Church Planting Log: Fragile
We were sitting around in our house church meeting listening to my friend describe his new attempt to start a house church. Our spiritual family had questions, which is natural, and as they asked him questions, he didn’t have all the answers. Not having all the answers can make some people nervous.
And as I sat there, I was reminded of another friend of mine who would never consider himself a church planter but he finds himself working with two guys who have shown interest in starting a church. And every time I sit down and talk with this friend he’s got one word to describe what’s happening: fragile.
What does he mean by fragile? He means it could all fall apart. His two guys are either very early in their faith or they’re not even believers yet. The possibility that absolutely nothing could come of it is high.
So I pipe up in the house church meeting and say “Guys, this thing is fragile.” And I go on to explain what is going on with my friend who has coined the term. And I tell our house church how we’ve tried to start several other house churches with people we believed were people of peace over the last few years. None of those have panned out. But I explain it this way: “We don’t ever want to get out of the place where our church isn’t fragile. It means we aren’t living on the edge of trusting God.”
The problem is most church planting in the West is built on transfer growth. We take established Christians from one church building and go and meet in another. We hope that lost people come but many times other established Christians are the ones who join us. There’s some risk that the church might fail, but for the most part those establish Christians will join another church down the street. That’s not fragile.
The fragile part comes when you preach the gospel to unbelievers. Church only happens when people repent, so we always hope that church lasts. But experience tells us that some people will respond to the Gospel quickly but have no root. They will get mocked or persecuted for following Jesus and they’ll stop. Experience tells us that some others will start strong in following Jesus but have life choked out by enjoying the world too much or pursuing things that make them happy. Only a percentage actually go on to follow Jesus long term and show fruit in their own lives.
So any time we attempt to start a house church with people who are showing interest in Jesus, there’s one word to describe it: fragile. We never know if the people who seem excited one day will stick it out. But the alternative is to never plant churches among the lost. And I’m not willing to settle for that. I hope you’re not either. The harvest is so large that we need everyone we can get.
I’m writing this morning about a couple of different scenarios that are going on in our midst. But I’m writing these stories to encourage you about the context you are in. It’s okay if things are fragile. Get really good at following Jesus into fragile situations and trust Him that as the one who builds His church, He will get it right. Institutions are stable. Graveyards are stable. But you’re not trying to become one of those. If you’re planting a church (and I hope you are) you are planting a living thing. There will always be a chance it could die. But trust Jesus that He knows how to turn tiny seedlings into oaks of righteousness. Some of the seeds you plant will multiply 30, 60, or even 100 times. The payoff is worth it.