By: Luis Cuevas, Boise Site Pastor
“It’s so key to remember that following Jesus is a lifestyle “on the move.” We don’t stop to admire what we’ve accomplished. Rather, we press on to what lies ahead. William Faulkner said, “They are not monuments, but footprints. A monument only says, ‘At least I got this far,’ while a footprint says, ‘This is where I was when I moved again.'”
- Eugene Peterson
When I moved to Ellensburg to help plant Resonate’s first church outside of the Palouse, I was young, excited, and unaware of how difficult the planting process would be. I was only 23 years old, we had never planted a church before, and everything was new. I complained often to those around me about how hard it was, how impossible the task ahead seemed, and how lonely I felt. The anxiety and frustration seemed to take precedence over anything that God was doing around me. The challenges that accompany a move to plant a church feel like they outweigh the blessings. It is easy to get caught up in the difficulties and feel like you are a sojourner who is out on your own, trying to do what God has called you to.
During this dark season, I remember lamenting to God about how he could ask anyone to go on such a difficult journey. I felt like a depressed David writing psalms in my room and not realizing the work God was doing in my life. But like most difficult seasons, I finally came out on the other side and realized that God was exposing the idols in my life and was making me into a person that relied on Him more than on anything else.
I would like to encourage young potential church planters with a passage of scripture that speaks to us about how we are to live in the cities we are sent to. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says:
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, you shall choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for He is your life [your good life, your abundant life, your fulfillment] and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord promised to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” [AMP]
THREE THINGS EVERY CHURCH PLANTER NEEDS TO DO BEFORE THEY MOVE:
1. CHOOSE LIFE
In this passage of scripture God is preparing the Israelites for the task ahead of them. He has given them a land where he has promised prosperity and life, but they have a choice to make. The promise is accompanied by a condition: they must love him with everything they have, follow his ways, and listen to his voice. God told them that in the world there would be competing realities that would not produce life but produce death. The ways of our Father and his kingdom produce life and prosperity. Idol worship and sin only produce death. If they wanted to see multiplication and growth they would need to reject the competing narratives and choose life every day.
As you prepare to plant a church or move with a team consider this practice: Start reading your Bible every day, and let that be the biggest influence on how you live your life. How can you obey a God you do not know? If you want to be an asset to your team and useful for the Kingdom, make sure you are strengthening the most important relationship of your church planting team, the one between you and your Heavenly Father.
2. OBEY HIM
During my first stint in church planting I didn’t know what obedience to Christ really looked like. I thought that moving to a new place was enough for God to bless me and for me to see prosperity. What we see in the people of Israel is that they did not see fruit by simply moving to a new place, but instead saw God’s faithfulness in daily obedience throughout the process. God does not simply want just any group of people would move into a new land, he desires an obedient group of people to bring him glory as they go.
As you prepare to move consider this practice: When you fail to live up to God’s standard, which you will, will you confess your sin to your community, and believe and trust the gospel?
3. HOLD FAST TO JESUS
This final challenge in Deuteronomy 30 stands out to me the most. It says to love God, obey his voice, and hold fast to him. In his book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” Eugene Peterson says this about the people of God:
“Two biblical designations for people of faith: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple (mathetes) says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. We don’t learn in a school, but at the work site of the craftsman. We seek not to acquire information about God but skills in faith.”
As you prepare to move, young church planter, learn to invest in your apprenticeship to Jesus. Learn what it means to hold fast to him. Like an apprentice learns on the job site, you learn along the way. You do not need to know everything before you move, but as you move, cling to Jesus like your life depends on it. Church planting is hard, but I’d choose this life again and again. God didn't save us to give us comfort. Movement has always been in the cards for followers of Jesus. If you dare to make the journey, I guarantee you will look more like Jesus in the end and see his mission lived out, and isn't that what this life is for anyway?