*This is Part 1 of a 3-part series. Click here to see Part 2.
We’ve all heard stories of the kind yet feeble old man who proudly boasts that he’s been a part of his local church for nine months longer than he has been alive. Or, the saintly, aging sister who delights in the fact that she is a third- or fourth-generation member of her church.
I love it. As a pastor, nothing is quite as encouraging as a person who passionately loves Jesus and demonstrates that by a passionate love for and commitment to the local church. In a transient, noncommittal culture, longevity in a local church has somewhat become a thing of the past.
However, I have seen firsthand that congregants of a church very quickly settle into a comfortable norm with fellow worshippers. Introductions are made. Friendships blossom. Meals are shared. Work is done. Mission trips are taken. Losses are grieved. Joys are celebrated. Weeks and months and years go by. People grow to know and love and trust the family of God. Over time, deep and sweet and cherished Gospel-centered relationships are formed.
This is good and right and God-glorifying.
I don’t know about you, but I am extremely thankful for the grace of God’s people in my life. They are a sanctuary for me. The church is a refuge, a fortified bunker in the midst of a war. I feel comfortable, safe, at-ease and well-loved in my church. I love the members of my church and have no desire to ever be separated from them. We are a body. In a real sense, I belong to them and they belong to me. (Romans 12:5)
Sounds good, right? But could it be that the comfort and commonality of our churches could be an obstacle to God’s desire to reach our city, nation and world?
Mission requires movement. When a comfortable, safe and happy norm is established, most people want to stay right there. People do not like change. It’s human nature.
In the fall of 1998, Dr. Spencer Johnson released a little business book that took the world by storm. The book, Who Moved My Cheese?, was published in thirty-seven languages and sold over twenty-six million copies worldwide. This motivational business parable of two mice and their love for cheese brilliantly reveals our inherent tendencies to settle into norms and expectations and subsequently loathe change. People don’t like change. Church people (for the most part) really don’t like change.
Herein lies a problem and a pain that we need to identify and address head on if we are to be faithful in fulfilling the mission of God.
The pastors and people of a multiplying, church-planting church have to be aware of the problem of people’s hard-wired resistance to change and be prepared to love, encourage and comfort one another through the real, relational pain that occurs when those we’ve grown to love must leave to further the Kingdom.
In the next post, we’ll examine some thoughts on the problem and pain of being a multiplying, church-planting church.