I will tell you something churches and church leaders need right now: courage.
I am writing this article in the wake of attending the BMAA National Meeting in Little Rock. Throughout the meeting, the themes of church multiplication and discipleship were repeated and emphasized continually. Pastors were encouraged to consider church-planting and examples of that very thing were given as proof that even small congregations can multiply.
“Amen” rang throughout the building at each missionary testimony and the charge that “multiplications beat additions every time.” The atmosphere of excitement could have made you truly believe that every church leader in attendance would present a church-planting plan to his congregation the following Sunday.
But we know that plans to multiply weren’t presented last Sunday at most churches. And we know that the excitement of the convention atmosphere is likely to wear off before this article even prints.
Am I writing this article to rain on the church-planting parade?
I am pointing out a reality so that we, as disciples of Christ and church members, can ask ourselves this question: What is it going to take for consistent disciple-making and church-planting to become the norm?
I believe the answer is courage. Not “belief.” Not “faith.” Courage.
Of course, faith and belief are vital, but intellectually and emotionally they can always give us a way to back out of something scary. Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit was calling you to do something that would leave you in all kinds of uncertainty — financial, emotional, relational — and that uncertainty led you to say something such as, “I am just waiting for God to open some doors.” Or, “God closed the door on that idea.” Both of these justifications imply that you were “trusting God” to lead you, and that He simply led you in another direction.
It is certainly possible that you were mistaken on what you were so sure the Holy Spirit was calling you to do. It is certainly true that God does “close doors.” But I wonder if He doesn’t close nearly as many as we give Him credit for. I wonder if the truth is that most of the time we’re just afraid. I wonder if we, especially as Americans, have come to believe that God will always provide us with clear answers about how we can get a certain thing accomplished if He is really calling us to a task.
We seem to think of God as a CEO, delegating tasks to managers and workers who have the resources and the limits of the company clearly accounted for. Of course we’ll obey the Boss, but the Boss wouldn’t ask us to do anything impossible.
I think this is the wrong picture of how God desires for us to walk with Him. I think our heavenly Father wants us to trust in Him because of our familial relationship.
To understand this, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of a four-year-old. When you were a child, did you ever go to an amusement park with your parents? These parks are filled with roller-coasters, fun houses, haunted houses and all other manner of attractions that can be thrilling but terrifying to a child. Some rides go into darkness. Literally. It’s dark inside some of those places. As a child who is new to the park, you have no idea what is around every turn or what scary pop-up monster is going to appear. It is the very picture of uncertainty.
Unless Dad is there, holding your hand.
While Dad might not tell you everything that is coming, you know he cares about you and you know he isn’t going to let you get hurt. Dad tells you to be brave even when he knows that the sudden drop at the end of the log-flume is going to scare you.
I believe this is how God wants us to trust Him. This is child-like faith; this is not childish faith.
Childish faith is always making decisions based your own comfort because you know just enough of the Bible to justify whatever you want to do or not do.
Child-like faith comes when you know the Father — your Daddy — so well that you can walk through complete darkness with Him bravely because you are His child.
And so I say to those who know what God would have them do but are afraid to do it, have courage. If you attended the national meeting and find the idea of planting a new church to be crazy, have courage. Courage is not a lack of fear, but the ability to move forward even when you are afraid because you have a heavenly Father who is seeking your good and the good of His family.