*This is Part 2 of a 3-part series entitled “Gathering to Part and Parting to Gather.” Click here to see Part 1.
I’m afraid that pastors and leaders fail to address the problem and pain of being a multiplying, church-planting church until it is actually a problem.
I’m guilty. As a pastor, I have had a front row seat to observe the problem multiple times in multiple arenas. As a missional community (small group) leader, I failed miserably to start casting vision the first day of my group. I should have been intentional to continually remind our MC that the goal was to be a holistic, healthy, growing group that would split into two groups once it reached its numeric threshold and a new leader was raised up. Then, as those groups grew to be healthy groups, they would multiply, and so on and so on. It’s a beautiful concept. Through healthy multiplication, the Gospel would run rampant through our city!
Except I didn’t talk about the hopeful inevitable. And of course, my group grew quickly. And it kept growing. Realizing that we now were the size of most churches in our city (maybe an overstatement) I began to talk about “the split.”
Did I mention people don’t like change? They didn’t throw things at me. I wasn’t cussed…too much. However, it became very obvious, very quickly that these devoted followers of Jesus who truly loved Jesus, one another and His mission were not the least bit interested in parting ways. Not. At. All.
They had grown to love and trust one another. There was a real sense of comfort and safety. Many tears and laughs had been shared over chips and salsa. They knew one another’s sins and struggles and loved in spite of them. Why in the world would we want to break something that was going so well?
Well, God was kind, and multiplication eventually happened, but I would have saved some unnecessary shock and heartache had I been mindful to persistently talk about the end goal. I foolishly waited to address the problem until it had become a problem. My brothers and sisters were gracious and eventually bought into the vision for the mission, but it took some convincing (aka salesmanship) on my part.
We’ve seen the same thing, on some level, as it pertains to our church-planting efforts at Pleasant Valley. We have had the joy of being the sending church for three church plants.
When we launch a church plant, we as pastors publicly and privately plead with our entire congregation to prayerfully consider leaving the comfy confines of Pleasant Valley to join the new work. We have seen some go, but most often the plea is met with the proverbial deer in the headlights look.
The silent reaction is, “Um no.” We like it here. We like the preaching. We like the music. We like the youth and children’s ministries. We like the people. We like the convenience of the location. Why in the world would we want to break something that is going so well? Don’t move my cheese.
It’s a good problem, but a problem nonetheless.
What fuels the problem? I’d argue that for the most part it isn’t a willful disobedience to the Word of God. It isn’t that our church members and missional community members hate the idea of mission. It isn’t that Christian people in a multiplying, church-planting church do not believe that God uses multiplication for His Kingdom expansion.
The fact of the matter is this: multiplication hurts. The root of the problem is that parting ways is painful and nobody likes pain.
We would be wise to acknowledge there is real relational and emotional pain that occurs when brothers and sisters in Jesus part ways, even if their parting is for His glory and for His Kingdom. These are genuine losses that genuinely hurt. There is a real and lasting sense in which multiplication for the sake of mission is damaging. The damage is holy, but it still causes pain.
When miles or nights or cities or seas separate us from those we love, it hurts. When the Spirit that is in us that bore witness with the Spirit that was in them is absent, there is a real void in us. A constant source of encouragement and joy and refreshment is gone. There is a holy ache to be connected to the body with which we once joyfully functioned. We feel broken, bleeding and not whole. When we part, there is pain.
Do you see why so many dig their heels in and just eat their cheese in a familiar place? Please understand me. I’m not insinuating that Christians who never leave the safety and security of home are somehow inferior to those who joyfully pack up and go. God calls some to move and he calls some to stay. Obedience is the objective.
When some are called to go, it’s going to hurt. Mission is a double-edged sword. When we fix the problem, there is going to be pain.
In the final post of this series, I’ll lay out four steps to address the problem and pain of being a multiplying, church-planting church.