“Take my yoke on you and learn from me…” (Matthew 11:29).
Have you ever read something that Scripture calls us to do and felt a sense of dread? A feeling of “Here’s one more thing I really don’t know how to do,” or “Here’s something else that our church is not adequate for”?
This is a common response of many established churches to the idea of engaging in church planting. It’s seems like such a momentous commitment; how would we even begin? Only about one in five churches ever do.
And yet, there is something in our faith that convicts us that we need more churches, not fewer. New churches that can reach people that our church likely will not. In new places that we likely will not go ourselves.
I minister with a congregation of around 70 people. Like many church families these days, it is a challenge for us to meet budget for our own needs. Our personnel, time, and other resources are stretched pretty thin.
With regard to partnering in church planting, my prayer is that we will take this as a sign not to do nothing, but to offer what we can to the Lord.
In contrast to the way that many people in his time practiced religion, Jesus’ words in Matthew 11 are not a command meant to add to our burdens. They are a loving invitation to joy; to enter a larger, more fruitful life. Kingdom life. And he promises to teach us how to live that way. What a blessing it is to know that there is nothing that the Lord directs us to be or to do that he does not also guarantee to supply what we need to be able to do it! He shoulders the yoke with us.
National Church Planting Sunday is May 21.
I take this promise to heart this year as I share with my church family about National Church Planting Sunday this year. It is a day for believers across this nation to celebrate, support, and bring awareness to church planting.
Maybe this year, the best we can do is take the next small step in the right direction. That may mean seeking to become better acquainted with and informed by those who are active in church planting. It definitely means committing to praying more about how our church can become involved. (You can download a calendar of church planting prayers here.)
I want my church to take that next step.
I want my church to share the joy of partnering with others for the sake of the Gospel (Philippians 1:3-5). We don’t have to be on the front lines of church planting, but we sure don’t need to be on the sidelines!
I want my church to know the delight of seeing lives transformed through church plants that we’ve had some part in encouraging and supporting.
I want my church to experience the unity that results from coming together in prayer and planning and giving in order to participate in the highest mission we could ever be a part of.
If you have any questions about National Church Planting Sunday or how you can get involved, please contact Ron Clark.
by Ron Clark, Kairos Executive DIrector
Easter is a special time for both Lori and me. In ministry we always placed an emphasis on Sunday worship, inviting friends to church and to dinner in our home, and preaching Jesus’ resurrection. I would challenge our congregation to invite their neighbors on Sunday, and to begin praying for God’s Spirit to move in the hearts of those seeking healing, transformation, and forgiveness.
We planted Agape Church of Christ on Easter Sunday 2007. Easter was always
a great day for church planting as we celebrated Agape’s birthday and saw our attendance grow each year. Now, after leaving full time preaching ministry, we continue that pattern of inviting friends to worship with us and to enjoy a meal in our home. It is a day that brings life, hope, and relationship with Jesus.
We cannot imagine our lives without this day. While I believe that every Sunday is resurrection day, Easter reminds us that love, mercy, and hope conquer death and the fear of death. One reason is because Jesus, and his disciples, have always faced their fears because they had hope in new life.
In Luke 9:23-36, Peter, James, and John accompanied Jesus to a mountain for prayer. This happened eight days (eight is the number of the resurrection in the ancient world) after Jesus challenged them with the news that he would be rejected, crucified, killed, and raised to life. During this time Jesus told the disciples that if they were ashamed of his life and death, he would be ashamed of them. For eight days they must have wrestled with his words and the reality of his mission. The fear of his suffering (and their own) and the shame of the cross must have weighed heavily on them.
Now, on this mountain, Jesus’ three best friends came with him for a time of prayer and reflection. As usual, the three men were sleepy and did not see that Jesus’ clothes were bright and white and that he talked with Moses (the only one to see God face to face) and Elijah about his “exodus” at Jerusalem. As the three friends awoke and witnessed Jesus’ glory they offered to put up shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but while they were speaking a cloud covered them all as God spoke. Peter, James, and John were witnessing a divine event. The bright light, clothes, conversation with Jewish heroes, glory, and cloud represented one thing . . . Jesus is God. In the Bible when a cloud filled the tabernacle people ran. In this story the three friends of Jesus walk into the cloud.
Notice what Luke wrote, “they were afraid as they entered the cloud . . .” (Luke 9:34). These three realized that they were in the presence of God but overcame their fear by drawing near to the presence of Jesus. While following Jesus, his crucifixion, and resurrection come with a price, we can overcome our fears as we follow Jesus.
Planting a church was difficult. It was hard to leave an established church to step out on faith as we, like Peter, James, and John, would enter the cloud, sometimes afraid, knowing that Jesus would provide. Our fears were overcome as we saw Jesus change countless lives, touch hearts, and prove that he had indeed risen. This past week we heard the news of a member from Agape who died from a long and painful battle with cancer. Ken and Linda McDonald had both been sold into the sex industry as teenagers and finally left, found each other, and married. We met them at one of the houseless villages where we served, built homes, and led Bible studies. They came to Agape and were baptized at our Christmas service. Their struggle with drugs and alcohol continued for a few years but Linda helped Lori in her ministry and Ken sang on our praise team.
Even though Ken had AIDS, he was welcome and active in our church. After moving from Portland to South Oregon they found another good church and remained sober. Linda wrote this to me, “Ken often related the story about how you and Agape helped us get off the streets, out of the village, and into a little apartment. We have shared how much love you all gave to the homeless of Portland and told this over and over as part of our testimony. We can never thank
you in Jesus enough.”
That says it all. Their life is proof of Easter.
Ministry in houseless villages, loving those who have been trafficked and struggle with addictions, and opening our lives and homes to those who feel unworthy is one way we enter the cloud, even though we may be afraid. Even more, Ken and Linda showed us that they were willing to enter the cloud despite their fears, anxiety, and addictions. In the end Jesus saves and that was not only their testimony, but it can be ours as well.
Jesus is risen and He continues to raise others to life.