A Reflection on Assembly 2012
By R. C. Shanks
We are the children of God. And God, our Father, has directed us to live by His Word and to spread His Word to people of all nations.
The recent Anglican Church in North America 2012 Provincial Assembly at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina centered on “Captivating Disciples, Multiplying Congregations and Transforming Communities.” The classes and sermons were interesting, thought provoking and inspirational.
As Dr. Ed Stetzer shared with us, many churches today are standing still. They are settled comfortably on a cul-de-sac adjacent to the highway. Every church should enter the highway and move forward day-by-day leaving no stone unturned.
No church should stand still. Every church should expand and multiply. Every church should become “great with child” and give birth to another church. We are talking about a new church plant providing the opportunity for eternal life to a group of people. Some of these people may not have had a church home or may have had a church home that did not proclaim God’s true Word.
In a survey done several years ago by Dr. Stetzer, churches from various denominations were asked when they thought they would be ready to plant another church. Regardless of their size, most gave the same answer: “As soon as we grow a bit more.”
There will never be a right time. It’s a leap of faith to make the commitment! But now is the time! We must move forward and not look back. The Church is the bride of Christ and He wants His bride to become “great with child” and birth new churches.
As The Rev. Dr. Michael Youssef said in his sermon at the Assembly, “We must move forward, not look back and do, do, do, do!”
If we are to fulfill the goal of planting 1,000 new churches as well as fulfilling our Lord’s commission that we serve as his disciples and multiply, we must start planting new churches now and continue to plant. We must do, do, do, do!
A new church plant is much like a baby or a child. It will need for the mother church to provide love, direction and guidance, but the new church plant must learn to stand on its own. Research by Ed Stetzer has proven church plants that were provided only minimal or no financial support from their mother church grew much stronger than those that were provided a lot of financial support. Just as it is with children, often too much indulgence and support breeds dependence not independence and growth.
Our mission or task is to build many houses of God.
Jesus declared in Matthew 16:18 that He would build the church. He had already appointed the 12 apostles and it was by training them and preparing them that Jesus knew the Church would be founded according to His will.
We must step out in faith and stop being timid about proclaiming our faith and God’s Word. Not everyone is in a position to consider leading a new church plant or contributing to it financially, but each of us should be able to provide a helping hand and spiritual guidance. As expressed in the book of Hebrews, there should be nothing to prove, nothing to hide and nothing to lose, but a lot to gain:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
God has commissioned us to minister to all nations. Many churches have wonderful, far reaching alliances with foreign churches providing aid and spreading God’s Word in these areas. We can also serve other nations and plant churches without ever leaving our own geographic area. The United States has become a melting pot with pockets of other ethnic groups in almost every city and town. Are we reaching out to them?
Disciples are needed today to set the Church in order, to restore proper foundations, to ordain deacons and priests, to bring the revelation of the mystery of God to everyone, to release the grace of God to one and all, to work mighty signs and wonders, and to help bring new church plants to maturity.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 that as an apostle he is a “wise master builder” who is able to lay the right foundation, which is Christ Jesus, and to set the building plan in place so that other ministries can build on that right foundation.
The foundational role of the apostles is confirmed in Ephesians 2:19-22 where Paul says that the house of God is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets. Though the church has ignored the ministries of apostle and prophet for centuries, the Scripture is clear that they are necessary foundation ministries for the building of the Church and this is the Word of God that we Anglicans must proclaim.
Are you ready to help plant and build new churches so that more and more will have the opportunity to hear God’s true Word? God has given us permission, so why wait? There is nothing greater than the Grace of God.
We Anglicans must band together and reach out to those who feel like they have lost it all, those who feel unloved, those who can’t remember their way home, those whose life is on the line, and those who are out of control. We must not let them loose hope. Jesus gave His life for each and every one of us. It is up to those of us who have seen the way, His way, to engage those who have not yet experienced the grace of God.
We have been commissioned by God to help lead his children home. Jesus is the bridge over the great divide. Each and every one of God’s children, our brothers and sisters, has a right to eternal life. We must show them the way and plant new churches for them to minister in and from.
Beverly Sills is quoted as having said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” Let’s all move forward! Now is the time!
R. C. Shanks is a member of Holy Cross Anglican Church, an Anglican Diocese of the South congregation.