In our church planting endeavors, we have been counseled over and over that the fast eat the slow, and that we need to start with a bang, launch big and create momentum right out of the starting gates if we are going to survive. We are told this is necessary because 80 percent of church plants don’t survive. This is a sobering statistic.
The experts say that in order to beat this statistic, you need to do the said items mentioned above. My belief is that this is fool’s gold.
A church community may launch big and create a ton of momentum in the beginning, but at what cost? What drew the people in the first place? What is the heartbeat, the ethos and values, that have plumbed the depths of people’s souls?
I often think of the Parable of the Soils where Jesus tells the story of seeds that fell on four different kinds of soil. Some seeds fell on shallow soil and a plant grew up quick, and it looked good from the outside, but it had no roots, and when it faced long winters and scorching summers, it withered and died.
The seed that took to the good soil didn’t bloom up as quick, but it was developing a root system unseen by the observers. In our culture, we view success by the outward results, and unfortunately, we lose out when we bypass what is happening internally and skip the process of letting the seed take root.
It’s been tempting to start fast, especially in a city where I’m from and have a lot of relationships, but the conviction that has been given is that our focus is on the depth of ministry and let God take care of the breadth of the ministry.
We have a long-view in mind, not wanting to be a flash in a pan, but hoping and praying that this community would be around long after some of us are gone. For that to happen, it needs to be cultivated, and that has been our focus since we started a year ago: to cultivate.
This approach of cultivation doesn’t look sexy from the outside, as we’re not trying to attract people with a killer worship band, but my belief is that this is the secret sauce for longevity in church planting, because the focus is on personal relationships, soul-care, health, identity in Jesus. Essentially, it’s about being a prepared, loved and loving community whose roots are deep to welcome anyone into our midst in the move from cultivation to planting.