This has probably been the longest I’ve ever gone with posting on my blog. Vacation, summer, church planting, and just lack of ideas has kept me from updating it. So hopefully there won’t be too much rust. I had a good friend and now fellow P.C.A. pastor in Jacksonville ask me a great question that deserved a little reflection and elicited in me a desire to pass it on. He asked me a slow pitch softball type question: an easy one to answer because I’ve thought much about it.
It was something to this affect: What’s next for Harbor Community Church? Are you just wanting to get to a sustainable giving level and critical mass, get a building and then simply grow a bigger church?”
You have to head toward something as a church, and it’s good to consider what we are moving toward. Someone told me in a car ride the other day, “If you ever want this to become a mega-church, I’m out of here!”
I laughed. I just don’t have the hair to be mega-church pastor. Or the gifts. Or the desire. Or the vision.
Our vision statement took me much prayer and thought, and it is one in which I used to raise money and gather a core group of people who could be committed and excited about it. So it is a vision which more than just me, the core, the presbytery, but even those giving have backed.
Vision: To glorify God by multiplying a gospel-centered, city-blessing, missional and maturing community in West Bradenton.
Multiplying is key. At every level. Individual, community, and congregation. The vision was never to get one great church to come into existence, but to plant a great church which would be involved in planting great churches. Multiplying a community. What that looks like, remains to be seen, and perhaps will for some time. We have community groups that need to multiply and leaders to be trained, a mercy action team that is forming, a membership class, mission team, eventually elders and deacons installed, etc….(and I’m probably missing a bunch along the way)
Multiplying takes growth at all levels. Individuals coming to faith, individuals growing in faith, discipling their families and friends. Multiplying requires depth, not in people growing past the gospel, but the gospel roots growing deeper and producing a sturdier more robust love that the world hasn’t much seen. But it is not growth for growth’s sake, nor is it grow for Harbor’s sake. It is growth for the sake of God’s invisible will done in Heaven to come more and more to Earth. Everything has to start with “Our Father, Hallowed by thy name.” Growth for His glory.
And we will need to be at some point self-sustaining (where all of the giving comes from inside the members). Currently we have a network, folks and a few churches giving to our work. We’re not yet self-sustaining, but we are heading in the right direction. As we grown in size and giving, we will have more opportunities to fulfill our vision. I do envision a bigger and growing church, just not only a bigger and growing church.
Multiplying could simply be giving money to church planting (we’ve been given money to plant this church, so kind of a no-brainer), it could be giving people, it could be letting a church plant borrow musicians (once we add a few more :-)) or it could mean planting a daughter church some day. But the vision is in some way to be involved in the process of planting more churches WHICH plant churches WHICH plant churches. So in order to even move toward this vision, we need to be multiplying individuals through evangelism, invitation, ministry, and of course community groups.
Our God is too glorious, His grace too amazing, His majesty too vast, His power too great, His will done in heaven to0 necessary for Harbor to simply, safely exist and maintain.
I’ve seen churches that plant churches and have seen this process have an even greater impacter than one growing church. I’ve tasted this and just can’t go back to the vision of a church stopping with itself. The ones which send tend to grow bigger anyway. :-)
I’d love to have a building some day, and hope we may at some point have one. Will we have “arrived” if we have a building some day? No. Kind of a trick question, because you can never arrive until Jesus returns. But will that be success in my book? Nope. What if we never have a building, but instead use resources to help others, to reach others, to glorify God? God may lead us to a building-and I will praise Him for it-but again that is not necessarily the primary success we are looking for.
Success for us will be a church planting church which makes new disciples and in some way helps plant church-planting churches who make disciples. That’s the vision I pray people want to be part of, because Jesus is just too good only aim for one church.
Special thanks to my friend and fellow Harbor man Steve Cobb for helping clarify and flesh out this vision.