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church planting, God-dependence

>Striving according to…?

>Recently I was struck by something Paul wrote to the believers in Colossae: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every many complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” (Col. 1:28-29)

Many of us today, myself reluctantly included, would have to write that we are striving according to our own abilities, talents, and creativity. Or according to the latest trends (and their ensuing fads) in church growth. Or _________________ (insert whatever it is that you depend on other than God’s power working mightily within you.)

We church planters are often lured into the mindset that the latest craze is THE key to successfully planting healthy churches and transforming our cities and the world with the Gospel. Maybe its our natural inclination towards the new and exciting. Or maybe its the little known fact that an unofficial yet seemingly universal requirement for church planters is having ADD. Anyways, I’ve discovered that ideas are a lot like gadgets. We often approach them with the assumption that the newest and latest thing is a vast
improvement over what has existed up to that point. Thus, like our gadgets, we are regularly trading in the ideas that drive our ministry for new, “bigger and better” ones. Soon, however, reality sets in and we lament that our new idea is not able to deliver what it promised, or at least what we thought it promised. Not only that, this constant redefining to accommodate the hottest fashion often wreaks havoc upon our churches and upon our own emotional and spiritual stability.

I wish I had the time to recount, and you had the patience to actually read, all that I’ve learned over the past few years about the futility of trusting in all the fads and especially in my own abilities. To save you the agony of enduring such a navel-gazing memoir, let me put it in a nutshell: Four years ago I came to Las Vegas as part of a team that was armed with a fiery passion, creative minds, the desire to take risks, and a strategy (which employed ALL the latest ideas) that would make Patton green with envy. This city didn’t stand a chance against everything that we brought to the table. Four years later the best, although not only result, of all of that is the knowledge that none of it works on its own. Are these good qualities for a church planter, or any Christian for that matter, to exhibit? Of course. But I’ve learned that they can’t be depended on. It sounds so simplistic, but through two church plants in Sin City, I’m continuously being brought back to the place of simple dependence upon God.

And that’s the kicker for me. If it’s so simple, then why do I struggle so much to depend on God rather than all of the other things I trust in? Why do I have to keep being brought here?! I think the root of it is sin itself. Sin compels me to do it (whatever “it” is – apologies to eBay) myself; to pull myself up by my own proverbial bootstraps; to trust in anything and anyone but God. Thus, I must deal with it the way I deal with any sin. Confession and repentance. It is by grace I am saved, and by grace that I serve. So, this post is really a sort of public confession and repentance. I hope it’s not entirely self-serving, though. I hope that it causes you to pause and consider what you are placing your trust in to accomplish whatever it is that you are called to do. More than that, I hope that it magnifies the God who works within us to accomplish His purposes, far exceeding anything that we can do on our own.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “>Striving according to…?

  1. >Thanks for your encouraging words. Something that I’ve learned, and I’m not sure that I articulated it very well in the post, is that talents and gifts are great in context. In fact, it is only when I rely on the power of God working within me that my gifts and talents are able to reach their maximum potential.

    Posted by Dwight | January 16, 2008, 5:51 am
  2. >Dwight,Thanks for your transparent, open and honest thoughts. I too struggle with this. You are not alone. Every day, we wake up, it is a new opportunity to further share God’s kingdom based on the gifts and talents He has given us. Of course, some days are better than others. Methinks the better days are those when we have totally surrendered and allowed God to work through us. Grace and mercy are there for us when we, of course, fall short of what He has called us to do. Of course we are leaky vessels, but be of good courage. We already know the outcome. We are a part of the grand scheme. We are part of the metanarrative and by God’s grace we will see God’s glory as He transforms ours and others lives!Peace

    Posted by hylander | January 16, 2008, 4:22 am

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