In this article, Katie shares about the transformation she has experienced on her church planting journey.
‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’.
Paul, who wrote these words in Galatians 2:20, knew what it was to be accomplished by religious standards of his day. In Philippians 3 he presents the case for why he could take pride in his achievements. Yet with stunning clarity and single mindedness he goes on to write of how he considers everything worthless compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing, gaining and being found in Christ Jesus. Do we long to be truly found in Christ, where nothing else comes close to the value we place on being in his presence and being about his work?
Leading a church plant over the last three and a half years has brought both pain and joy but most of all it’s been God’s tool for transformation, the place where I’ve needed him, found him and can now, with greater confidence, echo the words of Paul. So often as church leaders we are tempted to focus our efforts on ‘doing the stuff’. Jesus was certainly a man of action but he knew it had to be fuelled by his relationship with his Father. There seems to be a more hidden invitation as church planters and leaders to greater intimacy with our Father and thereby a more effective and joy filled ministry.
Often I have felt out of control as the leader of a church plant, in fact increasingly so. There have been many times when I’ve felt lost, shaken by new challenges and unforeseen circumstances, ‘curve balls’ that at times seem to threaten and stretch us as leaders and our church beyond what we can manage. My default is to pedal harder and faster, to protect what we do have rather than react with God’s Kingdom generosity and compassion. I’ve found these words of Mother Teresa to be a source of encouragement and comfort, ‘God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.’ I’m slowly realising that I’m not responsible for our church, its growth or outward fruitfulness. Paul helpfully reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6, ‘I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.’ This is echoed in the words of John Wimber. ‘Church growth theories and practices, though helpful, only tell us where to prune and what fertiliser to use. In no way do they cause or even explain the miracle of conversion-based growth.’ (the Way In is the Way On). Like Paul, the significant challenges of church leadership can lead us to a place of greater dependence and peace as we accept our humble role and let God grow his church and receive the glory.
In practice this is looking like greater attention and time spent in God’s presence at the start of each day, experimenting with ancient Christian practices and rhythms such as silence and fasting and asking myself where God’s kingdom is at work as I go about my day. I still regularly forget to look up at my Father and become quickly preoccupied and sometimes frustrated by my circumstances. However the peace, joy and excitement that comes from letting him take charge is deeply life giving. Christ living in me more completely, the mark of spiritual maturity, is increasing as I lead and face up to my inability but God’s infinite resources and compassion.