When Belinda and I moved to Olathe to launch Indian Creek, we didn’t expect other pastors and churches to be excited we were coming. But we were surprised at the sniping and cold shoulders we received. A lot has changed since then. I am thrilled with the progress in KC. There is a fresh new wind of not only cooperation but collaboration in the churches of Olathe and Kansas City. In the rest of this note I want to talk about the kind of attitude and activity that is necessary to bring about the body of Christ working together in a mature and coordinated way. You, even as a planter, can be at the center of this kind of movement. In fact, you can have a central role because you are new.
First, think Big “C” not little “c”. God is building His Church; He calls it the Body of Christ, in your city. You and your plant are an important part. You are one part of the larger body. You might be a hand in the Church of your city—and here’s the good news–because of you the Body is better equipped than ever to reach your city. In your position you are going to have multiple opportunities weekly to speak about who you are and what you are doing. You will be tempted to focus only on your plant. And no doubt this is a time to cast a clear mission and vision. Of course you can describe what makes you unique. But at the same time you have a great open door to talk about the Big “C” church. If you quickly speak well of the other churches and talk about how you are just one part of many serving God, you set the stage for building unity in the body. Your voice will be timely and strategic to send the right message. It may even serve as a beneficial correction to others who want to focus on our differences.
Build the kingdom of God not your own kingdom. You will be tempted to play up your distinctions, and I hope you are conscious of the value your plant brings, but even as you invite others in–make it clear you are out to build up the whole Body. You are one part of the whole. The way God sees it there is one Church in your city and one Leader, Jesus Christ. The rest of us are under-shepherds stewarding our congregations and our city under His leadership. It will take all of us to reach our city. Your church could take off and reach thousands and you still couldn’t reach your city by yourself. It is going to take a concerted, collaborative effort to reach our city and it starts with the way we think about who we are.
Learn to measure more than nickels and noses. We aren’t winning in our cities until the rate of those finding their way back to God outpaces the population growth. It is great that you are a new plant but the reality is in most cities more churches are closing than launching. In most cities the divorce rate is equal to the marriages. Homelessness, run-aways and suicides are at epidemic proportions. These things are unlikely to change unless the churches in a city work together. Where you find unity, love, cooperation, corporate prayer, collaborative and intentional efforts among churches and not-for-profits you will see the light push back the darkness. I suggest you keep track of more than just your own statistics. Learn what the needs are in your community and team up with other churches to make a transformational difference. What happens outside your services is every bit as important as what happens inside your ministries. Team up with others in your city and community to serve your schools, to meet real tangible needs and watch God take care of your needs in divine ways.
You can do this if from the beginning you have a missional mindset. Think like a missionary moving into your city. Take stock of the kingdom assets around you and work together to avoid duplication. When you see a gap work with others to meet that need as God leads you. You don’t have to do everything. In fact it might be more strategic and purposeful to find one place you can make a difference and use it like a beachhead of transformation.
Tithe your time to ministry in your city outside your own plant. Get to know the other pastors in your city. Take them out to lunch and buy. Compliment them and learn from them. Promise to speak well of them and cast a vision for One church working together in a coordinated and mature way. Psalm 133 says, Where brothers dwell together in unity God commands a blessing. Pray for the other pastors and churches in your city especially when you are praying with your own team. Invest time in getting to know city officials. Ask the principals of the schools around you how you can serve them. Attend citywide prayer times or concerts of prayer. Join efforts where the churches in your community work together to do serving projects. Make it clear you are there to help the Bride of Christ look more beautiful than ever.
Avoid the pride that can come when you grow and others are not growing. Enjoy the growth and give God credit for it but realize some of what is at work is others are checking you out from other churches. Don’t give in to comparisons and don’t fall for it when people act you are the best thing to ever come to their city and then they tell you about the failings of others. These church consumers will leave you too and often a trail of destruction in their path when they go. Remember the words of Jesus, Beware when all men speak well of you (Luke 6:26). He also refused to take compliments to heart because He knew what was in the hearts of men (John 2:25). Some of the same ones that cheer you now will speak negatively about you later. Strive to grow by winning people to Christ and making new disciples. And if you are blessed with growth be sure you are also looking to equip people, release them and send them out to expand the work of God beyond you. We are called to reproduce and that means new groups, new missional communities, new campuses and new churches.
God will honor your efforts and He may even use you and your plant like leaven in your city. There will be a rise of the healthiness and life of the whole Church because of you. Since you are new, you have a unique opportunity to lead. The eyes of many will be on you. God is looking for leaders who are not just looking out for themselves, but for His greater purposes. You have an opportunity to bless the very nature of God and the Church in your city by the way you lead your plant. Go for it!