Easter, as we know it in the Western Church, has almost become more about who has more plastic eggs spread out in a field and who can give away the most prizes to kids who already live in absolute opulence, and who can outdo the church down the road with helicopters, horse rides, bouncy houses, and a myriad of exhausted volunteers that hope that what they are doing has a lasting effect on someone, or hopefully will draw some of these people into their church building on a Sunday morning with the hopes that they make a decision for Jesus, fill out a card, get baptized and eventually be a part of the cycle that has gone on since D.L. Moody….breath…rather than truly celebrating the reason we are all here in the first place. (Nothing against ol’ Dwight)
I’m not mad, I’m not even a little jealous, it’s just that the more I see our American version of church play out, I wonder if it is really making a long term impact on our culture. I see the that Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and I just want to help the brother get dressed!
Is planting churches really the answer? Is it having the effect on our culture like we think that is should? Or more importantly, like Jesus said it should?
On Easter weekend, I was driving around on some streets hear in our city that I haven’t spent a lot of time on. I saw at least 4 new church plants represented by the familiar sandwich boards that we have all become accustomed to; dotted on every corner to give the greatest advantage to the passing cars. It was rather comical after seeing one new church try and use the same corner for their boards as another one. Hip Church was pointing one direction and Cooler Church was pointing in the other. This is when it dawned on me, “Is planting churches really having an impact on our culture?” After all, aren’t we supposed to making disciples?
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Lonny, aren’t you being a little hypocritical since you came here to plant a church?” yes, I suppose in some ways I am, This is why I hope the tone of this isn’t critical but from a disposition of humility, and from what I have learned in trying to plant a church.
When, in my mind and heart and actions, I stopped trying to plant a church, which basically means developing a marketing strategy just a little better that the one down the street, and started creating a space of true community, I saw something really amazing happening. I saw people reaching out and caring for one another. They were taking meals to people who were sick without even having sister so-in-so set up the meal train. They were taking children into their homes so that worn-out, single moms could catch their breaths, they were getting together in their homes for meals, and games, and prayer, and fasting without even being asked!! WHAT IS GOING ON? They were praying for revival in their own hearts, and families, so that true revival could catch fire in their neighborhoods, and schools, and businesses. Suffering in the body was becoming our greatest teacher! It was something that no one had ever taught us! While we as a church were in this weird, hidden, liminal space; we were learning to lean on each other, people with true pastoral gifts were stepping to the plate visiting people in the hospital, caring for the sick, and loving on the marginalized.
So what happens when we stop trying to plant a church and begin to invite people to be a part of this family? We make disciples…When I asked my Friend, “Is planting a church really the answer?” He was quiet for a while. I asked Him again. Still no answer. Finally, a couple of days later, I got the answer, I felt like He said, “You. You are the answer. Harlan Hobson is the answer, as he works with people at Goodwill, and loves them unconditionally even though they believe completely differently than he does. Joe and Sheena Courtney are the answer, as they gather people into a space where they can be real and share a meal together. Darren Keiffer is the answer, as he invites people that won’t normally come to a church service around a poker table in his basement and talks about his three beautiful girls, his wife Erin, and how to parent and husband, and juggle a full time career. Carl and Amy Holmes are the answer as they serve our kiddos and visit people graciously in the hospitals. Gary and Lisa Black are the answer as they serve the next generation on the mission field, teaching them the true meaning of simplicity. Daniel and Katherine McCray are the answer, as they invite people around their table for a meal and encouragement and teach couples how to pray for one another. You are the answer, you are the hands and feet.”
I know it’s vague, it’s sounds pretty simple. But that is the answer I got. I love that Jesus never criticizes what other people are doing, He always asked me, “What are you doing? How are you being Me here on the planet in the time that I have allotted for you?”
I’ll be honest. Making disciples looks like a lot of different things to a lot of different people. One thing is for certain. Making disciples isn’t fast, it’s a lifetime investment.
On Easter, (we meet on Saturdays) we had a night of worship, with the opportunity to take communion with our families and pray and let the Holy Spirit do what He loves to do. We were not disappointed. People were healed, encouraged, loved, and most importantly knew about the unchanging power of resurrection. My sister and nephew were with us, and for the first time ever, I got to sing with my nephew…I asked him if he knew the song, he said, “never heard it before, I am just going with it!” I had communion with my sister for the first time in about 30 years! Then on Sunday morning, people from our church were gathering in their homes for meals, brunches, community, playing catch, playing basketball, watching our kids grow and play together, and sharing our lives with one another. For us, the evening ended with a Colorado style bonfire, (in a controlled fire pit) talking about the day, the lives we are living, and the powerful love of Jesus.
This is what I am looking for, and I didn’t even know it. Life on life as my friend Brock always reminds me of. If you want to plant a church, I am sure that Jesus won’t mind. Just keep in mind that what really changes people is not your light show, smoke machines, fancy graphics, catchy, tweetable phrases, or even the strategically placed sandwich boards. What people remember is grabbing a ball and glove and talking about life. It’s the everyday, mundane moments that are littered with encouragement and love. This is what changes people. This is what will change the world…You, loving like Jesus did. You will change the world.
Want to see what the power of you loving others can do? Watch this: https://vimeo.com/213000451/5521328d6a