Church planting is a rollercoaster. Throw in a global pandemic, and it feels like the rollercoaster has added endless loop-the-loops, and doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. I compare it to the speed that a rollercoaster gains on a long stretch where your face feels the velocity of the wind and the force of movement – that can be exhilarating but also tiring when there doesn’t seem an end point in sight!
In the first years of planting, much of a planter’s learning is gleaned from diving straight into it head first and from people who have gone before us, folk we can pick up the phone to for a chat in crisis moments and ask: “What on earth do we do here?!”, because nearly always there is someone who has walked the path before who can pray for, encourage, and advise us. But the path we’re all walking during the Covid-19 pandemic, no one has walked before. All of us, planters, established churches, movements, denominations, businesses, and cities, have had to start at the same point, walking alongside each other into the unknown.
So, from a planters point of view, here are three things we have found helpful as we face this season, to make sure we don’t break in this season.
CONTRIBUTION: WE CAN’T DO IT ALL, BUT WE CAN ALL DO SOMETHING
Mhairi and I don’t watch much TV, but one show we adore is “This is us”, the story of triplets; of their personalities, family dynamics, and how they grow and journey through life. It’s a beautiful watch, and I cry EVERY episode. There is a character called Randall; an incredible individual, who is committed, loving, a visionary, and “a fixer”. He is passionate about fixing things and he pursues this passion with everything he has, for his family, his neighbourhood, anything. This is sometimes to his detriment. I am a “Randall”. I am a fixer, big thinker, dreamer, and always have ideas, big ideas. But this season has reminded me I can’t do it all. When the pandemic started, I was “all go”, 130 miles an hour, ideas aplenty, but when the adrenaline faded (week three), I was done. Between balancing two kids under six at home, Mhairi being a key worker at the hospital, delivering weekly content for our church family and supporting our church pastorally, I was floored for a few days and it reminded me I can’t do it all, but I can do something. I have learned right now I want to be able to pour into one or two things fully and not spread myself across five or six thinly.
As a church, we have very much been asking “what can we join in with?”. We don’t have the resources to be “starters” in this crisis, but we can definitely be partners. We have joined with a local foodbank, we partnered with a local coffee shop. Partners over starters. Great stuff is happening in Inverness, and we can’t wait to be involved further. What’s your contribution? As a church? As an individual? Is it a thin or full contribution?
COURAGE: BE YOU
As a planter, we know change, we know risk , we know the journey of radical faith. It’s in our blood. To make sure we don’t break, we must be true to who we are. First week of lockdown, every church known to man was releasing online content. Let’s not pretend – that is a vulnerable thing, yeah? How will ours compare?! I got an email after the first Sunday saying “Loved your service Thomas, Keep being bold, keep being YOU.” It was a word. Be you. It was a freedom moment. Don’t want to break in this season? Don’t do what other people are doing, don’t do what you think people will like, do what God is telling you to do and BE YOU. So I took that word and have tried to live out of it. Our church and team felt generosity was our word for the season, “What is in our hands?”. We wouldn’t be here without generosity, so if we have it, let’s give it away. We have been faithfully giving away the monies that we would have spent on venue, vans, and equipment each week. We’ve been giving gifts to key workers, our church family, foodbanks, folk struggling, a local football team, and local businesses instead. We have interacted with over 100 households running a coffee outreach where we deliver some cake and coffee to people in Inverness. It’s what the Lord spoke over us, and we have pursued it as best we can. Be you.
CALM: FIND THOSE HIDDEN PLACES
Don’t want to break? Take yourself away and find calm. At the beginning of lockdown my head at times was mince. The government guidelines said a one hour walk each day. That was incredible. I would take my boys, head down to a forest and play. And it was sweet. I could hear the birds, everything was so green, the water just looked magical! It was calm. And walks still are for me. I am so much more appreciative of the outdoors and feel more challenged than ever about my connectedness to technology, as that is my number one distraction. My phone data ran out super early in April, and on my walks I found myself taking my phone out loads of times to scroll, but I had no data! It really convicted me. I have a forest, where is your hidden place?
Jesus mastered the art of taking himself away, and I think the hidden places are the places to identify and protect with all we have just now. Places where we can just be. Especially as we navigate the uncertainties of the coming months ahead, we must have spaces of stillness. Escapes with Jesus, places that belong to Him and me. Places that don’t have agendas, or outcomes, or demands. Places of calm.