Instead of this column being about our Cuba mission trip, we placed a link to its report on the home page of our MSBA website (www.msbawv.org). I encourage you to read it and rejoice in how God used our team for His glory May 26-June 3. We will add a PPT about the trip to the website soon.
Recently I took some MSBA folks to a day church planting workshop in Charleston. We heard practitioners from two completely different perspectives—a pastor on a huge church’s staff in charge of “church multiplication” (JD Payne at Brook Hills in northern AL) and Brian McClure, IMB church planter in Prague, Czech Republic (with ties to Memorial BC, Beckley). Instead of finding a planter, funding him, buying a building for church services, equipping the disciples, and then evangelizing, they advocated the opposite: evangelize, make disciples, let a church form out of that, and a pastor arise from those discipled. I am a fan of the second approach because it’s biblical, it’s organic more than organizational, and doesn’t require an initial large financial stake.
In a conversation with a pastor this week he suggested church planting was as uncomplicated as hanging out at the local café where all the local regulars hang out and just listen to needs and dreams. (fine, someone start doing that; it’s easier to balance a bike when you are pedaling). Please remember our associational byline is “churches helping churches do Kingdom work;” it is the duty of our healthy churches to start healthy churches. If the second model above is the sequence we would use, then some attitudes and actions will have to change: evangelism will have to become core, not extra-curricular; making disciples will have to become central to ministry, not just for “super spiritual” people; our members’ homes will have to open up to host Bible studies, Life Groups, prayer groups; and church activities will have to occur in places other than our four fortress walls known as the church building.
Sometimes inspiration for spiritual issues comes from secular sources. One of the most interesting books I’ve read in recent years was Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship, and the Rebirth of Local Economies by Ernesto Sirolli. I bought it after hearing him on a lively, humorous TED talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/ernesto_sirolli_want_to_help_someone_shut_up_and_listen). Although he talked about reviving local economies (which is also relevant to southern WV), I saw church planting leaping off the pages as he described much of what is written above. The most effective way to meet needs is to listen to people in concert with a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Don’t call it witnessing (some people think it’s witnessing only if they give a formal presentation), call it a “gospel conversation,” where in the natural flow of talking (& LISTENING) an opportunity arises to share what God is doing in your life. You may wind up discipling someone, they bring others into the conversation, and you are off and running. 7/22 Memorial will host a simulcast/discussion about discipleship and will send info to the pastors shortly; I pray many will gather so we can get about the business of Kingdom building.
One final word related to that: July 1 the budget cuts voted on in the June Ex. Board were implemented. Those cuts will reduce but not eliminate the deficit spending we have experienced for 7+ years. Further cuts can be made, but will reduce the effectiveness of our MSBA office compared to its present form. We need to start praying and thinking outside the lines; I want to put our finances behind us and a vision in front of us to keep our attention on winning people to and discipling them in Christ.