Listening to the Right Voice in Deciding Where to Plant a Church
I know, long title. But this is one of those spur-of-the-moment articles. Every morning my habit is to read the Bible, journal, and pray. My go-to routine is a chapter out of the OT, a chapter out of the NT, one Psalm, and then one Proverb. This morning I was in Judges 6 and something struck me as I read through the call of Gideon. Gideon's story is most often a familiar one used for leadership, faith, and trusting God for the impossible ... and rightly so.
The fun part of reading the Bible is that when we read and reread it we're struck by new thoughts, observations, and details we've previously missed. Most often the new insights are because of what we're going through in life, based on other things that we're learning, or topics and ideas on our minds. This morning was no different.
What struck me from this familiar passage was how many times Gideon sought confirmation during his "calling experience." At times I almost thought he was being petty and too cautious. He seemed relentless in questioning and always seeking confirmation that God was the one calling. But I also think it's because of our propensity to mythologize certain portions of Scripture that we miss some key insights from this story. For example, when we think of "angel" we think of some blond Norwegian-looking dude who looks like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV but in white robes, flip flops, and wings. Nope. Gideon just thought this "messenger" (that's what "angel" actually means) was some dude and it wasn't until fire erupted from his staff that he realized this wasn't "just some dude," but a messenger sent from God.
So repeatedly Gideon asked for clarification and confirmation. This morning what struck me about this passage was the need for church planters to be more upfront and to push back or question in order to seek clarification and confirmation when it comes to the where of church planting. What usually happens is Church Planter A from somewhere in the South or Midwest looks to move to a city like Portland (or some place far from home) and then Denominational / Network Guy X tells this planter, "hey, you should look into this part of the city because we don't have anything there." Then Church Planter A lands in Neighborhood D and within months realizes he's planting there along with 3-5 other church planters from other denominations and networks. Each of the planters were told the same thing from their denominational or network guy.
Why does this happen? This clustering? There was no push-back to seek clarification and confirmation. If Gideon had the liberty to seek clarification and confirmation (with humility) I think it's safe to say we can do the same. Why? Because we want to make sure we hear God's voice and not merely the preferences of our denominations and church planting networks. Does that sound rude and disrespectful? Only as rude and disrespectful as Gideon questioning a messenger / angel of the Lord.
I honestly believe this would remedy a lot of the clustering of church planters in the same parts of the city. I also believe that more planters would find their ways into neighborhoods, communities, and even small towns or rural areas in desperate need of a new church plant more than being one of a groundswell of hipster church planters rocking flat-billed trucker hats with the appropriate sleeve tattoos planting in the same places all trying to reach the same kind of people.