This will be my last post as a 31 year old. On Sunday, I will be 32.
Ten years ago, I was about a month removed from my college graduation. I was working at Hollywood Video, living in a scummy apartment with my best friends, and right around that time, I survived on just canned green beans for nearly a week. Green beans with ketchup. Baked green beans with Worcestershire sauce. Green beans cold straight from the can. Chased with water, or ketchup, or a Coors Light stolen from my roommate, Chip.
I’d never heard of “church planting.” It wasn’t until October of 2003 that Becky and I became aware of Common Ground, and it wasn’t until about three years later that I really understood church planting. And since then, it has been my somewhat-secret passion. Around 2008, I began a friendship with a man named Paige Mathews. Well, we have as much of a friendship as seeing each other for PCTC meetings 6 to 8 days a year allows. Paige told me stories of church planting, its significance, its struggles and the people involved in it.
I believe in church planting. I believe in the rejuvenation and hope new churches provide. I believe in it because I watched Common Ground, a church planted in 2003, change my life, my wife’s life and the lives of dozens of other people. I believe that without constant renewal and vigilance, churches run the risk of becoming a group of like-minded people who do things out of rote that make them feel good but isolate them from outsiders. Church planting has the capacity to remind Christians of Jesus’ words concerning coming for the sick, not the healthy. It reminds us that in Matthew 28, Jesus’ command was “go.”
This is not to say that “old” churches are irrelevant. That is far from the case. Planting churches requires resources, and established churches have those resources. I believe all churches, and in fact all Christians, should know about and actively support church planting. The support of and exposure to new churches will provide constant rejuvenation for you and/or your congregation.
Paige told me about Orchard Group, an organization that supports church plants in urban areas. When I came to Annapolis, I discovered Orchard Group was one of the organizations supporting The Annapolis Project, a yet-to-be-named church in Annapolis being planted by Josh Burnett. Eventually, the project became Revolution. Since 2010, I have had the opportunity to meet several people who work with Orchard Group or have planted churches supported by Orchard Group. Earlier this year, I went to a series of workshops at Exponential hosted by Orchard Group that reinforced the need for and benefits of planting urban churches. I cannot express how inspired I was by the men and women in that room. I sincerely hope that some of the people I met at Exponential become lifelong friends and partners in being more effective as the church.
Additionally, through Paige, Josh, and one of my other best friends/church-planter friends, Scott Ancarrow, I’ve been able to meet people from Stadia, another church-planting organization, and Southeast Christian Church’s U.S. Missions Ministry team, particularly Eugene DePorter, who oversees that church’s exemplary commitment to church planting.
So, as my birthday approaches and my 10-year college reunion passes, I find myself thinking about church planting. At this point in my life, I don’t think I want to plant a church as the lead pastor. I’m not really sure I have the right skill set for that. For example, I think my awkwardness on stage is endearing, but not a great posture for significant teaching. I do, however, believe my skill set lends itself well to helping church planters. I’m committed to and experienced in excellence, efficiency, strategy, planning, and so on. Throughout my MBA studies, I found myself answering questions on paper from my corporate perspective but writing notes in the margins to myself on how it would apply to churches and church planting.
I believe church planting is one of the most important tasks for the modern church.
So, as this is already long, I guess I should end with, “So what?” And I don’t have a good answer for you. At Exponential, I misphrased an enthusiastic declaration to Brent Storms, the president and CEO of Orchard Group, and exclaimed, “I want your job.” It was seriously the most embarrassing thing I said during the entire month of April. Fortunately, Brent understood my intention. I want to do what he does, in some capacity. I want to help church planters. I want to be an expert in church planting. I’m already doing some of these things, but I want to know how I can help more; not so I can get accolades but because I believe church planting is so important, so critical, that I want to do whatever I can to help it.
I don’t fit the mold most of the time. I direct worship music at Revolution, but I play bass and don’t sing. I enjoy spreadsheets as much as I do jam sessions. I used to direct small groups, but I also create budget projections. I have a degree in Geology (and an MBA, now, too).
I don’t know what my role in church planting will be over the next ten years, but I know one thing for certain: God has placed this passion in me, so I will act on it and will have a role.
If you believe in church-planting, what are you doing about it?