The following is part of a comment I left on one of Ed Stetzer’s posts recently. He has a great blog and some great books for all you who dream of church planting or for all of you missionaries who dream of, well, the same thing, finally getting a church going.
As a church planter I can attest to the pressure to produce that outward gem, the dynamic Sunday morning meeting. I am in an environment - Ukraine and a few other places for the last 16 years - where there is no choice but to be missional. I have started one church, and we are now on our second. Starting a work from nothing is not easy, and many things that might be taken for granted in the west just don’t exist here. For example, I have never met a Ukrainian who has gone to Vacation Bible School. They were in Pioneers or Komsomol.
I was recently in the US where a pastor asked, “So, have you started your church yet?” This really bugged me because it is like asking a pregnant woman if she is planning to have children in the near future. It is as dumb as my redundant blog title “Pregnant With a Baby” which I saw in a newspaper. What else would a woman be pregnant with?
Having a child requires an initial interaction (sex), conception, prenatal formation and birth. Then comes parenting, etc. Each part of a child’s life is important as is each stage of a believer’s life. Just focusing on herding a bunch of people into a well-organized meeting is both shallow and short-sighted.
A photo of the newborn in the hospital maternity ward is great, but this does not portray the actual labor and pain of the mother in carrying and giving birth to that child. The plan of God is not represented just by a gathering of His people in one place once a week. Life is more than a snapshot and so is Christianity.
I remember reading about the life of Hudson Taylor years ago and his passion for Jesus and reaching the lost. Later in his ministry he was hit with the reality of the need to start churches, but that was secondary to reaching the lost. For him it was about the people and their relationship with God.
In Ed’s blog he talks about pastors who burn out on church planting. They lose their passion and become “shop keepers” while ignoring the spiritual disciplines. If we focus on the basics without yielding to a success-motivation I believe that more of us will cross the finish line actually breathing. “Crossing the finish line first and dropping dead is not victory.”