Don't be THIS Pastor

by jeff-christopherson  |  February 22, 2013

Note: Today’s blog post is from Jeff Christopherson.  Jeff is a church planter (and church planting recruiter) who starts new communities of faith designed to reach and disciple non-religious people.  This post is an excerpt from his book Kingdom Matrix.

Looking for a Church Planting Partnership

I was invited to preach at a missions conference at a very large church with many, many resources.  I accepted this invitation, in all transparency, with the hopes that it would generate a partnership for one of our new church planters. 

I was picked up at the airport by the senior pastor in a leather wrapped white Escalade.  He was a middle-aged gentleman in his later 50’s who was indeed very gracious and warm.  He ushered me into their brand new church building.  It was jaw-droppingly beautiful.  Everything was so tastefully decorated and fresh.  Leather foyer seating, subtle flat-screen monitors positioned unobtrusively, wide airy gathering spaces, a slopping balcony that wrapped around and hugged a very large, yet intimate worship center.  It was impressive and very obvious that much time and care was taken in the planning of these facilities.  

The missions conference was a one evening affair.  There were four missionaries sharing.  I was grateful to be given the preaching spot.  The congregation began to straggle in – slower than I expected.  When the music started, the beautiful auditorium looked about one-third full.  One faithful leader shared after another, each trying with varying degrees of success to convey the realities of their context to an audience that couldn’t really imagine the reality of their situations.

Soon, my spot on the agenda was at hand.  I really do not remember what my message was about, but as is my habit, I shared a number of what some people call “God stories.”  Stories of steps of faith originating from hearing God’s revelation, seeing no means of physical provision, and seeing God become the sole source of provision.

And then it was over.  We were warmly thanked, driven back to the airport and within a few hours, we were all back in our homes.  “Rats!” I thought to myself.  “I never even had an opportunity to talk about the possibilities of working together.  Too bad.”

God Stories

A few weeks later, I received a phone call from that senior pastor inviting me to come and preach again.  I was excited.  It was obvious to me what God was doing.  They must have prayerfully thought about all that they had heard and had sensed God’s leadership to begin to explore a partnership with Toronto – North America’s most unchurched English-speaking city.  Yes!

Soon, I found myself behind the pulpit of a packed auditorium.  This wasn’t a missions meeting.  This was real church with all the bells and whistles.  If you could not preach here, give it up.  Everything led to the preaching moment with brilliance.  Once again, I do not remember the subject of my message, but it must have been highly illustrated with more “God stories.” 

After some kind formalities with church leaders, I find myself in the well-appointed inner-office of the senior pastor.  This is where I’d hoped we would get down to the brass tacks of a church planting partnership.  Perfect.

The pastor looked at me and said, “Jeff, you know all of those God stories that you shared these past two times?” “Yes,” I said.  He looked down and said, “I have been a pastor for all of my adult life and I do not have one story like you told.  Why do you suppose that is?”

This is not where I was expecting the conversation would go.  Nor was this where I wanted the conversation to go.  Any answer that I could give, any truth that I could tell, would not likely further this partnership process.  My mind was searching for a soft, gracious answer that could redeem this situation and keep things moving forward.  I couldn’t find one.

“Pastor,” I hesitantly replied.

“You do not need God stories.  You’ve got all of this,” I said, gesturing to the wealth of amenities that surrounded us.  “You have highly skilled and intelligent leaders.  You can leverage all of this in a good business plan and continue to grow this church by ten percent per year.  The only time that you need God stories is when you need God.”


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