So you may be asking, what kind of church would be called Project 938. I assure you that I have asked the same question. The one thing I always knew is that I wasn’t going to pastor a church with a “stupid name” with like a number in it. But I would like to share my story of how it has captivated my heart and why I believe that it has to be the name of our church.
I got into church planting because I believe that there is nothing more special, more influential and more important to the heart of God than the local church. I arrived here by reading about Jesus and seeing the local church at its worst and at its best. I felt that the way I could use my life to make the biggest difference in the world was to serve a movement that would repopulate our region with loving, healthy churches.
But here is the thing. People don’t trust the church anymore. In 1995, 6% of the nation considered themselves non-affiliated with a church. That went up to 15% by 2006 and in 2015, that number was 23%. I can only imagine that our region of the world and with a few more years, our area will report that number above 30% soon. But here is the thing, the interest that people have in spirituality has not diminished at all in that time period. In fact, it has stayed even. That means that people are still hungry for spiritual meaning in their lives, but the church “as they know it” isn’t on their menu. They still have the same questions that keep coming up, like a beach ball you try to hold under water, but they don’t have a place to answer the questions. Like U2, they “still haven’t found what they are looking for.”
Reflecting on that made me realize that they need hope that church can be something different than what they have moved on from. Their first impression of a church has to give them a picture that something is different, it has to be better than what they have known. The name has to give them hope that it is what they are looking for.
Matthew 9:35-38 has been quite formative for me in my own path of ministry and as we began considering planting a church, I and others began praying at 9:38 each day (and we continue to), asking God to lead us forward. As I reflected on the passage, three words have come to the surface that, to me, feel like defining words for my life in ministry and words that our world need to experience. Those words are Community|Faith|Compassion.
I will start with the “C” words.
Community—When Jesus looks at the crowds, he sees an accumulation of individuals all who need to experience him personally. He doesn’t wave a wand and fix everybody, but instead, he envisions a church that would be sent to them. God wants this world to experience Him through His people in a community. I am not saying that God doesn’t meet people as individuals. He absolutely does that, but people were made for relationships and the church is God’s way of meeting people through relationships.
Compassion—It has been well-documented that the biggest grievance unchurched people have against the church is that it is “judgmental.” Compassion is the opposite of judgment and it was Jesus’s “compassion” for the crowds that fuels his vision for the church. God has changed my life through the compassion I have found in others and what I have seen in ministry over the last several years has been the radical healing power of compassion in relationships. The world needs the compassion of Jesus and there is no other, more powerful way of experiencing it, than through the local church.
Faith—We have an objective faith, that which is handed down to us and that is the bearing point for all we do and the gospel handed down to us in scripture anchors the church and directs the church as we follow Jesus. That word, seen from another angle, could be reflected upon as our personal faith. This is the "assurance of what is not seen" use of the word. My struggle with faith comes from the way I like to control everything and protect myself from any sort of vulnerability. And, in modern suburbia, I can do this, but when I do, I lose so much. And I think the world around me struggles similarly.
Jesus, in the story, calls us to look on the world in faith. He invites us to see an abundant harvest. The people who were with him didn’t see it, they needed faith. We need it too. In a world where we can control so much with our talent and resources, the only way to break ourselves of our self-sufficiency that so often leads to self-absorption is faith in something bigger than ourselves, something that can import more meaning, purpose, joy, hope, and love into our lives. It is faith in the one who made us for a purpose and calls us to follow Him to fulfill that purpose.
It is by faith we are planting a church expecting a wonderful harvest.
There is a quote that I came by a few years back that has proven so true in my life as we have stepped forward to plant this church. I hope you see in it the same truth and can experience it for yourself:
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the