I’m not much for ranting, but I felt the need to post this. I make no bones about my recent calling to start a church in Monroe, NC called Church of Monroe. A small group of believers have been meeting with my family every Sunday in our home, studying the word, praying with one another, and looking to affect the community of Monroe in a positive way. There are plenty of challenges here. One is city zoning. The city of Monroe will not allow churches to open inside the area they have zoned as the Central Business District. The idea behind this area is that it is supposed to be an area for business and trade, and the city planning board feels that churches would make that difficult. I would argue the lack of merit in that idea, but there’s really no point to that argument, as cities can’t legally zone to disallow religious gatherings in a business district. It’s unconstitutional, so really there isn’t much to argue.
There’s a reason why I’m going there in this post. It’s just one small part of a larger problem we have when we listen for God’s calling in our lives. Part of this calling that I feel God has staked out on us is to reshape this downtown area. It is very close to a lot of at-risk and down and out communities. The area is literally crying out for some attention. However, I know a lot of pastors locally who would think I was mad for wanting to open a church in Downtown Monroe. Conventional wisdom to most pastors is that you open the church on US Highway 74, a very large thoroughfare that carries thousands of cars daily through Monroe. It’s unfathomable to most people when you talk about planting a church that you would want to drop it in the middle of beat-up, broken-down, downtown Monroe when Highway 74 is just beckoning for you.
Therein lies the problem. If you want to know what cripples most people in their quest to serve God, it’s this: We hear God’s calling long enough for us to fill our brains with it, and then we proceed to use our own logic to make it happen. Put another way, we get the very first part of the memo from God, and then throw out the rest of it in favor of using our own resources. I had a pastoral acquaintance recommend a book for me, and after reading through parts of it, I started to get a feel for why church feels so staid, stale, and programmed. It’s because it’s staid, stale, and programmed. I mean, look, God does not need me and my bright ideas to grow a church. He doesn’t need a very well thought out book on church planting, or a very good cell team to start a church. He didn’t use any of these things the first time, so why does He need them now?
I’m saying all of these things because I’m tired of “connect-the-dots” spirituality. I’ve gotten sick of the 12 step guide to planting a church, and I’ve grown weary of the idea that we just need to hit on the right formula to grow our very own mega-ginormous-humongo-monstrous church!!!! God doesn’t move by formulas. He doesn’t work by hitting the right points in Launch, and He sure doesn’t move by surrounding yourself with other people who helped grow a big church. God doesn’t need your brilliance, or Nelson Searcy’s brilliance, or Rick Warren’s brilliance, to grow His church!
It started with 12 disciples, one of whom actually sold Jesus to be killed. It was four fisherman, a political rebel, a tax collector, and a couple other nobodies. Jesus was by far, according to our standards, the WORST church planner ever. Yet, in all of this, He started a church that the gates of Hell would not prevail against. So, why all the drama? Why do we continue to lift up our own ways of doing this, while we tend to ignore the single… most… IMPORTANT part of planting a church, or doing ANYTHING for God, for that matter?
So, what is that most important part? It’s listening to the Holy Spirit!!! It’s not reading the right books. It’s listening to the Holy Spirit! It’s not doing what makes sense to men. It’s … well, you get the picture. So where am I going with this?
Here’s where. Given the opportunity to listen to the “wisdom” of men, or the wisdom of God, take the second one. The first has very limited perspective and is doomed to fail from the beginning. The second is timeless and meant to prepare you for exactly what you need.