Open Your Hands
Being part of the City Network Leadership Team has been an incredible blessing. I’ve loved having a front row seat to see so many churches and pastors striving to multiply, equip, and network to see the Gospel go forth in our Valley. God has placed so many great churches in the Treasure Valley with different expressions, but with the similar goal of making disciples.
In the 20 years I have lived here, our community really has changed, almost as much as my hair follicles that migrated from my scalp to my face. The landscape of our valley has evolved, and the number of non-native Idahoans has significantly increased. What if God is bringing people to the Treasure Valley not for the quality of lifestyle, but for them to be surrounded by Gospel influence? Matthew 9:36-38 says, When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” May we aim to have the compassion Jesus had when He saw the crowds, and may we welcome, produce, and equip church planters and church planting in our community.
When we launched Rockharbor Church in 2012, we were not a typical church plant. We had 5 leadership families that in a matter of months became 29 Launch Team families. As God continued to bring His increase, we added services to make room for growth. We saw some very glaring barriers of being portable and knew we had probably added the last optimum meeting time. This forced us into talking about planting, multi-siting, or purchasing a building/land for a permanent meeting space. Little did we realize, God would have us do 2 of these 3 options and all within 2 weeks. We bought 21 acres and sent out a church, all in a 13-day period. Now, there’s a lot more to the story and there was quite a bit more prep than that describes.
In March of 2016, we shared vision with our church about sending out a church from within us and our Executive Pastor, Doug Connelly, would be leading this new church called “Stonehill.” They were excited and yet concerned, “Why? Keith and Doug work so well together.” “Why don’t we just multi-site?” “Can’t we just add more services?” While sharing the vision that day, I illustrated planting by scattering small seeds across our stage, saying, “We could send Doug and his family out conservatively and maybe we would see a harvest in a year or so… or we could send a sizable launch team out with them.” To illustrate the church plant we wanted to send, I brought a 20 ft. Autumn Blaze Maple Tree out on stage and said, “I want to see a harvest this fall, let’s not throw some seed down and pray for a sapling in a year, let’s make a sacrifice and plant this 300 lbs. root ball and see what God can do.”
From there, we began the recruiting, planning, incubating, and visioning for Stonehill. Over the next few months, we ended up with a few hundred people ready to be sent 6 miles south of Rockharbor. We were able to raise funds to help purchase portable equipment. A few months prior to the sendoff, we felt compelled to cast vision for people who were being called to “Go.” We asked them to stop giving at Rockharbor and to give to Stonehill, so they could set budgets and plan financially. Those were challenging days and our faith was being tested like never before, but it has been nothing short of amazing to watch God multiply.
Is sending a church out of a church as easy as I have made it sound? No. Was this whole process extremely hard? Yes. Were there challenges navigating planting and sending? Yes. Did “sending” feel like a loss at times? Yes. J.D. Greer’s book “Gaining by Losing” was a huge blessing and provided guidance for us as we learned on the fly. As hard as it was, God brought His increase and getting to be part of a bunch of Rockers sending out a bunch of Stoners was something I will always cherish. Two year later, we pray that God would allow us the opportunity to send again.
Are you truly praying about planting a church? Sending out a church? I hope so. This should be a constant prayer of ours as pastors and churches. Consider these 3 things in regard to seeking God’s plan and timing:
Do you and your church leadership see God’s hand moving at this time and season of your church? Should our faith be tested and could God show up miraculously? Yes. Have you considered where your staff team, church leadership, and key volunteers are at in the multiplication process? We may have the right idea and maybe some of the right ingredients, but the right season is imperative to not be half-baked in planting.
Has God revealed through conversations the geographical location and have you done reconnaissance on this location? Is this possible plant based on your church attenders who live in that area? Or are you sending a family or two to reach a whole new area? Have you done demographic research on this specific community? Have you met with other pastors in that area and interviewed them about the community needs? (CITY NETWORK IS HERE TO HELP YOU WITH THIS.)
This is the biggest and hardest hurdle to clear. The right seed involves our greatest resources outside of the Holy Spirt, PEOPLE. The people you send are going to reproduce what they are. Have you identified a possible planter that is within your church or staff. Maybe you network with some pastors? Is there someone you know that would desire to plant and they could incubate with your team? Could you start a residence program and begin building a system for multiplication? Sending out your best is hard because they are close to your heart.
We can’t plant seeds without opening our hands. Are your hands open to see the Gospel go forth by church planting? God, please give us the right season, right soil, and right seed. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” -2 Corinthians 9:6