IN 1988, Melissa and I experienced the thrill of parenting for the first time as we felt the overwhelming joy of seeing our daughter born. Ten years later our family moved to Calgary, Alberta, to birth a church. This time it was my turn to go through the painful stages of labor.
In the summer of 2015 we welcomed our first grandchild into the world, and then later in that fall our Calgary church birthed a daughter church of her own. I felt all the pride of a grandparent in both settings.
I think we all understand that generational birth is the most natural thing in the world. Life brings forth life. It is wonderful. It brings uncontrollable joy.
But with church planting, we rarely see this generational joy. Something has changed so we no longer expect the next generation of the church to come from our congregation. We now see church planting as optional, and sometimes even as a disruption to our church.
Church planting has become a highly technical enterprise with consultants, coaching seminars, boot camps, and budgets. It seems the viability of church planting now rests with a church fertility clinic. Who knew getting a church pregnant could be so difficult?
I am not against these skilled workers. They are necessary and, as the director of Church Planting for the NAB, I am seeking out the best networks I can find. The real issue runs deeper than skills and techniques. Church infertility is a symptom that something is amiss in our family DNA.
One of the things that seems to be present wherever I encounter significant church expansion is the sacrificial posture of the missionary. Following Jesus is synonymous with sacrifice and denial of our personal preferences. These people cannot fathom a version of the church that is not sacrificing to proclaim Jesus in the next community.
These churches have a DNA of sacrifice and mission. Mission is not something they choose to do; it is something they can’t help doing because it is so ingrained in who they are. So I ask myself, how do we become such people? How do we create a church-planting movement within our NAB family? For the past four years, the NAB International Office has been pursuing this missional shift. We are aiming at the DNA, the deeper core of who we are.
The good news is that this conversation is taking root and we are seeing the early signs of reproductive health in our NAB churches. Our renewed focus on church planting is gaining momentum because there are people in the NAB who cannot imagine the church any other way.
I imagine a day when NAB churches can’t help but plant new churches. I imagine a day when the NAB family is celebrating generation after generation of churches, when our joy is full.