By Joell Haugan
Ah. The mandatory year end reflection and looking ahead article. Yes. We all do it (some of us call them Christmas or New Years letters). It’s pretty easy to talk about what the kids and grandkids are up to which, ironically, is exactly what us Church Planting people are doing. We have infant churches out there and, often, parent churches that are eager to see them thrive.
Then we have “uncle and aunt” churches that may not have been directly involved in the birthing process but, nevertheless, are supportive and curious as to how the little one is doing. And, I suppose, we have some grumpy old relatives that think the world has enough stuff to worry about and don’t want to bring anyone new into this horrible world. I’ll leave this last group alone for now.
Overall, the Heartland is full of our congregations that are supportive of church planting, at least in principle. I often get a genuine “how is church planting going?” from both pastors and parishioners throughout Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Some churches have begun Venture Partnerships with our one active church plant (Shalom in Winnipeg) and are even building a relationship with Shadrack and his congregation through invitations to visit and through monthly financial support.
Over 2016 I also think it’s fair to say that there is a genuine “opening of eyes” to see where churches need to planted. For many in smaller areas there is a realization that churches (perhaps even house churches) are needed in many of the smaller towns throughout the prairies. Managing a large building and staff isn’t often feasible in small towns. But, perhaps, a house church connected to an established church in the region (say up to an hour away) might be a great way to bring church live and vibrancy into rural areas. Oh, I guess I’ve now moved into the “looking forward” part of this…. Oops.
In the cities we have seen some church plants become established and self supporting, which is always nice when we see the kids go off on their own….but part of us misses the times when they needed us!
Still, that feeling needs to be filled with new births … er… plants to nurture and grow and push out of the nest (there, that’s now three different metaphors in one sentence). Many neighbourhoods have dramatically changed (especially in the inner cities) and we are finding the need to re-plant in areas that have long since seen most (not all) churches and church members move to the suburbs. The challenge that I’ve seen our inner city churches grab hold of is being re-made in the image of their communities. That’s tough stuff but that invariably leads to new church plants/expressions.
So, for 2017 I’m hoping to see some of these ideas take hold. I’d love to see small groups beginning to meet in Christ’s name in small rural areas. I’m hoping to see city churches extending themselves to be the neighbourhood’s church. I’m hoping to see more Venture Partners for Shalom and for future church plants. And, finally, I’m hoping to see church leaders rise up (both lay and pastor) and want to branch out into a new area that needs a new expression of Christ’s body nearby.