By Jill Riley
Over the last 2+ decades I have had the joy of assisting several church plants. While the passion and nature of church planters has not changed during those years, the models certainly have. The most significant change I see is the intentionality with which pastors are encouraging their community of faith to engage their geographical communities. Feeding, clothing, fixing cars, painting houses, planting trees, etc. are all ways in which I hear of planters “loving God/loving others”. I like it. A lot.
Churches living out these tangible, visible acts of grace parallel the direction, motion and purpose of the beloved Father sending disciples out to share the good news. . .“As the Father has sent me, even so I am SENDING YOU!”
So, we GO. We LOVE. We SERVE. However, I think we would be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit there is a little part of us that hopes our actions will eventually result in the numerical growth of our church. We WANT those we serve and those who observe our “unselfishness” to join us; in body, mind, spirit, and wallet. I struggle with the awareness that Jesus sent the disciples to love the world and teach the Word without the expectation of ever re-gathering, this side of heaven. The disciples were missionaries not boomerangs!
Can you feel that tension? How can I reconcile my role as a pastor, tasked with growing a sustainable, numerically increasing, growing church, with the call of being a disciple of Christ? Sending vs. gathering. In my heart and theology I know the role of pastor/planter and disciple are not conflicting. Even-so, the war of my intentions is fought frequently on the battlefield of my heart.
I understand the economics of it all. The larger the organization, the more influence it brings. Simple social understandings tell us more people leads to more money and creates more influence. Isn’t this what the western church hopes for? More influence on the World for the cause of Christ? My query has nothing to do with the ends, just the means by which we get there.
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you…receive the Holy Spirit.”