Edit: We just had our first preview service this past Sunday! I love our team! Alas, I’ll save that for another post while I finish this one…
This post comes after reading this excellent piece, which I highly recommend.
This Sunday, Hope Church NYC hosts our first public worship gathering.
A lot of effort is going into this Sunday, and after a moment of pause this morning, I realize there are some tensions I’m carrying as we move into this stage of the planting process. Here are some of them.
1) Numbers don’t matter… right? One of the biggest reasons I wanted to plant a church was so that we could be a people where relationships mattered more than the Sundays, and that these relationships would be where God met us most powerfully.
In many ways, this value of relationships goes against the grain of growing large numerically too quickly.
And yet, there’s this nagging thing in me that thinks God is MOST likely to show up if the room is packed.
But if the room is packed, many visitors will likely be overlooked and our volunteers might be over-extended.
I think as Evangelicals, the phrase “God showed up!” can often be synonymous with “We had our largest attendance ever!”.
I think I’ve been around church world long enough to know that numbers don’t tell the whole story. They tell a story, and quite honestly a very helpful one when the numbers increase at a healthy pace. However, numbers aren’t the entire story.
But can God show up if the room is not packed?
Well, if the focus is on relationships, then the answer is yes.
Hence, the question that we’ve been wrestling with as a leadership team – how can our Sundays facilitate more authentic relationships?
2) Six Days Versus Sunday – There’s a lot of planning going into Sunday. There are many logistical concerns… and I’m also preaching a sermon!
It’s easy for most of my time to go into the few hours on Sunday.
But some questions I’m asking myself Monday-Saturday are:
– Are you investing in transforming relationships?
– Are you loving your family well?
– Are you being a witness of Christ’s death and resurrection to those you see and meet Monday-Saturday?
3) Staying True to Values Versus Following the Trends – I have a great advisory team at Hope that’s challenged me on this frequently. There’s so much literature on church planting, and I’m even attending the Exponential Conference next week.
All this means I’m full of great ideas, usually taken from the latest thing I’m reading or the most recent speaker or coach I’ve listened to.
At some point, I have to remember that being a pastor is context-specific, and a great idea doesn’t mean it’s a great idea for Hope.
4) A Journey for God Versus a Journey To God – It’s so easy to get caught up in tasks in church planting. There are people to call, things to organize, events to plan – all of which, in my mind, I’m doing for God.
I’ve found in vocational ministry that I fall into a bad place when my journey for God doesn’t necessarily lead me to God.
A common prayer that I’ve said lately, influenced by the words of my mentor Ken Shigematsu, is “Lord, may my journey for you be a journey to you.”
May that be the prayer of us all –
“Lord, may my journey for you be a journey to you.”
I believe this is an apt prayer for us all.
Amen and amen.