Church planting is all about dying to self. It means leaving something comfortable and which we love [don’t plant a church, or join a plant, because you are unhappy with where you are] to start something new. It means labouring with a smaller team, a smaller budget, a smaller leadership, and having to establish all the things that already existed in the established church. Planting is all about dying to self not just for the planted church but for the planting church, it ought to experience the same dying to self. And yet so many churches who are planning to plant seem to want to do so without dying to self.
I’ve tried to bite my fingertips to stop me from writing this but I can do it no longer. I’ve tried to restrain the overwhelming tide, tried to stem the pent up frustration, sought to pray it all through with a view to not posting this, but it just has to be said. We, the UK church, have a problem. I don’t mean the church nationally (it does but that’s beyond my purview) but the evangelical church in the UK.
Our strategies are in danger of killing the gospel. Our kingdom building is in danger of obscuring his kingdom because we haven’t built on gospel rich, early church, dynamics. We don’t give away we hoard. We don’t give to where we see need, we give to where we think need is based on our blinkered models and strategy. And the lost in the UK are suffering for it. What a tragedy it will be if it is not Jesus kingdom we build but our own, limited not by his riches and desire to bless his praying dependent people who ask for things beyond our imagination, but by our stunted sight based strategy.
Jesus kingdom has a shape to it, a shape he exemplifies. It’s a kingdom that’s exemplified in his life. It’s marked by a overwhelming concern for the glory of the Father at cost to self because of a conviction that his will is best and his glory matters more than anything else for the whole cosmos. It is marked therefore by a dying to self, a descent into death, that others might be raised to life in him as they are snatched from the very jaws of hell and reconciled to God as his Spirit-filled sons and daughters. It’s a kingdom exemplified by the risen Jesus sending out his disciples to do what he did in dying to self in order to go to the world dependent on the Father and filled with the Spirit. It’s further exemplified by his using the persecution of a rapidly growing church in Jerusalem so that they die to themselves and are flung out into areas of Judea and Samaria; who are needy and thirsty for the life giving water of Jesus Christ in the gospel.
As I look at the church in the UK I don’t see masses of dying to self, as I look at myself I see a reluctance to do so too, or at least a desire to set a limit on how far Christ can ask me to go down into his death with him. So as I write this I’m wrestling with it too. Let me give you some examples of where I see this problem at play.