"The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know."Albert Einstein
I’m no Einstein, but I do resonate with this quote. I have only been a church planter for four years. Village Church is not quite three years old and I’m still a relatively young man. The last few years of church planting have shown me how much I have to learn:
1. You will say no to some really great things.
When you are the new church in town, lots of people want to know what you are about. They may have a list of things you should be about: some noble and good, others consumerist and agenda-driven. All things must be evaluated in light of the vision and mission of the church, taking into account the season of life that your church is in. The hardest opportunities to pass up match your vision and mission but not the season of life your church is in. This requires patience.
Sometimes a young church has to say “no” to mission trips, or a youth group, or a homeless ministry, or an after-school program. Not every opportunity will be easy to pass on, and you will need to be diligent in seeking the wise counsel of others before you bite off more than you can chew. Sure it’s easy to say no to a Puppet Ministry or Bell Choir, but the choices are rarely that clear.
2. It takes a long time before your community wants to hear from you.
This is particularly true if you are an “out-of-towner.” Dr. John Perkins, leader of the Christian Community Development Association, makes this point often. Establishing credibility takes time and cannot be rushed. People want to know that you are going to be around for a while before they are interested in your opinion. They want to know that your kids go to school with their kids, that you sleep in the same neighborhood they sleep in, that you shop where they shop. If you ever want to be one of “them” you have to follow the lead of Jesus and be with them. This involves a lot of listening before speaking.
San Francisco is associated with a lot of things. For some it is the Gold Rush, the Beat Generation and the Hippie Movement. For others it is the Golden Gate Bridge, trolley cars and rows upon rows of narrow Victorian houses. More recently San Francisco has become associated with tech startups, expensive housing and $4 artisanal toast—which is delightful, I might add.
One association looms large in the minds of many Americans—San Francisco as the “Gay Mecca.” It is easy to understand why. No city has a richer history of LGBT communities, political action and social movements. The city’s Castro neighborhood is home to one of the United States’ first and most influential gay communities. This is where Harvey Milk lived and was assassinated. It was the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS Crisis in the 80’s. San Francisco is where the Rainbow flag first became associated with gay pride and LGBT rights.
At no time is San Francisco’s LGBT history and population more celebrated than during the city’s Pride Celebration and Parade, held during the last weekend of June each year. This event is truly the city’s most significant holiday and is widely attended by San Francisco’s most influential political, civic, and business leaders. Over 1.5 million people attended this year’s parade.
"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."
1 John 3:18
So many of our churches model Christ in the way they serve their communities. Last week alone, over 1,000 hours were logged by people in Baltimore and New York City to clean up and rejuvenate dilapidated areas. While pouring out love, they get the opportunity to speak truth.
What kind of sacrifices, planning and budgeting and fundraising goes into building a faith community from the ground up? And can starting new churches be the future of Christian spirituality in America?