For those of you who were unaware, this previous weekend was marked by a gathering of pastors and other leaders involved in the Crossway Chapel church planting movement (http://www.crosswaychapel.org/) for the third annual Catalyst church planting conference. It was held in our sister church Windsor Community. Represented there were leaders from:
Fort Collins, Colorado (www.mvcchurch.org, www.thecrossingfc.org)
Windsor, Colorado (http://www.windsorchurch.org/home/)
Ault, Colorado (http://www.highplainsharvest.org/)
Wilmington, North Carolina (http://www.crosswaywilmington.org/)
McMinnville, Oregon (http://creeksidemac.com/default.aspx)
Toms River, New Jersey (http://remedynj.com/)
Vsetin, Czech Republic (http://cb.cz/vsetin.majak/)
From the get go, the Crossing has been part of this church planting movement. And by God’s grace we will continue take part in the process of replicating healthy, doctrinally sound, gospel centered local churches that strive to make Christ known as we endeavor to remain such a church ourselves.
For those who were not there, the basic layout of the conference revolved around a series of five messages that sought to understand the various ways in which the words of Jesus in Mark 8:34-35 applied to church planting. These messages were punctuated by Q&A sessions with a panel as well as table discussions. I will very briefly discuss some of these here, but the messages and panel questions will be available for download in the near future, and I’ll provide the link as soon as I have it.
Being a Catalyst for Change – Tom Harcus
In this message, Tom Harcus from Crossway Chapel of Wilmington challenged us to lay aside the “consumer culture” that has invaded much of the American church and instead pick up the cross of “Kingdom culture.” There are flagrant differences between the two, but those that Tom highlighted most vividly were those that demonstrated where consumer culture tends to be passive, safe, and look only to the temporal, Kingdom culture is rooted in a proactive and risky approach to a life that sets its hopes in eternity. If we are to see drastic change for the Kingdom of God, we must be willing to take up the cross of difficulty, but we will gain a crown of glory in the process. In other words, it will be well worth it.
Missional Living – Eric Loyer
Eric Loyer from New Jersey (who preached at the Crossing on Sunday) delivered a message that took a deep and discerning look at the heart that is behind missional living. The idea of missional living stems from the thought that we ought to be intentional for the mission of God in the redemption of lost souls within the areas that God has placed us. However, instead of giving us a “how to” message or berating us for not living missionally enough, Eric went to the heart of what is needed for every person who desires to live missionally, and that is a firm faith and standing in the gospel of Jesus. Apart from the gospel, our intentions to live missionally will be compromised by either discouragement (pending failure) or pride (pending success) and thus we run the risk of “losing our souls” in the process. However, if we are firmly rooted in the gospel, our life will be a cross bearing missional response to that very gospel as we strive forward in the love of Christ.
Serving in Plurality – Tom Harcus
Plurality in leadership is the portrait we gain from the New Testament as to how local churches ought to be led. In this message, Tom made the point several times over by highlighting different aspects of Paul and Barnabbas’s ministry. He also shared a lot of personal stories about how God brought along different leaders for the church in Wilmington to complement the areas where he needed more strength. In having a plurality of leadership, though, there is a significant amount of having to die to oneself in order to create a culture of trust, accountability and transparency. Most successful church plants need multiple leaders that can spearhead different tasks and keep one another accountable not only in their ministry but also in their personal lives, namely in their marriage and with their family.
It’s Warfare – Mark Hotaling
Mark Hotaling from High Planes Harvest in Ault spoke on the reality of the fact that as the Kingdom of God advances into the world through the local church, and there will be opposition and difficulties to be encountered. Mark reminded us that the battle belongs to the Lord (1 Samuel 17:47), that one must consider the cost to be a church planter because it will be difficult (Luke 14:31-33), that one cannot and should not try to do everything on their own (2 Timothy 2:3-4), and lastly, that prayer is an absolute necessity in all of this (1 Chronicles 5:20). There is a significant cross to bear in planting a new church in order to win over lost souls to the Kingdom of God, and the Lord has granted success to Mark and his flock in this endeavor so far. So let us strive to do the same, keeping a watchful eye, and continuing to pray for them and ourselves in the process.
Responding to the Call – Dan Harty
Windsor’s Dan Harty delivered the final message of the conference. In it, he challenged us to be watchful for any signs that we are not standing firm in the gospel; namely by worrying more about the temporal than the eternal, complaining about a lost world more than we’re praying for it, praying for ourselves more than we pray for the conversion of our neighbors, considering safety and comfort as more valuable than having an impact for the Kingdom, trusting in ourselves rather than God, and thinking more about what we want to get, rather than what we want to give.
We were then challenged to look for God’s call in our life to go on a church planting team. How do we know we’re called, though? Dan answered this by saying we must “hear” the call, and then have it confirmed through a season of both personal prayer and prayer from others. And we must remember a call is often to go towards something, rather than to run away from something (like a difficult situation at our current church).
Following this, we watched a video involving some of the key leaders from Windsor Community and their apparent call to plant a church in Loveland, Colorado. They have prayed for a number of years to plant a church in Loveland and continue to feel the need and the urge for a gospel centered church to start there. We were challenged (and I challenge you) to consider whether or not God might have us serving in a new church in Loveland in which we will experience all the challenges and difficulties mentioned above by bearing the cross involved in church planting, but thereby gaining (and seeing) much life.
God is on a mission to redeem a people for Himself who are zealous for His fame (Psalm 8:1) and zealous for good works in this world (Titus 2:14). In His wisdom, He is sending His bride, the church, into all of the world to proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9) and call people to know, love, and worship Him as they come to be known by Him (Galatians 4:9) and learn of His love for them (John 3:16). In order to take part in this great and wonderful and satisfying work, it will require us to die to ourselves, but we know that in all of these things we end up gaining our life, and much more than that, we gain Christ and the joy of seeing His glory spread through the proclamation of His gospel.