I’ve had a heart for church planting for some time now. I can’t point to a time or day, but over time I felt convinced of the need for it, that it is the best way for the gospel to go forth and change a city. If you worship at Redeemer, you can’t help but recognize the need for church planting. At one point, not too long ago, there was no PCA, or even Reformed work in Teays Valley. Now there is. And there wouldn’t have been if God hadn’t called a man and his family to come up here. And take that risk. By default, you recognize the need for more gospel centered churches.
Church planting is a risk. Sometimes God calls us into risks that we don’t understand. Sometimes those risks work out the way we pray. Sometimes not. But we don’t receive a special wisdom from heaven that means we can figure out how to follow Jesus so things just “fall into place.”
We have to take risks. We don’t have to take risks because God won’t like us if we don’t take risks. We have to take risks, because if we don’t, we really don’t believe the gospel all that much. For instance, we really are free to fail-not have the desired outcome from a certain risk. We can try things that may or may not “work.” For instance, we can introduce a new ministry opportunity, and experience the frustration of no one or only a few showing up, and still wake up the next day with a smile on our face. We can be thankful for the none or the few. We can present the gospel sloppily, love someone much older/younger, ask a girl out who will possibly say, “No,” try our hand at teaching a class we don’t feel qualified, lead with some uncomfortable uncertainty when our leadership is needed, because the gospel reminds us that God’s love for us doesn’t fail us. Ever. Even when we sin.
When we don’t take risks, it says, “I believe I can fail, but I’m just not willing to find out if that’s actually true.” It reveals an underlying disbelief in the gospel. And to really love a people, a community, a church is ALWAYS a risk. Always. You don’t know how your moving toward them will end for you. But taking risks is part of God’s design.
We can’t follow God without taking risks. And I’m not talking about stock market risk. Gospel-centered risk. Risking something for God’s glory that is so great, that without Him blessing it, it will fail. Here’s a story of great risk which one family took for the spread of the gospel by means of church planting in New York City. And it didn’t “work.” It “failed” in the sense that the desired outcome was different than the actual outcome. The church closed. It’s sad. But it didn’t really fail. The risk takers who partnered through their prayers, pocketbooks, and presence, didn’t really fail.
The true story, as written by a friend and former seminary buddy, is amazing. It is a story of a pastor who loved, who took the risk of planting, pastoring, and then having to move on.
Read the story. It will do your soul good. Here’s an excerpt.
But even as we move forward I don’t want to forget Flatbush and I’m grateful that my experience there will make it hard to do that. I’m most grateful that John and Kathy were willing to take the risk. I wouldn’t have done it. But then again I wouldn’t have so eagerly given up a kidney to a fellow parishioner. But John did. I wouldn’t have so easily jumped out of bed at 1 AM to drive the streets of Brooklyn looking for a kid from my church. But John did. I wouldn’t have joyfully tackled the endless laundry list of responsibilities that come with being a solo pastor of a church plant in an urban neighborhood. But John did. And so now maybe I will.
Why God allowed such a church to close, when he allows others to remain on life support because one or two wealthy folks go there, I don’t know. But this story challenges me. How much do I believe the gospel? A lack of risk-taking in life reveals a lack of not just faith in WHAT GOD WILL DO, but faith in WHAT GOD HAS ALREADY DONE in the gospel. We can take risks if we are confident in what Jesus has done for us. We can “fail,” and yet not fail at the same time.