Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Grass roots: creating kingdom outposts 1

I've had this little booklet called Creating Kingdom Outposts: Straightforward Thoughts On Church Planting for a month or so now. It was written by a friend of mine - Fran Leeman - and I've read it, and leafed back through it, and read it again, and set it on my desk, and the coffee table, and my other desk, and carried it around, and looked at it, and felt it looking back at me, and... I've just not known how to go about blogging about it. There is some really good stuff packed within 40 pages of 8 1/2 x 11 paper folded in half. Eventually it's supposed to be put into a pdf so everyone can see it, but until then... I thought maybe I'd just write out chapter 1 for ya'll (with Fran's approval). My only complaint is that it's all written in regard to church planting, and I believe it's applicable to church of any stripe (and I think Fran would agree). So I just kinda gloss over the "planting" parts. Here is Chapter 1: "The Point of It All"...
Anyone watching church planting over the last twenty years would conclude that the whole point is just to get butts in the seats of the church. After all the effort we have expended to that end, we have megachurches (which have mostly scooped up sheep from the smaller pens), but few "Christians" who seem to know the secrets Jesus came to tell, or whose lives seem much different or more centered than those of the "non-Christians" around them. In my opinion, although those of us who have lived the "church growth movement" often did so from good motives, we often valued the wrong things. We measured success in terms of attendance numbers, rather than transformed lives and lives that caught the vision of the kingdom mission.

Our efforts to reach out were admirable, to be sure, but we saw getting people into church, rather than discipleship, as the goal. Jesus said, "Come follow me". In the Sermon on the Mount, he speaks of those who build their lives on the words he has spoken. There is a reason the early believers were called "The Way" - it's not just a belief system, it's a path. And the path is the one that leads us into a new life ("I came that they might have life" - John 10:10). When Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world," he is saying, "You are the true human beings"... "but if the salt loses its saltinesss, how can it be made salty again?" In other words, losing our humanity is serious business, and it is the restoration of our very human hearts and lives with which our Creator is concerned. A few years ago, I read only the Gospels for one whole year (and mostly the red letters). What I encountered was a Jesus more concerned with what kind of human being I am becoming than with religious externals or merely keeping me out of hell (I say "merely" not because heaven and hell are not serious considerations, but because those destinations themselves are about the very kind of creatures we will be forever).

So you want to start a new church community? Why? What's the point? If it's for anything less than to make disciples, to see people find restoration and life, then don't start a church. And don't start a church because you're mad at your old church, or to be in the limelight, or to be successful. The invitation from Jesus to start a new Jesus-community is the invitation to join him in dying so that others may live. It's a great adventure with many joys, but it will cost you... It's worth it, but don't enter in without counting the cost.

Fran and another friend - Brian Miller - are starting Grass Roots. It is "...a network of churches and leaders helping each other live out the call to follow Jesus Christ by knowing God deeply, making disciples, living incarnationally in our culture, and living missionally in the world." They say if you "want to play" to contact them. They have a facebook page HERE (at least I think I can link to it - I'm never sure with facebook). You can also click through the links to Fran or Brian's blogs, or drop a comment here. I'm playing, or at least trying to.