Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Fishing Story

When my wife Pam and I lived in South Carolina, our home was near Lake Murray. This was a huge lake where one could fish, swim, ski and boating. Often the two of us would go out to the lake which was behind our house and fish.

Being the typical male, I was often competitive with Pam over who would catch the most fish. This one afternoon I had found a spot on the bank where a tree had fallen in the water. This was a great spot because every time I cast my line in the water, I caught a fish.

Not wanting to be outdone, Pam moved from her spot on the bank to right by me and my spot (she said that she wanted to be close to me, HA!). Soon, she was casting her line in the water and catching fish. At first, I was a little upset. She was in my spot and catching my fish. Then I started to realize that she was not my competition but my wife. Whatever she caught or I caught, they all were going on my table. A matter of fact, because she was fishing next to me, she was causing more fish to be lured to that spot because they knew there was food there.

It is the same with churches. I often have pastors and church members get upset when a new church plant starts or a church moves near them. They seem to say “Stay out of my fishing spot.” It seems that we all often forget that we all are “fishers of men”. We are not working on getting more “fish” for ourselves or our churches, but rather reaching more people for the KINGDOM of GOD! We are working together to see people become fully devoted followers of Christ.

With over 2 million unchurched indidviduals in North America, we need to realize that there are plenty of “fish” that need to be reached for Christ. It is going to take all kinds of churches, new and old to see that these individuals have the opportunity to become part of the KINGDOM. Working together, we will do more than each one of us being protective of our spot. Let’s get “fishing” together.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Latest Is

Have you seen the Snuggie? I remember the first commercial I saw for this item. It was late one night right after the evening news. As I watched the commercial, the thought I had was that this is just a robe worn backwards, it will never sell. Now you see Snuggies in every store and they even have them for pets. It is the latest in what I call, "unusual products" that is now the rage.

In 1986, I became officially involved in church planting by helping to start a church in Westchester County N.Y. However, before that time I worked with my parents in a church that they helped start as lay persons. 23 years later, I am sitting here in my office looking at all the books on my shelf about starting churches thinking that church planting has, in some ways, taken off just like the Snuggie.

Over the last 23 years, I have seen church planting go from what you do when you can't find a church, to one of the most popular ministries. When I started planting there were about 3 books on planting churches. Today, there are hundreds of books, articles, blogs (mine included) and church planting resources. As a matter of fact, there are hundreds of opinions out there on how to start a church. Don't believe me. Just Google the term church planting.

It seems like church planting has become very popular among evangelicals and even non-evangelicals (case in point: Scientologists have started a church in Nashville). Church planting conferences has gone from attracting a couple hundred to a couple of thousand. There are now degree programs in church planting whereas, 10 to 15 years ago there might have been 1 or 2 programs in the country.

My prayer is that the increased interest in church planting is not the latest fad. Many today are looking for that "magic bullet" for church growth, and in some cases self-promotion, that they jump from idea to idea hoping to have success and the latest book and conference speaking deal. I'm afraid that church planting has become one of those so called "magic bullets". The problem with this mentality is that if the "church planting gig" doesn't work I can always find another thing to try. Maybe I'll do the multi-site, video venue or missional gig.

Now before you think that I am picking on people, let me just say that none of these things are wrong if the goal is to see the Kingdom grow!! We have to remember that church planting is the reaching and discipling of people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Church planting is not the focus! Seeing communities brought to be a part of the Kingdom of God is the focus.

Next time we see or hear the latest and greatest ministry idea or event, let's not get caught up in the idea. It is just a tool or a means to which the proclaimation of the Gospel and the Discipling of the nations is accomplished. That is what church planting is! Lets don't treat it like the Snuggie - love it for a while and then put it in the closet never to wear it again.