MORE THAN SEMANTICS
When someone starts to get caught up on an issue that is clearly more about semantics than it is anything robustly theological, it usually elicits out of me a decent amount of annoyance. If I'm being honest, it often even provokes me to anger [part of the flesh v. spirit battle]. I find myself having to seek the Spirit to keep my mouth from lashing out at the person for getting so lost in something that is usually missing the sustenance of the issue. So keep that in mind as I progress with the following because you may find yourself saying, is he just getting lost in semantics?
As we move onward with planting The Parish Church, it's easy to get caught up in the monotony of the words "Church" and "Planting." Even in our evangelical culture where church planting and reformed theology have grown increasingly attractive. But as we engage in more and more conversations with people who come from different denominational backgrounds, have different generational tendencies, etc., etc., I feel like it's becoming increasingly necessary to lay out exactly what it is that the Lord has called us to when we say that he's called us to PLANT a CHURCH.
WE ARE PLANTING A CHURCH
Many people (well intended) ask us where are we meeting, when we are getting a building, when are we launching, or things like these. These are all good questions and ones backed by cultural understandings of church planting. But, it's important to remember that we're not planting a service. The bible paints a beautiful picture and places a call for the church to be a family of believers that live together as missionaries. This isn't something that happens in passing but something that happens as the community of disciples devotes themselves to the gospel, and thus to serving one another and in a way that shows and shares that gospel!
We are selling the Bible short of it's fullness for the bride if we only paint church as being a collection of acquaintances that merely get together once a week on Sunday morning or at a midweek bible study. We don't think that a classroom setting or a once a week bible study will ever be sufficient for making disciples. How can we ever measure how we are growing as disciples and submitting all of our lives to Christ if we aren't living amongst each other and celebrating, suffering, and sharing together more than just once a week? Is this not what we see the Apostle Paul calling the early churches to in many/most/all of his epistles? We want to be gracious in all things, but as we read the New Testament, we see that our calling as the church (the called out ones) is so much greater than just (key word - just) programs, Sunday mornings, and midweek bible studies. Our call is to be the church.
WE BELIEVE CHURCH PLANTING IS THE WAY GOD INTENDED TO GROW HIS CHURCH
Though church planting is on the rise with thanks to amazing networks like Acts 29 and Soma Family of Churches, it's still wildly treated as an "others" ministry. Meaning people see it as "that's a ministry God calls 'others' to do." Traditionally, missions and church planting have both been relegated to the peripheries of the local church and her budget.
But the more we read Acts and the Epistles, the more evidence we see of the Spirit inaugurating and implementing a strategy for starting, establishing, and growing churches that we believe is more normative than it is extracurricular.
This means that many of the things that Paul and the other apostles were doing throughout the early church that are recorded in Acts and the Epistles were indeed something that the Lord intended to continue. One of those things was church planting! As the gospel was proclaimed, people began to submit all of their lives to Christ and then turned to share and show the gospel to their neighbors. They saw thousands come to Christ and "numbers were added daily." As the young church began to grow rapidly, more churches were planted. Places like Antioch even served as pseudo church planting hubs - where the church sent men out to advance the gospel.
The Parish Church hopes to be a church of disciples that make disciples. Because of that, we hope to be a church that plants churches. Our city's population and our region's population support this kind of strategy. As MC's begin to grow, eventually we pray that the Lord will raise up elders and from that, autonomous churches will be planted and the gospel will begin to go out from Santa Rosa into other counties like Napa, Mendocino, and beyond.
WE ARE CALLED TO BE A FAMILY
How the church has migrated so far from this pattern is probably another blog post [maybe book]. But our desire in planting The Parish Church is to walk as closely to the pattern that the apostles established throughout the New Testament. Many talk of being a "New Testament" church but it seems few, however, mean the whole New Testament. Being a New Testament church is more than simply desiring a prototype of the Acts 2 community. What we read in Acts 2 is not conducive [maybe not even possible] when we only see each other once a week for a few hours. It's not going to happen when we only see each other in a classroom type setting. It happens when we do life together daily and encourage one another to constantly submit all of our lives to Christ. It happens when we encourage one another with the hope, promise, and power of the gospel!
When we are being the church, it is not bland. It is both salt for the disciple and for the world. The hope of Christ being lived out in the context of a loving community of disciples is the most beautiful apologetic for the gospel. Sadly, this is where many christians feel hopeless. Their spiritual lives are relegated to a sense of obligation of attending Sunday mornings to be fed (and some don't even get that in their churches) but they have no real community. Others will skip out on Sundays when they have just had a long week and "just need a break." But is this an appropriate response? When we're burdened from life, should we not rather draw closer and retreat into community/family rather than isolation?
One of the biggest values we have is that we are called to live out the gospel in our city as a family! We cannot wait to share life with those that the Lord has called [is calling] and live together as the family of God. Oh what wondrous things we pray he does in and through us to make known the name of Jesus!