EDGE Blog: Sending Forth
“Given the choice of demographics, I would prefer to launch a church in a transient culture,” … said no church planter ever! As it goes for the missional pioneer, there are enough perilous pitfalls, impediments, and landmines already lurking behind every pew without the unwelcomed addition of a mass exodus portal positioned just under the rear exit sign. So how does the church planting visionary stay in tune with God’s will and purpose for the mission and still manage to transcend such a formidable foe as “congregational transience”? Good question!
From its inception, The EDGE Church (which blankets the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base) has soldiered through and endured the sting of evanescent servant leaders, general membership, and familiar military faces in the fray on a regular basis. So, for The EDGE, the question has never been “How do we lather the interest in the community for the mission?” but rather “How do we catalyze the servant-minded, kingdom folks who frequent our local movement (already) before they set their sails for different horizons?”
Now, admittedly so, in a moment of utter transparence, trying to discern the mysteriousness of God’s purpose for the mission proved to be as frustrating and cryptic for the leaders of The EDGE as it would be for a novice trying to understand the lyrics of a Bob Dylan tune as he warbles through the ditty. In fact, it’s eerily familiar to what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance”, which is the clinical term for “I have no idea what just happened.” After all, God’s ways are higher than our ways; and, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and even from a spiritually mature and discerning perspective of the faith, mayhem and frustration can easily replace joy and purpose when the nebulous nature of God is not anchored in its proper context. (For the record, the same thing cannot be said about Bob Dylan.)
Now, while it is true that every pastor’s prayer is that their congregation will grasp the importance and transformational attributes found in discipleship and service to the community and the world, perhaps there is more to the narrative than merely applying this Acts 1:8 mentality locally. Perhaps, God’s view of the mission is broader and more dimensional than it is narrow and linear. Perhaps, God leverages the transient nature of a local mission as a catalyst for kingdom growth globally. After all, in the short life of The EDGE Church, sixteen of the former EDGE folks have taken the leap into vocational ministry in some respect. And they have done so throughout the domestic United States and abroad. (“Yahtzee! Bingo! Tell him what he’s won Bob!”)
So, as a result of this epiphany—really more of a theophany without the presence of fire—the assumption held by The EDGE Church about its purpose and mission (attractional/ seeker model) took a paradigmatic nosedive and redirection in the shifting sands of reality (missional/ conversational discipleship). In fact, these former mainstays of The EDGE Church were now steering and branding the immersion of missional living—vis-à-vis missional communities—as a way of life (not an option) that was transformational, biblical, and a departure from being just another constituent of the “frozen chosen.” Moreover, these transient missionaries from The EDGE were applying and passing forward a faith that looked more like the first century disciples who had Love Feasts, daily prayer, communion with each other, and a belief in Christ that was not reticence, apathetic, or lethargic, but was alive, resurrection minded, and “too bold to hold” between four walls. Thus, God had (and has) been using The EDGE Church as the breeding ground for a myriad of pastoral positions in all facets of the ecclesia (lead pastors, youth pastors, chaplains, lay speakers, missionaries, and the like) all around the world … and, on the government’s dime! (God is faithful; God is sublime; God is transcendent; God is patient; even in spite of our imperfections, our egocentrism, and our blindness.)
So, in retrospect, given the choice of demographics and positioning, would I prefer to launch a church in a transient culture again? Well, even though church planting is not an easy task in any situation—much less in a revolving milieu—when given the opportunity, the responsibility, and the privilege of serving a God who can do so much with so little, who can take a seemingly insurmountable barrier to church progression and manifest a larger growth initiative then can even be fathomed within the limits of human consciousness … then “Yeah, God … Here I am send me! I’m your guy!” Did I mention God is patient? Selah.