I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6 ESV
In the Corinthian church, factions were developing. They were divided over past leadership and most likely leadership style. Some claimed to follow Paul and others Apollos. They could be identified because one group was wearing T-shirts that had "I Y Paul" on the front and the others had ""I Y Apollos" shirts.
There is much to be said about the resolution of differences within the church body and Paul addressed this plainly in this passage and elsewhere.
However, the phrase that caught my attention today is the "planting" and "watering" part.
As a denomination, we are all feeling the push and emphasis toward church planting, and rightly so. There is a great need for church planting in our nation and throughout the world. Church planting is nothing new, but there seems to be a renewed emphasis upon it right now.
Funding is being determined based on how it supports or affects church planting initiatives. Target cities and areas have been designated where planting needs to happen and men are moving to the urban areas and targeted communities to plant churches.
Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls church planting "one of the most important movements of our era—and one that follows the pattern set by the apostles." A reading of the New Testament gives credence to the face that the apostles were planters.
I am supportive of the church planting movement and believe every local church in existence should be as well. While we are far from the cutting edge as church planters here at First Baptist Orange Park, it's becoming evident that church planting and support of planters is not optional. In decades past, churches would plant "missions." For years, our church supported this. In our community today there are two established local churches that began decades ago as mission churches from First Baptist.
However, this new renaissance of church planting has a different look and feel than the former "mission church" plant. At least in our circumstances.
It seems the older model was to find an area, send some people and then seek out a man to lead. In our most recent experience, God has risen up the man, given him the passion for planting and then we have come along side to support.
Currently, we support a church plant in Tucson, Arizona (Legacy Church pastored by Chase Delperdang) and one in Dubuque, Iowa (River City Church pastored by Josh Dryer.) I met with Andrew Hopper earlier this week and we hope to be able to partner with him and a new church plant beginning in 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina. We also have been contacted by a church planter in Portland, Oregon, so the opportunities are there as well.
The need for churches in these areas, and others is clear.
Scripture reminds us of the calling to go.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him uof whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear vwithout someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15 ESV
The primary focus has been on planting churches. However, there's another aspect that seems to be missing here. It's the watering of the planted seeds.
Paul stated he planted the seeds and then Apollos came along and watered through his teaching and that ultimately it was God who brought the increase.
It must be remembered that God alone brings the increase. No church plant will ever be healthy if it's built on the charisma of the leader, the quality of the music, the "cool" promo pieces, etc. It may grow initially, but health will not be attained.
This watering of the seeds is happening. There are groups in denominational service focused on church health and discipleship. However, we, the church, cannot leave the watering to others. While I greatly appreciate our denominational missionaries and their efforts, there just aren't enough of them to take on this task fully. The church cannot contract this out to others.
So, what does it mean to be a "church waterer" (I know, that's a weird term, but I hope by now you know what I mean.)? We, First Baptist Orange Park, aren't there yet, but we're learning. Here's some building blocks I believe are key:
- Financial support. Church planters need tangible resources. While our church is not in a position to fully fund the numerous church planters we sponsor, we do give some financial help monthly. Even if it's just enough to fill up the gas tank a couple of times, it helps. At this point, any size church can do something. God desires us to be generous givers. The church must model this for the members. In addition to regular giving, special offerings are great ideas as well.
- Prayer support. Maybe I should have listed this one first. Sometimes people say "Well, I can't give you any money, but I can pray for you." That's not a cop out. That's needed and vital. However, don't just drop your church planters names on a generic prayer list with 500 names of people who have the flu. Take some set aside times to pray for planters, their families and the community they are seeking to reach for Christ. Write cards or emails of affirmation. Be intentional. Honestly, we as a church, have to do better with this.
- Go visit. I had the opportunity to go to Tucson this summer with one of our church members and friend to meet Chase Delperdang and the people of Legacy Church. There's nothing like face-to-face meetings. While not everyone can do this, when the opportunity comes, take it. When visiting, do so to serve the planter. Don't expect him to be your host, other than to show you the good restaurant to visit. Talk about life. Pray with him and his family. Serve.
- Vacation there. This has been developing this year. My friend who traveled to Tucson with me shared that he and his wife had a vacation coming up and he wanted to go back to Tucson. Now, Tucson isn't exactly on the top of the list of hot vacation spots, though it was very hot. My friend shared that he felt this would be a great way to vacation - to go to places like this, then volunteer to serve in the church that weekend and give some encouragement to the members and leaders there an maybe a break in some areas. They made this trip last week and it was great. So, I'm throwing this concept out to all our church members - to possibly take a vacation at a church planting location to get away and enjoy time together, but to also serve the Lord and make that trip a mini-family-mission trip.
- Resource the church planters. These guys need resources just like any church leaders. I've sent books, DVDs, and other resources to the pastors. The intent is to keep them connected in the conversation regarding the larger picture of what God is doing.
- Encourage. Pastoring is a lonely calling. I've discovered that personally and in talking with other pastors in our city. If it's lonely for pastors of churches that are established, how much more for those in pioneer areas or church planting scenarios. Find creative ways to encourage these men and their families.
These are just some ideas. You probably have more.
Church planting is needed.
Church "watering" is needed just as much.
As we send out these men and their families, let's ensure we stay connected and intentional with them for the sake of the Gospel (and the health of the planters, their families and the church plant.)