[Five] Lessons From A [Five-Point] Calvinist About Planting A Church With [Five] People

Church planting is hard work, so there is really no need to make it any harder than it should be. In this post I want to share with you the hand-full of lessons I have learned thus far in the nearly two months since I began the core group phase of launching Foundation Community Church.

  1. If you are married, make sure your spouse is 100% on board. I’m dead certain that if my wife was not completely on board with the start of Foundation, that I would’ve quit after a few weeks. While you may be the pastor, you can not separate your wife from you in ministry. Your wife is the only person who will shoot straight with you concerning ministry all the while seeking the best for you no matter what the circumstance is. More than that, if your spouse isn’t on board, then you will inevitably put unnecessary strain on your marriage. It’s hard enough to do ministry and be married, but with all the uncertainties of church planting, a marriage can become strained in a heartbeat.
  2. Don’t be discouraged the week that few to no people show up. The core group for Foundation averages about 6-7 people, so if a few people are sick or out of town it seems to be like dominos and they all tumble in succession. I had this happen to me two weeks ago and if I hadn’t had my wife on board I would’ve walked away from the church. It is demoralizing for no one to show up. But my wife kept reminding me that we have done zero advertising (though we plan to soon) so the only people who know about the church are those who we tell. Believe me, you’ll live even if you miss a service/group meeting here or there—I believe it’s one way to remind me that God runs the show and not me and that my plans won’t always work.
  3. Don’t let the absence of a particular ministry keep you from planting. I am in absolutely no way musically inclined. As a result I never really befriended musicians. So every week we sing songs via youtube. I know that many pastors would advise against this, however, I’ve seen it work before and it’s working for us. I obviously want a live band to lead worship, but until those people show up my options are 1) play songs off of youtube or 2) run everybody off with my singing. Clearly I’m opting for youtube! But this goes for just about every ministry within the church. Just because you don’t have a leader for the kids ministry doesn’t mean you should delay planting. We have one family that has a child and they want their son in the service, but at the same time I dream of having a “state-of-the-art” children’s ministry where to remember sometimes!
  4. Don’t be afraid to cover the basics. My first two series have been extremely basic. We did a four-part series on “What Is The Gospel” and I’m currently in the middle of a three-part series on “Exploring The Ekklesia” (click the link to listen to sermons [shameless plug]). Both series lay the foundation for the future of the church and helps to get everybody on the same page so that we all know what we’re about and why we do thing the way we do.
  5. Don’t be afraid to be different. I’m not your typical “Reformed” pastor (some will hesitate to call me Reformed at all based on what I’m about to say). I hold to a tighter view than most of the Normative Principle of Worship or a looser view than most of the Regulative Principle of Worship, depending on how you want to look at it. When I preached my “senior sermon” entitled “A Modern Day Prodigal Son” I played Brantley Gilbert’s song, by the same name, in order to give the audience something to attach the sermon to. During our current series on the church I’m beginning the sermon by playing “My Church” (you know, the Maren Morris song that plays constantly on the radio). I want to do everything that I possibly can in order to help people understand better, and remember longer, the Scriptures—and sometimes that means being creative, even if others think you’re pushing the limits.

 

I’ve learned a lot more than just five lessons, but these five lessons I believe are the most impactful lessons I’ve learned yet. Church planting is everything I ever dreamed it would be, and I want to be of help to anyone considering doing or currently doing the hard work of church planting. I’d love to help you however I can, please feel free to reach out to me!

Sanctification in Community: Reflections on Philippians 1:27-30

sanctificationincommunity

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For He has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for Him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.  – Philippians 1:27-30, NRSV

I’m currently preparing to preach over this passage at my church as we continue our series in the book of Philippians, and the key thing that I see in this passage is Paul’s desire for corporate sanctification in the midst of suffering and persecution. That’s really a major theme in the entire book.

Notice first, Paul says that he wants us to live a life in a manner worthy of the Gospel. That sounds like the “Christian thing” to do, right? But what does that really look like? The first answer that comes to my mind (and it may come to your mind as well) is sanctification. But what is sanctification? The biblical definition of sanctification is ‘setting apart.’ But I feel like we, in the Church, have a distorted  view of sanctification. We’ve got it all boiled down to an individual moralism where we have to make sure we do all the things we’re supposed to as Christians and then we get to stand back, look at our giant pile of good works that we’ve done for the day, and make sure that those good things outnumber the bad things that we do. But the problem is that our giant pile of good works is just that – A GIANT PILE (of what, I’m sure you can figure out).

In his sermon on Galatians 1:1-10, Daniel Emery Price talks about how we often look at the free gift of Gospel and we might think that it’s too good to be true, so what we do is think to ourselves, “there’s got to be more to the Gospel than this, there’s got to be some rules and regulations.” So, we know that Jewish dietary restrictions and other certain laws are done away with in Christ, but we end up creating our own rules and regulations. We’re perfectly allowed to eat bacon, but God forbid we light up a good ol’ Marlboro Menthol cigarette or even better, a nice Oliva V cigar.

So then, we turn sanctification into something that we offer to God through obedience to laws that we’ve made for ourselves and in the process we deceive ourselves and others by believing and proclaiming that we’re following the law of God.

What then does the Bible actually say about sanctification? The Apostle Peter gives us this insight:

Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. – 1 Peter 1:14-19, NRSV

The word, “holy” means “other, set apart.” What Peter is telling us is that just as God is “other” or distinct from His creation so we should be “other” or distinct from those who do not embrace the Gospel of Christ. There is then a responsibility to conduct ourselves different from the rest of the world. And we often refer to this new conduct as holiness. One might be inclined to ask the question, “how does that not result in moralism?”

Imagine if you’re a father or mother and you’re teaching a child to walk. You’re not looking for any skills in the child that would contribute to him learning to walk, you’re simply trying to guide the child until it can walk on it’s own so it is with God who sanctifies us. He’s drawing us close to Him, and guiding us with His Spirit so we can walk with Him. Will that result in behavior modification? Maybe, but behavior modification isn’t the point, the Gospel of God coming to us and letting Him work in our lives is the point. When we understand this, we can then see that sanctification is process that we join and participate in with God rather than something that we contribute to our salvation.

(For more information on this, I highly recommend Dallas Willard’s lecture on Spiritual Formation as Natural Part of Salvation.)

Now, when we get back to our passage in Philippians 1, we see that Paul wants that to happen in community. Notice verse 27, Paul fully expects them to be “standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” When we consider this, we see that our sanctification isn’t a static, individual act, but it is an active community project that we assist one another in as God works in us to do so.