Can you cope with the mess?

Photo by Andrew Neel on

The other day, I shared an article about the need for generous Gospel partnership if we are to reach the unreached parts of our urban areas, our towns and the cities.  I noticed today that someone had added a comment after a friend shared the article on Facebook. The point was that as well as financial support and prayer support and as well as training and sending pastors, we need people simply to come and join church plants, small churches and revitalisations. We need people to be part of the congregation, to bring their gifts to serve in prayer, stewarding, music, children’s work, outreach etc.  I agree completely.

However, if you are going to come and be part of a church plant or revitalisation, here are a couple of things to bear in mind. First, please don’t plan simply to commute to the plant, travelling in by car for a 20-30 minute journey each Sunday.  You will need to move into the community the church is seeking to reach. You want to be the neighbour who invites those living next door to come along with you. You want to be visible as everyday church in the week.

Secondly, please don’t join the plant to escape a church where you are unhappy or where you have got bored or frustrated. The last thing that the new church needs is nomads who travel from one church to another enjoying the novelty at first but quickly getting discontent again.

Thirdly, please don’t expect everything to be neat and tidy. Be prepared for some mess. I don’t mean that you tolerate stuff being broken or mouse droppings on the floor!  Rather, I mean that the way the church functions may well be messy.  Be ready for life as people genuinely wrestle with decisions together. Be ready to see new believers battling with temptation and getting it wrong. Be ready to spend time with people who may not have their theology all neat and tidy yet.

Fourthly come ready to serve how and where you are needed.  Now, I think in recent years we Evangelicals have got this badly wrong.  There is a resistance to things like rotas and being allocated to stuff that doesn’t excite us. Over the years I’ve used the analogy of home life. You know there are things you love to do at home, some of you love baking and others enjoy DIY. You contribute those things because they are your gifts, there is no hardship in them. However, there are always those jobs that no-one wants to do, usually the washing and drying up.  They still need to be done and the best way to get them done is for everyone to help out at least from time to time. There are also ways that we can make those jobs more enjoyable such as working and chatting with someone else.

Similarly in church, we all bring our gifts but sometimes there is stuff that just needs doing. At the same time, sometimes we turn up with gifts and talents but that is not the area we are needed in at the moment. You may be good at youthwork but the church may not have teens yet, or you may be great on guitar but there are actually 3 other guitarists and no drummer yet.  Sometimes we can confuse “serving” with our desire to express ourselves and find fulfilment. So, instead of insisting that you are given an opportunity to do something, why not simply ask “How/Where can I serve?” It is both so lovely and so rare to hear those words.

A lot of what I have just said would apply to any church context.  However, I want to particularly highlight again the need of urban plants and replants. There is a real need for servant hearted people to commit to joining such churches and getting fully involved in the life of the church and the community.

Could this be you? If you want more information about potential opportunities to be part of a planting team, please give me a shout via the contact page and I’ll try and link you up with where the need is.

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