For anyone who has grown up in the church, especially one that talks a little bit during worship, to hear a person say "Amen" during a sermon is nothing new. "Amen" is a word of affirmation. The Hebrew word literally means "truly" or "so be it." The word is also found in the Greek New Testament and has the same meaning.
However, there are times when the "amen" rings empty. In other words, it's a statement of "Yes, that's a great idea" but comes with no action.
A few years ago I stated that our church would clearly engage in the process of church planting. This effort, along with global missions and orphan care, have become "Our Big 3." Each is clearly defined biblically as actions and efforts the church should emphasize. It should be noted that these emphases do not negate the five roles of the church as defined in the Great Commandment and Great Commission, but actually gives us tangible avenues in which to fulfill these purposes.
Last summer I was asked to share in a break-out session at the Send>>North America Conference in Dallas with pastors considering partnering in the area of church planting. For some reason, in my talk, I said this. . .
"No one would say that planting churches is a bad idea. Yet, as Baptists we have a tendency to 'amen' good, biblical ideas, maybe throw a little money toward it and then leave it up to someone else - maybe the denomination - to do the work. For the church in North America to truly engage and see transformation take place, we must do more than just say 'amen.'"
Little did I know that that statement would resonate within me for months to come.
What's more frustrating challenging, was when I said. . .
"That means, for some of us, we are going to have to be willing to send our best out to plant and serve. This goes against our nature and there are many excuses reasons why we shouldn't, but we must."
I believe in church planting. I believe it is one of the best ways we have to penetrate the lostness of our community, nation and world. I believe in it enough that I led our church to prominently place it as a primary emphasis. We began to donate funds to planters in Tucson, Portland, Greensboro, Dubuque, Reykjavik, near USMC bases and in other areas globally. Then, it happened. I knew it was coming. God had set me up. That which I told other pastors in Dallas was to become my charge. It was as if God said, "Okay, it's time to step into this and not just say 'amen.'"
When Neil and Kaytee Jimenez shared with me their calling to plant and primarily to become supporters of planters in the Greater Toronto Area, I was pumped. This is exciting. Then, it hit me, these are two of our most faithful members. Kaytee even serves on our staff. This is more than an "amen."
Prior to this announcement months ago, many in our church had positive feelings about church planting, but I suspected a good number of our people were positive in the sense that they believed planting was a good idea. I feared they just believed it was the latest focus and idea from me, their pastor.
Partnering with planters is vital - whether around the globe or even here in our own city. The facts show that more lost people are won to Christ through new works than in established ministries. This does not eliminate our responsibility to evangelize and disciple, but rather gives us a broader reach.
Many (okay, most) Baptists are skeptical by nature. When the North American Mission Board unveiled the SEND>>North America strategy a few years ago, it was met with excitement, but I also heard some "Well, let's see how long this lasts." types of statements.
Now, a few years in and with a better perspective of the strategy and the focus on these unreached areas, we are seeing momentum build. More planters are in the community. More planters having sending churches. Fewer planters are left on their own. In fact, we're intentionally making it hard to plant a church alone. We are better together, right?
So, "AMEN" church planting, but there must be more.
More doesn't mean more busy work, but rather better strategies and plans. It also means being willing to allocate resources, concerted prayer and yes. . .even sending our best.