It’s the dead of summer, but about 60 of our wise ones gathered to apply their wisdom to “church planting” — the art of sowing the seed of Jesus and hoping for the harvest, the work of taking a piece of your starter for the Bread of Life and making a new lump of dough.
It was a lively two hours. Several people wondered why we didn’t go for three. Many more said, “We need another meeting very soon to get to questions we didn’t answer.” The big thing our leadership team needed to know was whether the church is ready to take some risky and practical steps to make Jesus and his church even more expansive and better equipped, “Do you want to buy more buildings, start more businesses, hire more staff, be the alternative expression you are designed to be, do what it takes to fulfill our calling?” Some thought the dialogue was way overdue. Some thought talking about such things might be wrong or misguided. It was a large, diverse, wise group.
Serious enough for nuts and bolts
On the one hand, the meeting was full of a broad spectrum of reactions to the three questions we got to:
- How important is a building to a new congregation?
- Should congregations make it on their own, or does it make sense to create business in order to supply their needs as they get going?
- Does hiring staff before we “need” them make sense for generating expansion?
Some people were surprised to be included in the nuts and bolts of being the church. (You may be surprised the topic is here on our blog instead of “Five Ways to Feel Better”!). But we are open to everyone’s input. We’re a community knit together by the Holy Spirit. So why shouldn’t we all take a shot at answering important questions?: How do we have a building in a competitive, expensive market? How much do we need one? What is the best ratio of committed people sharing their resources and business income? At what point do we diminish the excitement of sharing our spiritual gifts by hiring people to do things? These are serious questions for serious people. We didn’t even think to Instagram it.
Loving enough for healthy dialogue
On the other hand the meeting was a feast of community and integrity. I was surprised so many people would show up. I was even more surprised that so many people were able to have a peaceful, careful, discerning dialogue with very few rules but love to guide it. We were not there to come to conclusions as much as we were gathered to breed mutuality. Dialogue holds us together, unlike so much of the world today, where it drives people into their factions. In a dialogue of love, in a body where reconciliation rules, good decisions are made and bad decisions are redeemed. It would be great to have another meeting soon and get to the rest of our questions if only for the pleasure of listening to fine people share their thoughts and hearts.
I wish I could keep the analogy working somehow. What should it be: fifty dinner rolls and five loaves to represent our cells and congregations? Whatever it is, the yeast of God’s presence is making it all grow, including you and me. Our hearts just keep getting bigger—more hospitable, more empowered to transform, the longer we live in love.