Last week, we heard from our friends from Pittsburgh Seminary on the way Jesus flips the definition of success when it comes to church planting (“Sometimes our expectations have to be crucified so that Jesus’ reign can be fully displayed.”)
Today, we continue the conversation about using Kingdom lenses to understand success in Church Planting, but this time with a Canadian perspective. Jared Siebert of the New Leaf Network shares these thoughts:
Success for the Pioneer
Pioneers in research, in science, in social movements, and in any other disciplines make incalculable contributions to their respective communities—especially if their community is stuck or stagnated. Pioneers matter because they look for and often find a new way forward. For them, however, success is harder to come by.
Success for a pioneer is two-fold: they must not only success in what they do, but they must find a new way to do it. To succeed at one and fail at the other is not really success at all. To be a pioneer in the field of church planting is no exception. Success, for pioneer planters, not only means establishing a new church, but establishing a new kind of church.
The idea that the church in Canada is in a period of stagnation is hardly controversial—we are indeed slowly shrinking. Much of the “new growth” we see in our successful churches come from Christians moving from one church to another. This includes many of our successful “fastest growing” church plants as well.
We have lost much of our capacity to invite average Canadians into the good news life we say we believe in. This is why understanding the work of pioneer church planters is so vital. Pioneer planters not only teach us what works, in terms of sharing the good news, but they teach us what is possible. They have something unique to offer in terms of pointing the way out of our current situation.
A Christian leader’s primary task is not to be successful, but to be faithful to God. This is an important starting point. The process of living out our calling in leadership—just like living out any other calling in the body of the church—is first and foremost a process of sanctification. God wants to sanctify us in our ministry. Successful use of skills will always be secondary. God’s primary concern is on deepening our character, and not simply ensuring that we’re meeting some kind of skill standards.
What if success was “being faithful to whatever it is that God asked you to do”? Here’s my logic: given the complexity of the current Canadian reality, we can safely assume we’re not all being sent out to do the same job. Some will be sent out to stabilize what already exists. Some will be sent out to repair. Some will be sent out to forge new ground. You know, different part but one Spirit kinds of stuff. So what if there wasn’t one unifying definition of success for every church in every place?
For instance, success in a conflicted church might mean a total focus on unity and conflict resolution. Numerical growth may not be part of the equation for a long time; it may even wind up being a distraction. Success in a complacent church may mean fostering holy discontent and discomfort—two things that can act as serious growth inhibitors.
What if our definition of success changed as the people and the job did?
This article is from Jared’s book Gutsy: (Mis)Adventures in Canadian Church Planting. You can find it on Amazon, or ask if you can borrow my copy next time we see each other! ~Cailey