Friday, August 12, 2005

Under the knife

Oops! Updated with a source link 8/17/05. I thought that line sounded familiar!

I once had a conversation with someone who wondered if a certain church planter was "cut out" for church planting.

The church planter in question had left a sweet ministry position he had been in for several years, moved his family to a new location, raised support, pulled together a makeshift team of people, left the security of the church staff position that he was in for the uncertainty and insecurity of planting a church - all because of a burning desire to reach out to the unchurched with the Gospel, and respond to what he sensed was the unmistakable call of God.

The church planter experienced a variety of difficult challenges on the field, however, and had not launched with the crowd that was originally hoped for. He had not seen the number of people baptized that he or his original supporters had hoped for.

Following a withdrawal of funds from a major initial supporter, and the exodus of a key team member family, the church planter had a "crisis of belief" (to quote Henry Blackaby), did a lot of prayer and soul searching, and came to the conclusion that God was still calling him to plant the church in the area. He believed that ultimately, he and the church had experienced a time of purging, preparation and planting that was necessary for the next phase, and not that he had a lack of calling, giftedness, talents or personality to fit the task.

So was and is this pastor "cut out" for church planting?

Hmm, "Cut out?" Well, I understand the question, and the intent behind it, but I'm not sure it's always the best question to ask when a church planter has had a tough go of things. Of course, sometimes it is, but not always.

Maybe we should ask if they are "called and being cut out." How much they are "being cut out" before they launch a new church is important information to know and work with ahead of time, but hanging in there and still having vision and a sense of call for the long haul says a lot to me about what has been and is being "cut out" in a church planter.

You know, if you step out in incredible faith and risk and respond to God's call to plant a church - not just talk about it, but actually do it - that says quite a bit about you already, doesn't it? (Thanks to John for the link) Unless course, you're just trying to prove something or you can't get another job or you just have a hard time getting along with people...

When a church planter hits a wall, the best questions should probably be more along the lines of, "Are you called, are you learning and still willing to learn, and are you making course corrections (nod to Ben) to achieve the goals God has set before you? (And if funding disappears, are you still in?)"

Every situation is different and every church planter is different. There are certainly some common characteristics among many of them, but I have to tell you, every church planter I have met is really different. Different in style, personality and voice. Different in talent, leadership ability and level of creativity. Different in background, education and in the number of people who started the adventure with them. They've all been, well...different.

But they have all had a sense of God's call to plant a church, and they have all had God do amazing "shaping" and "cutting" in their lives to get them to where they are and where they're going.

I know I'm not who I was when I first started planting. There was still much to cut out of me, for sure. And I'm a heck of a lot more "cut out" for it today than I was when I started. I have the scars to prove it. It's what happens when you go "under the knife" and let the Great Physician mold you and "cut you" into who He wants you to be.

Are you "cut out" for what God has called you to do? ...Or have you been called by God and is He is cutting you into who He wants you to be so that you can do what He wants you to do?

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