One brisk, cloudy Saturday morning, I decided to ride my bike downtown. We’d been living here for a few months, and figured that it was time for us to stop by and pick up our library cards. While I was standing at the counter, waiting for the lady to fill out the forms and get us set up in the system, we got to talking about the town, who used to live where we lived now, and the usual “hey, you’re new here” small talk. And after a bit, the topic of religion came up.
“Do you have a church yet? If not, you should check us out some weekend. We’re a church plant from a nearby city; we’re not a big group yet, but …”
Church plant? Hmm. When I think about it, the phrase conjures up thoughts of something you’d find growing in my garden. Bury a couple of pews, sprinkle on some holy water, and after a few days, up sprouts a little building with stained glass windows and a big steeple with a cross on top.
I got to thinking about this more after I’d headed home, and the thought in the back of my mind was…why? Why does our town need another “church?” There are less than two thousand people in the area, and there are already five “different churches.” So, why would someone want to “plant” another “church” in town? I mean, what’s the purpose? Is there something so significant that this “church” could offer that the others don’t? Are their pews more comfortable? Are their sermons better? Do they have more programs? It’s not even like they were a different denomination – there was already an Assemblies of God church a few blocks away. So, why would our town need another “church?”
Now, don’t get me wrong, if there wasn’t a church in the area, I could see a neighboring city wanting to try to help a group of Christ-followers get together close to their homes, because it would allow them to have a greater impact on their community. But when the area is already saturated with little churches, why would you want to waste your resources adding another one to the mix? In reality, all it does is further divide up the body of believers, which actually serves to weaken the Church in the area, because it causes their resources and efforts to be divided up that much more.
Instead of planting a church in town, if this “big church” had wanted to reach out to the Church in our community, it would have been far more effective for them to have partnered with the existing Church in town and help it along – providing resources, training, etc to help enable them to do what we are called to do as Christ-followers: to reach out to those around us with compassion and Christ’s love, to interact with the people around us in ways that allow us to actually get to know our neighbors, and as a result, to be able to speak into their lives and help meet their needs with the resources we’ve been blessed with. It’s kinda like the early church did where the Church in one area would come alongside the Church somewhere else, or like we do nowadays when working with people around the world who don’t have the resources they need to meet the needs of people in their communities.
We need to learn how to work together.