Monday, 19 November 2018

Church planting can be a very humbling experience.

As we searched for a space to rent for our public worship gathering, we came across an Assemblies of God church. It was right in the community that we wanted to reach, it had parking, space for children and a nice seating area appropriate for conversations. Being a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, we talked to the AG pastor and asked if he would be willing to have us rent the church for our weekly Saturday/Sabbath worship. He heard our story,  and our vision and gladly accepted to welcome us into his church. As we worked on our rental agreement something incredible happened. The pastor refused to accept rent money from us for the first 6 months! I couldn’t understand what was happening? Why wouldn’t he take our rent money? His answer was something like this. “If God wanted us to reach all of the people in this community we would have already reached them and we haven’t. We believe God is sending you and we want to invest in the Kingdom of God.” I was incredibly disturbed and humbled by his approach. I asked myself, what if it were the other way around? Would I see my fellow brother and his congregation as sent by God, as part of his Kingdom?

What comes to your mind when you think about the Kingdom of God?

I have to admit that I am tempted to think about the Kingdom of God along the lines of my personal ministry, my local church, and my denomination. But could it be that the Kingdom of God is bigger than our personal ministry, and our local church. Do we even dare to think that it may be even bigger than our denomination? If perfect theological understanding would be required to be part of God’s Kingdom, wouldn’t the disciples have been disqualified to announce the Good News, heal the sick, and cast out demons? Wouldn’t have Martin Luther been unable to lead a much needed reformation in the existing Christian Church? Wouldn’t have William Miller been unable to lead the Advent movement in its early days like he did? If that is true, why is it so hard for us today to see God’s Kingdom beyond the walls of our theological understanding, personal ministry or local church? 

Could it be that we love our church more than we love Jesus’ church? 

Could it be that we are more concerned with our denominational kingdom growth rather than God’s Kingdom growth? Are we comfortable saying that God’s Kingdom is bigger than our denomination? Before you start having an imaginary argument with me, please take a deep breath and hear me out. I am NOT saying that our local church or our denomination are not important, or are not part of the Kingdom of God. I believe that Jesus used a local church to save my life. I deeply love the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I believe in it, work for it and have invested everything God has given me into it. What I am suggesting is that God’s Kingdom is bigger than our denomination, local churches or personal ministries, and we should be ok with admitting that. If we prayerfully take a close look at our communities we should be able to identify God’s Kingdom beyond our comfort zone. Are you feeling better now? If not, then continue your imaginary argument with me. Don’t worry I won’t fight you. We can still be friends. 
It is important we have a healthy view of God’s Kingdom because it will affect our definition of success. If we define God’s Kingdom by meaning it’s only our personal ministry, local church or denomination, we will have self absorbed definition of success. Most churches measure success by the “ABCs”. A- Attendance, B- Baptisms, C- Cash (tithes & offerings). In other words, success has an internal focus. It is about what happens in the church. Then we wonder why we have so little impact in our communities and our society. Once we realize that God’s Kingdom is bigger than our local church we can move from an internal focus to an external focus. This means that the church no longer exists for itself but we are called to minister beyond ourselves. This shift in focus helps us partner with God in whatever he is doing in our communities moving from the comfort of our church buildings and helping us join God in building his Kingdom beyond our walls. 
Another important Kingdom shift that happens is that we realize that developing people is more important than developing programs. Jesus came to save people not programs. Instead of starting with the idea of developing programs we should start with the idea of developing people. Discipleship needs to be a priority in the church because the Kingdom of God is composed of disciples. Every church member should know what is expected from them as disciples of Jesus. Every member must serve in a ministry, every member must be part of a discipleship group, every member should be committed to the Kingdom with their time, talents and treasure. Programs don’t make disciples, only disciples make disciples. Lastly another  Kingdom shift is changing from a church-leadership mentality to a Kingdom-based leadership mentality. A church-leadership mentality thinks about having more and better leaders to lead what we are doing within the church. That mentality tends to hoard the best talents, leaders and resources for itself. A Kingdom-based leadership is happy to send leaders wherever God is calling them. Paul and Barnabas are a great example of this. The church was young, they didn’t have “all the leaders they needed” but the Holy Spirit told the church send them, and they did. What would happen if we would do the same? 
We believe that Jesus is coming soon! We have the privilege to prepare the way for his coming. As John the Baptist did we must proclaim “The Kingdom of heaven is  is near.” But how near are we from the Kingdom of Heaven beyond our familiar context of local church, personal ministry and denomination? I pray this can be an ongoing discussion that helps us grow. If you would like to continue this conversation please visit us at Urban Church Planter on Facebook. This article has been also published by the Mountain View Magazine