I’m kind of excited about being part of a new “church plant”. I put church plant in quotes because it isn’t technically a new plant, it is a new congregation started by a larger church. Now that the pastor they hired is about to start, it feels like we’ve now actually entered the new start up phase. I love being part of the start up of everything. I think some people are just geared towards this the energy of doing something new. On paper the plan for this church is start “missional communities” which are a lot like house churches but with more of central hub. I think my own preferences and experience will work well in this sort of initiative. It is also nice that I don’t have the responsibility of being the main leader.
After being part of numerous plants and other ministry initiatives, I have lots of ideas and learned a few hard lessons. One thing I am sure of is that the strength of any community directly correlates without how much love there is between people. Regardless of what structure you choose, if it doesn’t facilitate genuine human interaction the community will not bear the same fruit.
As the apostle Peter said “love covers a multitude of sins.” I even think of Captain Mal of Serenity/Firefly fame who said about his ship “Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.” Love makes church a home, keeps her going when she oughta fall down and lets you know she’s hurting before she falls apart.
A church can have fancy programs, stellar speakers and amazing acoustics but without love it is just a club. I read a book called the Village Effect this summer which outlines how beneficial face to face interaction is. Loneliness is more detrimental to your health than smoking. Much of the difference between the lifespan between men and women can be attributed to older women tending to have a better social network than older men. People with strong social connections recovery from surgery faster, have a better chance of surviving cancer, get a boost to their IQ and our immune systems.
From a sociological perspective, churches are shrinking because the benefits of being part of one outweigh the costs for increasing numbers of people. It should force us to think what are the essential life giving things we can do, and what do we do that takes more life out of people than gives back. What can we do that can’t so easily be supplanted with music and sermons found on YouTube.