Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Message to the Brave…to the Members of Church Plants

Have you ever found yourself bragging about your church to a member of another church?  I was overhearing a couple ladies the other day talk about all the things their churches offered, almost as if they were trying to one-up the other.  Though I am sure their intentions were good…it reminded me of a truth about our Christian culture today:  we shop for churches like we shop for cars.  We want our churches fancy and with a lot of features!  We want our churches to give us the most bang for our buck, and to have good customer service. 

People who go to mega-churches seem the norm today.  But the most amazing people to me…are those of you who choose to go to a church plant…a start-up small church.  You are certainly not the norm, and as I think about the type of person who would go to a church plant…I am impressed.   Most articles you find about church planting are directed to the leaders.  But I direct this to the people who choose to attend a church plant.  Let me tell you why you’re incredible! 

Before I begin, I just want to note that my thoughts here are not meant to demean or undermine the incredible work that larger churches are doing in our community.  Every believer has their reasons for choosing their home church and I respect the differences in strengths and weaknesses that each church brings into their ministries.  But today I want to draw attention to those who have chosen to become part of a church plant.

When you attend a church plant, you’re essentially saying these things:

I don’t just want to be a consumer. 
People like to be entertained…so large churches typically answer that call.  They have the budget and the staff to make it a great show.  They make their services entertaining and professional.  They make it a service that even an atheist could walk away and not be offend. 

But those who choose to go to church plants essentially put consumerism aside.  They accept that Church plants usually have few (if not only one) full-time staff.  They often require volunteers who didn’t go to seminary, and who can only serve with their spare time.  Thus, though what they offer on Sunday mornings can still be powerful, church plants typically don’t put on flashy services.  They don’t have thousands to spend on lights and technology.  Rather, they come as they are to simply worship God.

And let’s admit that small churches don’t have world-class preachers (otherwise they most likely wouldn’t be there with you).  Rather, they have pastors that simply have a great desire to see the Word of God being preached and to guide their church members in living it out.  They work with their members face to face, and meet with them personally.  On top of doing all the other things for the church (visiting sick, phone calls, administration, printing, marketing…) they also have to find time to write a moving sermon.  People who regularly attend a small church-plant say “I appreciate the heart of my worship team and my pastor.  I don’t need the flashy…just give me Jesus.”

I am willing to give of myself.
When it comes to percentages, few people in larger churches serve.  Rather, most people are there because they like what they can get, the production and all the ministries larger churches can offer.  It makes people feel good to be able to point out to others they meet, all the key ministries their church has, even if they personally have nothing to do with those ministries. 

Statistics have shown that the few carry the weight of the many.  This is true financially, as well as in those who service.  The majority of people in most churches sadly don’t serve…and they don’t give.  At least not much. 

But those who start up church plants know that this cannot be.  A church plant needs “all hands on deck.”  In order to minister to their community, they need everyone’s involvement.  They need everyone to serve, especially just for the basic ministries of the Sunday service, children’s ministry, etc.  They need everyone to give in order to meet the budget.  Those who go to church plants generally know this, and accept it.  They know it takes true commitment from them, and they are usually willing to answer the call personally.  They have to make the choice to say “the Christ-like life is not about what I get…but what I can offer to the Lord.”

I accept that discipleship is Christ’s call for me.
Larger churches thrive off of their popularity.  They have new people who walk in their front doors every Sunday, simply because they want to check out this large church.  People ask…what makes this place so special.  And you know what…sometimes that was similar to the crowds Jesus had.  People often came because of his ‘shows’…his miracles…and because of His popularity.   But then there were many times that Jesus would say a hard truth, and all but his twelve disciples would walk away.   We see that Jesus’ focus was on simple discipleship. 

Small church plants have little to draw in the crowds.  Rather the majority of people who walk in the door are usually based on their members, inviting people personally.  These can be people they know, or can come from their willingness to go out into the community to seek those in need.  Church-plant understand their pastor’s constant call for evangelism and discipleship.  And many of them accept that the call is not for “everyone else” in the auditorium, but rests in the hands of the few sitting around them, probably on school plastic seating on Sunday mornings.  Attenders of church planters say, “Christ’s call to reach the lost is for me.”

I am willing to be accountable.
When you go to a large church, it might not be noticed if you’re missing for a few weeks, if you choose Sunday sports or lazy Sunday mornings in your pajamas for a season.  However, at a small church, it’s sure to be noticed that you’re gone.  You will be missed, and perhaps even confronted about your absence from the body of Christ.  When you attend a church plant you acknowledge that it is beneficial to your relationship with God to participate in corporate worship, service, and hear the word of God preached.  Attenders essentially say “I am willing to be accountable and to participate regularly.”

I am willing to go on faith.
Do church plants “fail”?  Sure…from an earthly perspective they can, and do.  Church-planters have to go on faith that the money and resources will be there next month to pay the bills.  They have to trust that God will sustain them in a culture that desires the flashy.  They have to lean on faith, that God will honor their efforts, even when the going gets rough, and the budget gets small. 

Church planters know that succeed or fail, God honors their faith, and uses their humble efforts, to impact people for eternity, even if it can’t be seen in the annual report, and even if we don’t see it on this side of heaven.  They accept that no matter what the future holds, each day they serve, each dollar they give, they can do so all for the glory of God…with no regrets. 

Do you see why now?  Those who walk in the door of a church plant each Sunday…they are amazing to me.  Just by attending…they are going against culture…and they are actively supporting the work of Christ.   So keep it up!  Run the race! 

Will you walk in the doors of a small church plant this Sunday?  If so, may God bless you for that simple act of faith.