One week ago today we made a strategic decision regarding Walls Down Church.
When we set our “start date” (January) back in March we were sitting in David Putman’s office at Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, Georgia. It was the “ivory tower” experience of church planting. There was so much we could not have known sitting there in the epicenter of the church planting world!
Since arriving at our new home in July we realize that we underestimated how much time it would take to develop relational credibility in this community. It turns out that it takes time to develop trust… imagine that. 😉
There are two key issues that we have become aware of:
- This is a very religious community. There are many churches in the area and much familiarity with religiosity. When we tell people “we’re starting a new church” or when I tell people, “I’m a pastor”, their eyes glaze over. BUT when we begin telling them about Walls Down, their eyes light up! What we realize is that people are not interested in another religious institution BUT they are interested in the vision of Walls Down! They are interested in discovering the life Jesus promised! We need more time to tell them about Walls Down.
- The problem is that there are no glaring problems. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are problems here, just not the kind that are readily obvious. We live in a community of young families and experience the same economic issues everyone else is experiencing. (Nearly one out of eight homes is either seriously behind on mortgage payments or in foreclosure (the national average is 1 out of 10)). The people of our area are just like anyone else in terms of the life issues they face. The issue is that most of these issues are not issues that people are just going to come out and say, “I’m having an issue here!” It takes time to develop trust and credibility with people before they will let us behind the facade… and that’s where we want to be.
At this point in our journey we realize that we have not had adequate time to establish trust and build relationships. Because relationships are the foundation of a healthy church we made a strategic decision – we are prolonging our start date and therefore will not be starting (aka “launching”) in January.
So where do we go from here?
This decision grants us time! Time to:
- Continue building our pastoral staff. I’m making calls, visiting with, and entertaining multiple prospects that I am hopeful of working with in the coming months and years.
- Continue building our “Start Team.” This team of people will help us start Walls Down Church. Our goal is 40 committed, passionate, engaged adults who will pray for, give to, and work for the birth of a church that will tear down the walls that keep people from the life Jesus promised.
- Re-strategize based on what we’ve learned. We’ve learned some great lessons about marketing, building relationships, “making the ask”, and some other key lessons. We are moving forward based on what we’ve learned from our experiences over the last six months.
In the meantime we will be:
- Taking field trips with our start team to other portable churches (e.g. churches in high schools, theaters, etc.). This allows our team to see how portable church is done well and what it takes to get it done! It’s a great vision casting and team building opportunity.
- Doing monthly projects with our start team (e.g. projects in the community, and projects to build community)
- Connecting regularly to dream, plan, recruit, pray, learn, and build momentum
- Building relationships in our community both on a personal and organizational level
- Communicating regularly with our team through various methods (Facebook, e-mail, face-to-face, etc.)
When will we start?
We have established five benchmarks and identified three strategic starting dates that we are looking towards. If we have met our benchmarks by those dates we will explode out of the gate. If not, then we will look to the next date. I am more interested in creating something that lasts than I am having a great one night stand in the church planting world. We will do this and we will do it well and we will, with the help of God, build a church that does one thing until Jesus comes back – tear down the walls that keep people from the life Jesus promised.
Several people have wondered if I’m discouraged. The answer is an unequivocal NO! Sure, I wanted to start in January, but that would be like giving birth to a premature baby! If we started now we may make it, but we’d not have a healthy birth, and almost certainly, we’d create a culture of desperation that I’m not interested in perpetuating. I’m not interested so much in day one as I am in year twenty. I want to start well so we can minister well over the long haul. I want to give birth to a full-term baby (for you literalists, I’m speaking figuratively here), and this decision enables us to do just that, so no, I am not discouraged.
I’ll be sharing more about this decision in the days to come, but for now thanks to all of you who are traveling with us on this journey!
God bless you a ton!