"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." John 4:35 (ESV)
I wanted to get out of my home office for a bit and intentionally develop some relationships in a strategic manner. I want to get a bible study started in the next three or four weeks. I needed to go where the people are. I guess I have not built that better mousetrap since no one is breaking down my study door.
I have forgotten how good Starbucks coffee really is. I just ordered plain ole black coffee. Watching the budget lately I don't indulge in little treats like this. It was difficult forking over $2.32 for a cup of black coffee when I have a can of Yuban at home.
This is out of my comfort zone and out of my element. I have pastored three churches in the last 35 years. Each church, even though the very first one only had a dozen people, still had people present. I am more prone to spend hours in my study pouring through a passage exegetically so that I can teach it expositionally. I usually put somewhere between 20 and 30 hours of study into each message that I preach. If I am doing that twice a week I can easily spend 8-10 hours a day just in study.
The problem with that is it keeps me from establishing relationships. In that type of environment the only people that I would see and spend any time with was my own people. It was rare that I met anyone outside of the church in order to establish a relationship.
Now that I desire to plant a church from absolute scratch it calls for a different strategy. I must find the people now. Since I don't want to plant this church with sheep rustled from other sheep folds I have determined that I want to share the gospel and introduce people to Christ. I don't want to be among the many "new" churches that grow by "transfer." In other words, many churches end up announcing and advertising a brand new church with exciting new programs, music, and ministries. Usually, disgruntled church members, church hoppers and shoppers, and the "consumer" are attracted by these advertisements. I have seen a number of churches come into town, advertise heavily and draw from many of the already existing churches in town.
Right now I can't remember who to give credit to, but someone once said, "Plan your work, and work your plan." Cute little pithy statement. Don't you wish I was that witty? I do. Today, actually became the first day of "working my plan."
I had a bible study started in July and early August. It ran for about six weeks. I think I did it wrong. First, the study was begun with about six people who were from out of town, as a matter of fact about 40 miles away. Second, they were actually, all cards on the table, disgruntled with the only church in their town (yes, only one). They knew they had to go out of town for another church of any kind. One individual was a friend of a friend who recommended me as a bible teacher. Long story short, between the distance, lack of real commitment the study fizzled out. Lesson learned. Break the rules - pay the price.
I have always refused, bawked, and ran from the idea of planting a church. I didn't think I could do it. I didn't think it was me. After all don't you have to be able to attract people and crowds? I am no Apostle Paul. Over the years I have rejected various requests from associational leaders, friends, and other believers from church planting.
You want to know something? You want to know a little secret I discovered? Well, lean in real close because it is noisy in here. I can't do it! I ain't me! I don't have to attract people! I don't have to be the Apostle Paul. You know why? It is God, who sovereignly moves through the lives of people regenerating them and bringing them into the body of the Christ. Remember, Jesus said, "The harvest is ripe unto harvest." I just have to decide to be a harvester and then do the duties of a harvester. God the Father will draw people through the Holy Spirit and make them ready for a harvester to share the gospel and bring them together for a new church. Isn't that cool?
So, I sit here in Starbucks enjoying my $2.32 cup of black coffee. As I await to strike up a conversation with a stranger in hopes of developing a relationship that will foster an opportunity of sharing the gospel of our Lord Jesus, the Christ, I am looking out the window at our gorgeous mall.
I love this town. I love these people, most of whom I have never met. But as the song of yesterday said so clearly, People need the Lord. There are some 50,000 people here who do not know their left hand from their right hand. (An Old Testament euphemism for not knowing the Lord) The Lord may change my heart, He may redirect my steps, He may even change my location, but that is His sovereign prerogative. For now, this is where my heart is, here is where, as Paul said, I want to be poured out as an offering to God on behalf of the people of this town.