This, I think, will be the second to last reflection on our family huddle, and then it will be time to schedule another. Both of these last two will be about the "dreams" section of our meeting. This one will look at the dream of partnering in planting 10 churches in 10 years. The next will look at our dream of being one the best places in the Greater Grand Rapids Area to be or raise a kid.
The dream of partnering in planting 10 churches in 10 years was certainly the dream that we as a whole were the most unsure of. Of the surveys that were filled out the response was about 50/50 between: yes this dream is from God; and not sure. Honestly it is certainly the dream that seems most challenging to me (not that the others aren’t, but this seems quite large). This dream is the one where I most have to hear Jesus say "don’t be afraid." This reflection will be the longest as I remind myself and hopefully you the reader, of how God has and is moving us towards this dream.
Here are some reasons that I believe this dream is from Jesus.
First, when Jesus originally called Pastor Daryl to plant the Vineyard that is now Southside, the Holy Spirit used the verse, “Again I say to you, you will plant Vineyards (plural).” From the beginning I believe the call over this fellowship was like the call over the original humans: be fruitful and multiply, and not just once, but again and again and again ….
Second, I began to sense that this might be a call from God on our fellowship back in May of 2009, after being at the Vineyard National conference. As I prayed about 10 in 10, though I felt like this was really big, the Spirit was saying to me, “You think too small sometimes.”
Third, I began talking about what I felt like God was saying at our area Vineyard pastor gatherings and the other Vineyards, in particular Vineyard North, felt like God was calling us to partner together in this dream.
Fourth, as I began to share this dream here, a number of you also began to say that it could be from God.
Fifth, at our joint Good Friday service last year with Vineyard North, Pastor Ray announced that God was calling us as churches to plant churches. At Vineyard North they saw an almost immediate response of people saying they would be interested participating in a church plant. (Including a Calvin Sem student named Amos who had been looking at planting with the CRC).
Sixth, in 2011 at the Vineyard National conference in Arizona there was a significant focus on Church planting as God’s call on the Vineyard and a reminder that the Vineyard from its beginning was a church planting movement. This gave me a deep sense that church planting is something God is stirring throughout the Vineyard movement.
Seventh, also at the National Conference of 2011, the Holy Spirit fell on me as I received prayer during one of the sessions. The person praying for me, (who I later found out was Jim Pool, who is the Vineyard Great Lakes Church Planting Coordinator), spoke to me as I was crying out to God for our city and said something to the effect of “too small,” which was what I felt like God had said as I was initially praying about planting churches. This makes me think that the call to plant churches goes beyond Grand Rapids and West Michigan, (but I still believe that for us it needs to begin here).
Seven is a nice Biblical number to end with as far as reasons for thinking this dream is from God, now to the practicalities of pursuing this dream.
First, we have been praying about this dream. We have included this dream as part of what to pray for during this Leap of Faith. Prayer will always be the powerhouse of any move of God. It will also always be the most practical thing we do.
Second, to plant churches who plant churches who plant churches who plant churches …, we need to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples …. So we have begun working on a path towards being disciples who make disciples… The end of the path we hope will be people who are fully equipped and ready to be a part of the planting of new communities of revolutionary love. Part of our vision/dream that we share in Vineyard 101 is that anyone who has been with us for three years would be ready to be sent as part of a new community.
Third, Leah, Mark, Pastors Ray and Mike and Amos from Vineyard North, and I are being coached by a Church planter from Lowell, MI named Phil Struckmeyer who is in the midst of 10 in 10 dream of his own. I think they (Phil’s team) are about 8 years in and are at 8 new churches. Phil’s coaching is consistently stretching and challenging us to move dreams towards reality. We huddle as a team once a month for four hours and are challenged in discipleship, leadership and evangelism. I also receive one on one coaching each month from Phil.
Fourth, two new plants are currently in the works. John and Carrie Clemence have moved to Hastings, MI where they are going to plant. Their current core team has begun meeting and going through Alpha material, which John believes will be a key part of their new community when they launch. John and Carrie are also going to a conference this month about planting churches in small towns across the US. Amos Groendyke (mentioned above) along with his wife Allison are in the midst of exploring a new plant in the SE area of Greater Grand Rapids, and we will hear more from Amos in the near future.
Fifth, Mark Leyen is a launching a very intentional internship program that will equip young adults (18-25) to be a part of Jesus’ revolution. I believe this internship will be significant not just for the interns, but for our body in being disciples who make disciples …. and in learning how to join in planting new communities. Mark is working to get the interns involved in working with the two new plants. We have already seen God move in significant ways as this program moves towards launching (ask Hannah Noorman about the three elephants some time).
Sixth, we are developing international partnerships particularly in Costa Rica that will help us ensure that our focus on planting communities of hope will always be glocal in fulfillment of Jesus’ great commission.
Seventh, we are again planning for a summer of engaging with our community through block parties and other outreaches. This will be a summer where we serve our community and meet our neighbors. Blessing the community is at the heart of Church planting. As we bless we are planting Jesus in our community, and planting Jesus is of course the whole point of church planting.
These are some of our current steps, again seven is a nice place to conclude.
A couple of other resources for you as you think and pray about this dream:
First a pie chart that shows the composition of New Churches v. existing Churches.
Second a link to an article by Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City on “Why Plant Churches." This is a thought-provoking, challenging and I think ultimately convincing essay on the necessity of planting churches.
Let's dream and pray and work and play together in pursuit of God's good and beautiful kingdom.