this patch of Perth for his glory? What are the ways that we’ll be able to partner with other churches that are following Jesus and seeking to bring him glory?
As one who’s playing on at The Big Table in South Perth, I’ve sensed renewed vigour, too.
One of the reasons we plant different expressions of church is that it releases good news in different contexts. You have friends that haven’t experienced the grace, love and forgiveness of Jesus (perhaps you haven’t yourself) and that’s why we plant churches. New churches reach new people — they’re not intended to be a scramble for a re-allocation of the saints, but a gathering of people on mission so that new people can hear, receive, and enjoy the good news about Jesus.
Planting churches raises the temperature (and makes us aware of our temperature) when it comes to being faithful to Jesus’ Great Commission. Whether you’re part of planting a church, part of a church that is planting a church, or an onlooker as someone else goes about that work, it should be pause for a moment of introspection. How much do I want my friends to hear about Jesus? How much do I want them to receive salvation, freedom, and abundant life in Jesus? This introspection shouldn’t be framed in a negative way, but a catalyst for stepping into the invitation that every follower of Jesus has been given to go and make disciples.
Planting churches is a reminder to everyone, whether staying or going, that we were called to go…and make disciples. It’s an antidote to inwardness, comfort and a desire to protect the status quo.
The excitement for us at The Big Table, South Perth is part osmosis and part anticipation, but I’m praying that it’s a continued awakening to our calling as a church. Our church, any church, is called to be salt and light to those within and beyond. When we take our eyes off the mission to others that Jesus gave us, we become intoxicated with ourselves. An exclusive investment in body development with no purpose for preparation for mission is an abstraction of the gospel. Jesus’ purpose in making us one is that the world would know that God sent Him; that our unity would affirm Jesus as God’s Son (John 17:21).
Paul’s purpose in encouraging the five-fold ministry giftings of apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher, is to equip the church to be on mission. There’s ministry work within the body, no doubt, but a fruit of our wholeness as a body is reaching beyond. It’s a demonstration of wellness.
To be consumed by body development with no proclivity for mission is to be all dressed up with nowhere to go. A little like a perfectly sculpted bodybuilder with low BMI, brilliant muscle definition, yet little functional purpose other than looking muscle-bound.
Our churches must be healthy within so that they can be healthy beyond. Inner health will always have a glory-bound trajectory – a kingdom-revealing purpose. Health within will, by nature, have expression beyond itself. Justice, mercy, salvation, good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, caring for widows and orphans, speaking for those who cannot – these are calls on the church. We can lose our saltiness when we pursue outward expressions of gospel goodness that aren’t tethered to the effective function of the body of Christ, and the reverse is also true.
Jesus’ continued heart is for the renovation of the heart. That’s not a call to being holed up within churches to the exclusion of others, it’s for all and for all time. Receiving that unconditional gift is connected to our willingness and his joy, but His heart is that none would perish and all would be saved.
This isn’t a conversation about predestination or preservation, but it’s a reminder to me and the church I’m privileged to be part of, that our on-going formation will move towards wholeness as we look up, in and out, never neglecting nor forgetting one over the other.
Your call to be in community together is not for comfort, nor familiarity, nor cozy intimacy. It’s not even for relationship, though you’re likely to get that in the richest form imaginable. Your call is to equip and encourage one another into deep community with Jesus and be on mission together for His fame and your joy. It’s with a hope that, as we look around our table/pews/chairs in twelve months, we see faces we didn’t see twelve months ago. And they didn’t drift in from other churches, they were catapulted from darkness to light.
The truth is: I’m still figuring out how we do this together, but I’m certainly up for the journey of discovery.
God, who has begun a good work within you, will continue his work (restoration, healing and transformation) until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.