If we had arrived in Baltimore with a plan for every detail of how we were going to start a church, I would have really Charlie Brown’d it.
Oh yeah. I could have totally messed up. I could have worked hard and gone about this in completely the wrong way.
There is so much to be learned about our city, Baltimore! We have been preparing to be here for a few years now, but I still feel like we know so little about the city.
How can you possibly reach any one person with the love of Jesus Christ without getting to know them?
Ok, yes, God can do a miracle at any place at any time. Think about this: when Jesus walked the earth that is not how He reached people most of the time. He lived a very normal life for thirty years before really reaching out to people, except the part where he had no sin. He played and learned as a kid. He worked as an adult. Some scholars believe that Joseph died at an early age and as a result Jesus worked the family business to take care of Mary and his siblings.
Most of the time Jesus was reaching out to people that he knew something about. He knew how they worked and played. He understood the challenges of daily life. He knew the songs they sang. He knew what they celebrated and what they cursed.
Jesus changed my life. He rebuilt this shipwreck and got me back out on the water. He gave me purpose. He gave me a reason to laugh and celebrate every day of this life. I want nothing more than to know Him and make Him known.
The Bible says a whole lot about why we should do church. It says a whole lot about what we should do. Yet it leaves a fair amount of room for us to determine how we go about it.
Arthur Patzia’s “The Emergence of the Church” is a great study of how church was done in the Bible and the first 200 years of Christian history. Thanks Lanny Hubbard for the suggestion of a great read. From this work you can plainly see that there have been many different successful ways of HOW to start a church.
What’s the point?
Coming from Portland Oregon we had plenty of ideas about how to do church. And yet, before arriving in Baltimore, I had felt God keeping me from writing out the specific plans of HOW we would go about it.
Now I see why.
We are called, like missionaries, to go and represent Jesus Christ. That means studying the city. That means prayer. That means more study of the Bible. That means learning more about every person we meet. That means asking the question, “How does God want us to start this church?”
God has a plan. He knows what will work best: HERE AND NOW. I want His plan and not my own.
We’re starting to see how He wants us to start this church, and it’s amazing! I am just so glad that we didn’t set out to do it our way. What a mess that would have been! I am so glad that we have been patient and looking for His way. He’s had a plan since before we were born, and it’s a good one.
Here’s a few things we have been doing to study the city (that just might help you):
- Pray: Ask God what He wants, and LISTEN.
- Walk: Every day I get out and walk the streets of the city. Look at how people live. Pray over what you see.
- Read: History, travel books, daily news, blogs, and yes – Twitter feeds related to the city.
- Search: What does the city need?: Needs Analysis Questionnaires can be a great way to learn.
- Follow: constantly be aware of what is going on in the city.
- Discuss: with your neighbors what you are seeing and what you are curious about.
- Serve: find a need and meet it, but work to always do this in team.
If you scan my twitter “Baltimore” list you will see an example of the daily links to news, blogs, events, and other info about the city…that is delivered to my computer (not my cell phone) constantly. Great way to learn and be responsible with time management.
WALK. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get out, in your city, and walk around to learn about what is going on. WALK.
Here’s a little bit of the WHY and WHAT we believe about church from the Bible:
A. Great Commandment: Love God and Love People. Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
B. Great Commission: Go, with people focus, connect with people, bring them to Christ, lead them to next steps in Christ, baptize them, teach them that which is from Christ and remember that He is with you always! Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
C. See it as a rescue mission. Proverbs 24:11-12 Rescue those being led away to death
D. Connect, draw them to Christ. Acts 26:17-18 The Message “‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders
E. Bring them to Christ and not yourself. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ministry of reconciliation: as though God were making his appeal through us.