Before You Start a New Church Plant

"Are you starting a church, Heather?"  My friend Richard gently asked me as he dropped his daughter off for me to watch today.  "What?" I asked, puzzled.  Church wasn't a topic we talked much about together.  "Well there was a flyer on your gate, and I wasn't sure if it was an ad or was yours..." he trailed off.  I flew out, always curious about churches and their advertising.  After four years of church shopping to find our new church home here in Valparaiso, Indiana I was practically an expert on church marketing.

"You Bring your peeps, we'll bring ours!"  It was a super cute door hanger with sugary marshmallowy peeps on it.  The church was Rolling Hills Vineyard Church.  CURSES!  I'd wished there was a Vineyard Church as I visited my friend's church just two weeks ago.  But I already have a church.  I have a Valparaiso church I love and I am investing in and I love what God is doing in it.  

We looked long and hard at churches here in Valparaiso, Indiana.  We went most Sundays and even got involved, started investing in a few before realizing they were not for us.  Fine churches, all of them:  Valpo First United Methodist Church, Bridgepoint Church, Valparaiso Community Church, Gracepoint Church, Valparaiso Nazarene Church, Hobart Unitarian Church, Calvary Church, Crown Point First United Methodist Church, Lifebridge Church, GCC Laporte Church, New Song Church, Living Hope Church and several that are closed now.  If we hadn't found a church home yet we would check out this Rolling Hills Vineyard Church, Faith Church, Bethel, Acacia Church,  any others that cropped up.  All of them could be Wonderful churches.  Wonderful people following after God as best they know how.  BUT.

But.

I see all these tiny, struggling churches.  There are ten, thirty, maybe forty-five people there on an Easter Sunday.  With all the churches we visited I kept feeling, and kept asking, "Why don't you all join together?"  One answer is that each Pastor feels called by God to start a church.  Their church.  Honestly with how our society is don't we ALL need to do that?  We all want everything just the way we want it.  We want our God experience to be that customer service oriented too.  Don't we?  I was that way.

I ask the question, "Little New Church Plant, is God truly calling you?"

If you are leading or worshipping in a tiny little church and do not feel FED, do not feel YOU are living out a faith that gives God's love to others, maybe talk with God again.   

Maybe God put you there just for a time.

Gosh, how can we really know?  I think I hear God leading me one way, and after the fact, he probably wasn't even involved in the conversation.  Maybe it's just me, but what my heart wants often leads me past what God has for me in that moment.  This was true in our church search.

I wanted to wear jeans, rock out to praise & worship, bring a gay or pierced or three headed friend without anyone blinking an eye.  I wanted to cuss, apologize, and still be valued.  I wanted to drink my coffee during the service.  I wanted to be needed and I wanted to hear the Word of God taught, talked about and offered as a challenge.  I wanted to feel alive in my faith, to grow and change and feel God's presence in my life.  I wanted to live a life that demonstrated God's presence in my selfish little heart.  I wanted what I mean to give others when I speak to a group of people:  To make them laugh, cry, and Do Something Different.

We ended up joining the church we had visited during our first few months here in Valparaiso.  After going and praying and struggling and feeling so lost without a church home we revisited the church from the beginning.  I realized, as everything slid into place for us, as I felt God's peace and felt Him at work in our lives this is the right church for our family.  I can also see it was not right for us until I went everywhere else.  

I pursued looks, good music, strong teaching.  I went to churches where everyone was younger and prettier.  I let my self be amused by sparkle and showmanship.  At the end of our church hunt we found the church that gives actively into our community and calls each of its members to do the same.  Just as we joined, as God would have it, they began implementing Mark Waltz's "First Impressions" program and book.  I became a Christ Follower in Mark Waltz's church, Granger Community Church.  How awesome that the church we join (at long last!) uses what I think makes my past church Great!  God knew what he was doing with me.  This springboards our family into action.  We join a small group.  We serve in Kids Against Hunger.  I speak occassionally doing the Children's mini sermons. John and I are teaching Sunday School.  I'm leading the Modern MOMS Ministry any mom of any age can come to no matter if they go to our church or no church at all.  And of course, we are on First Impressions Team to create a welcoming atmosphere for new guests.  God is using us, our family, even my charmingly loud mouthed daughter Portia to bless people, make them laugh, get them engaged and fired up to love God, to show God's Love to Everybody Else.


What if you had more time to volunteer, help others, and learn more about God?  Dear little new church plant,  what if God wants your passion, your life in an existing church?  What if instead of struggling to pay the bills and stir up new visitors, what if you plugged into an existing church?  I know we want what we want the way we want it, but what if?   What if in our town there were ten strong churches who ACTED like The Church?  Imagine the power God could use to help people if instead of twenty start up churches and five established churches in town, all His followers worked together for His Purpose?

I know some little churches who became Mighty.  I know a home church of twelve people  with a guy named Jesus who changed the world.  I know Big does not mean Good.  Do not misunderstand me, if your church is alive and God is at work, carry on!  Maybe get connected to  ministry with other little churches, with other bigger churches.  A great first step is connecting with the Valparaiso Christian Ministerial  Association.   Talk with God.  Talk with people who love God and will talk with God with you.

I've walked into so many little churches.  I've seen what works and what doesn't from the perspective of a girl who didn't know God, then got grabbed up by God, and cannot stop loving him ever since.  I want to live my faith in a way that makes God real and inviting to everyone who knows me.  I want to preach the gospel without needing words.  I fail.  I try again.  I recommit.  I study the Bible, I go deeper with my friends.  And I am doing all of this in a church home that inspires me.  Thank you God, for leading me to the  life you have for me.  I pray you do this in the hearts of any who read this post too.  It is a joy to feel your exciting peace when I live my life (even clumsily) with my church community and YOU!


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1 comment:

Judy Kittridge said...

I have had similar thoughts myself on all the small popup churches. Nicely written Heather!