Starting a new church in a community is not an easy task at all. It takes time and devotion. There will be joy as well as anguish. As it grows and is able to stand on it’s own two feet, it will take on a mind of it’s own; it will strive for independence, not from God, but from those who helped start it. This is a good sign, for then, and only then, could you say, “It is established.” But until that time, there is much to pay attention to, and much to do.
Babies are funny creatures. They are so innocent and helpless. They need to be taught everything they are going to learn except crying. Boy, do babies know how to cry! The tiniest of human beings can sure make a loud sound when they want or need something. Then we must find out what it is that they need and take care of it. Sometimes it is changing a diaper, other times it is feeding. There are even times when they are sick and we have to figure out what to do. That is the problem—figuring out what the baby needs. This is because they can’t talk to us and say, “Hey Mom, you’re a little tardy with the food this morning. Don’t you know that I am supposed to be fed on my schedule and not yours?” They just say, “WAHAAAHHHHH!” and we jump into action. In fact, the whole house jumps into action, and we quickly learn that the whole house revolves around the baby.
Babies are expensive. They need “baby things.” You can’t just give a baby an old stick from the back yard and expect them to “make believe” they have a doll or something. You have to get them “baby dollies,” and they don’t come cheap. They have to be made for the safety and development of the baby. Not only that, you have to get a whole new assortment of furniture, just for the baby. There are: cribs, changing tables, hampers, high chairs, rockers, and a bunch of other little things. There are doctor visits too. Babies need to keep going to the doctor to check their development. All of this to say, if you love your baby, you will get as many things you can to help the baby grow. Why? Because you love the baby and want it to grow up.
Now you know that you must feed a baby. If you don’t feed the baby, and ignore its cries, things for the baby don’t just stay the same—they get worse. If you don’t feed the baby, the baby doesn’t just stay in that level or growth and development until you resume feeding again. The baby begins to regress. It begins to deteriorate. If you took a 6 month old child and stuck them in a closet somewhere for a few years and then pulled them out, you wouldn’t have a healthy 6 month old baby to resume feeding and care for. That baby would have regressed until it died. This is a frightful thought to say the least. The point is, you must keep maintaining the child for it to develop. It needs a carefully managed diet. It needs lessons in things like walking, holding spoons, sitting up and many more things. If you stop the lessons, the baby begins to lose the things it has learned and does not develop. In fact it doesn’t just stay idle, it regresses. Babies must be cared for if they are to keep developing! If you don’t care for it, then it begins shrinking and getting weak.
Starting a new church is much like having a baby and raising it up. It does not just grow on its own. The first part of its growth is like the womb phase. It must be comforted in the warmth and love of its mommy’s tummy. There it knows it is protected and cared for. It grows in love, nurture and admonition. It hasn’t a care in the world except growing to its birth. It is totally dependent on its mother.
New church starts too are dependent on their mothers—that is their mother churches. The mother church is not to be confused with the Catholic Church which is often referred to as “the mother church.” It is a reference to the church that sends out the preacher or missionary for the purpose of starting a church in another place. The church that sends out the missionary is like: “the Mother Church.” Another reference to it in this day and age is: “the Sending Church.” Without a mother church, there is no “womb phase” for the starting church. There can be no church if there is no “womb phase.” This is the phase where the sending church helps the baby church get started. This usually happens by training up a preacher to this cause. Then sending some people from the mother church to go and help canvass neighborhoods to get a small group to form the church. The sending church typically supports the pastor financially in some way and helps provide necessary equipment like, pews, pulpits, etc. for the church to get started. This is the womb phase. It is a very delicate phase for a new church and it is important for them to know that they are safely snug in their mommy’s tummy; protected and cared for. Without this phase, it is nearly impossible for any new church to be born, for it can be compared with having a premature baby. When babies come pre-mature, it is a very delicate and critical time, because they can easily die. So it is with a new church start.
Once a church is born, it is still not healthy enough to walk on its own. It still needs help learning how to walk, hold its spoons, bottles, etc. It only learns this from watching others, and that is almost always its mommy. Again, this is where the sending church is crucial. As the devil would like for children to remain undeveloped, so would he like new churches to remain that way. Someone needs to gently guide, comfort and encourage the baby in its growth. So is it with a new church.
As the sending church is crucial in this roll, so do the members of the church plant have responsibility. Their responsibility is to respond to and learn the lessons being taught it. That is, if they are to remain safe from the devil’s attacks. The members of the church plant have the difficult job of learning and growing. This cannot be done if they refuse to do the things necessary to grow. If they don’t try to develop, they never will. Just like the baby who begins growing finds it new and difficult to learn crucial lessons like crawling and then walking, the church has the same difficulty. Prior to this, mommy is doing everything for the baby, but now she is beginning to make the baby stand up, or crawl. The mother church begins this long arduous weaning process. As this happens, more and more of the members have to pitch in and work. If they do not, the church will fail. The members cannot go on in their “comfort zone” forever. They must begin working, if they truly want a church.
There are times when babies need their diapers changed and need to be cleaned up. It is the same way with the church. When the baby gets dirty, all it can do at first is to just yell and cry. Amazingly, that seems to be the same way it goes in new churches. People seem to just scream and cry about the dirty condition of the church, but no one does anything about it. All they want is the loving touch of mommy to take away the problem for them, but guess what; they eventually have to learn to use the potty just like the big kids do. If members of a church plant are ever to develop to an established church, they will need to learn how to deal with their own dirty diapers; they will need to learn how to go to the potty. This equates to growing as a Christian. It means that they become proactive in HELPING each other and not tearing each other down. It takes a loving, kind and patient heart to work with a baby until it learns how to use the potty. Church members should be the same way to each other.