Reveal the Encounter Issue 6

You may have noticed that we are a little behind in posting, but this next part of the story has taken some time to work through.  So much happened in such a short time that it can be so easy to miss something and I don’t want you to miss out on any of the significance and impact.  We had already decided to plant a church to replace ourselves, but there was so much more to do.  Starting one new church only touched a fraction of our potential to build the Kingdom.  We had to really start dreaming big because a Legacy isn’t made or kept by dreaming small.  Now, I don’t mean that it has to be huge actions, but they need to stretch ourselves and our influence. The action needs to have a big impact, whether the action is big or small itself.  This group of leaders at Rose Hill began dreaming of how they could leave a Legacy that would impact and keep impacting the building of the Kingdom, specifically in South Arkansas. Before COVID, a lot of our sister churches were struggling with plateauing or actually being in decline.  It felt like we had closed more churches and we hadn’t really starting any new churches and ministries.  We didn’t want our situation to feel like another defeat, but instead be a boost for this district.  Our other small churches needed to know that the end of the local church doesn’t have to be the end of its impact and efforts to build the Kingdom.  I believe that a church can become so focused on not dying that they lose their effectiveness in the mission.  Live or die, the focus always has to be on the mission of building the Kingdom.  Also, don’t forget that local churches come and go, but Christ’s Church has been here and it’s not going anywhere.

The discussions started and as I had shared before, the group desired any decision they made to be in harmony with the following words used to define legacy: unforgettable, generous, abundance, blessing, help, missional, hope and long-lasting.  When building the Kingdom, we have to take the unique and diverse settings of every community and ministry area into account.  Our decisions needed to help fit that diverse and dynamic need.  We also felt that the best way to help build the Kingdom was through new churches.  The Church needs new people following God’s prompting in their lives to live out and fulfill the mission.  So, we made a list of the current church plants on our district and decided on how much we wanted to give each one.  But, we also knew that the Legacy of Love needed to live on and continue past these first few church plants.  If these church plants do what we hoped and prayed for, we would need funds to help finance more church plants in the future.  A church plant grant was designed and implemented for South Arkansas Nazarene District.  New church plants in the future could apply for this grant and receive up to the same amount of money we had given each of the current plants.

Planting churches is as dynamic and diverse as the communities and people we are trying to reach.  I am so glad to see a resurgence within the church to plant churches, but unfortunately we have really stuck to one model or method of planting churches.  Our imagination to build the Kingdom shouldn’t be limited to only one model or mindset.  We felt that tension ourselves because our very own church plant didn’t even fit into this go to model.  This popular model is still very building centric and/or worship service centric.  Not only should every church be different, but its impossible to effectively start new churches in many areas when we have a model that requires so much money to implement.  It costs a lot of money to rent or purchase property, more than most church plants can afford, and let’s face it, shouldn’t we spending more of our money on people and not buildings?  I can’t help but wonder if this is why church planting isn’t done as much as it should be.  We wanted to help these church plants with whatever model they were using and not restrict them.  We wanted church plants to also be able to focus on people and not their finances.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you may remember that this sounds familiar.  Rose Hill sold its building and restructured itself.  Encounter is completely structured so that we don’t have to worry about building and money.  There was really no way to start a new church in our area under $250,000 and if you wish to own property, you would need around $2,000,000.  We are and should only be primarily focused on people and I believe that if anything gets in the way of that being our priority, then we need to reevaluate and restructure.  This is not to say that buildings are bad, it is saying that we shouldn’t allow it to be a priority over the mission.  We are currently using a building as a network office and hub.  We are actually renting space from our sister church, space they’re not using.  So, we have the space we need without breaking the bank and they are utilizing their excess space while bringing in some additional income to help them focus on their mission.

If you have noticed anything from this blog, I pray that you have noticed that we believe ministry and the church needs to be driven from the mission of building the Kingdom.  This entire Legacy of Love for Rose Hill that founded Encounter Church, that helped give financial resources to new church plants was all about trying to build the Kingdom.    Encounter will have times that they need to use a facility for network gatherings, but we are going to use facilities that other churches already have.  If someone or a local church is more worried about building their kingdom, they will always be driven to build a nice big fancy building then focusing on the mission.  But, a church who wants to build the Kingdom won’t alway need to and/or want to build a building.  Again, I’m not saying that owning a building is wrong or bad.  I am saying that we need to make sure that having a building is an effective and practical part of building God’s Kingdom and not our kingdom and ego.

Trying to stay focused on building God’s Kingdom sounds like a really easy thing, but it is so much harder than you would think.  People and our preferences get in the way of it so easily.  We want to do the things that are easiest for us, the things that we like or bring us comfort.  Building the Kingdom is never about us, it’s always about God, that’s why we have to stay focused on Christ and let everything else flow from there.  God will not steer us wrong.  We add a lot of things into the process of trying to be the church that aren’t a necessity to being the church, they are traditions and personal preference.  I may sound like a broken record, but again, there’s nothing wrong with traditions or preferences, they just can’t take precedence over the mission.  That’s the incredible thing over church plants, they are pure passion for building the Kingdom.  They haven’t had a chance to build traditions or personal preferences.  They haven’t even had a chance to build those “sacred cows” that churches are so well known for.  Not all established churches struggle with the mission, but you can’t hardly ever find a church plant that doesn’t have a zeal for building the Kingdom.

Dreaming of how the Kingdom could be built and grown in partnership with Rose Hill’s Legacy of Love was an incredible feeling and experience.  Once we worked through all the intricacies and had a plan that was approved and finalized, we began to invite these church planters in to be surprised.  We wanted to hear their hearts, their unique callings, how they were being called to uniquely build the Kingdom.  We wanted to partner with them in every way possible and that required hearing their hearts.  Now, usually when someone comes into a church for something like that, they are given some kind of love offering or gift to help them with their ministry.  These planters were expecting a gift, but never in their wildest dreams did they expect what they would receive.  While we were securing this Legacy of Love, we had some of the most Spirit-filled and powerful services we had ever had.  We worshiped together, we prayed together and we blessed one another in ways we never expected.  Our end as a church was at hand but we in the process we gave ourselves away and God blessed our hearts and spirits in incredible ways.  Building God’s Kingdom will never be dull, even for those who are watching from the sidelines.

We won’t go into all the details at this time, but I can testify that these church plants are doing some incredible things in Building the Kingdom.  Some church plants will survive, some will flourish and some will struggle.  One cannot forget that we are still fighting a spiritual battle, a battle where the enemy does not want us to start new churches to help us save more people.  We can’t get discouraged when one fails, and it will happen, but instead we need to plant as many as possible to increase our odds of some surviving and growing roots.  I am also a strong believer that a fruit of a healthy church is starting new churches.  One cannot do it all, even if we are a mega church.  We need to start new types of ministries, we need our current churches to help start new churches.  We need new types of churches that reflect the diverse and dynamic beauty of God’s Creation.  One model of the church is not the answer for all.  There is no way that one church can meet the needs of every person in a community because we are all so unique.  The only option to make one church work would be to force people to all be the same.  But wait, I think we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. Local churches cannot compete with one another, but we can’t force everyone to be the same either.  Local churches need to work together, helping one another, so that the whole body can be healthy and effective.  This almost sounds as if something like this could be included the Bible!!  Let’s be the New Testament Church and build the Kingdom together in a diverse and dynamic way in order to be effective in a diverse and dynamic world!

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