If you asked me what I spend the majority of my time thinking about (after Jesus, of course), mission would be somewhere near the top of the list. Few things excite me more than dreaming of ways to advance God’s kingdom here on earth while loving my neighbor in the process; and between innovations like the Acts 29 Network, the Verge Network, Asbury Theological Seminary’s new degree in church planting, and the like, it would seem I’m not alone. An apostolic wave is rising within the church.
Even the ministry I work for recently put together a cohort dedicated to planting new witnessing communities on campuses where there are currently none present. It’s been absolutely remarkable to watch some of my closest friends/heroes birth missional groups on their campuses; and though I’m not a part of the cohort, I am proud be part of the movement by pioneering new student ministry in the Cayman Islands.
Yet while this wave excites me, it also makes me insecure.
I saw a video not too long ago of students hopping on a bus to drive to a nearby campus to plant an InterVarsity chapter. They prayed, talked to students, and casted vision for what could exist in their institution. Of course, I thought it was amazing. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor” and these students embodied that philosophy. The hard part for me though is the fact I’ve never planted that fast.
For all the conversations being had about planting, it sounds instantaneous. I’ll hear stories about students who take a weeklong mission trip to another country, talk to some students, and say the ministry has been started. But is it really as simple as arriving on a campus, getting some folks to sign up for a bible study, and then leaving? I’m finding the answer for me is no. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in the past year and four months (aside from the importance of knowing your context) it’s that planting is not so much an event as much as it’s a process.
Yes there’s moment the seed gets placed in the soil but there’s also the instant the sprout breaks ground. Which constitutes as planting? Both. It’s the process of cultivating the soil, watering the seed, and watching it surface until it develops into something sustainable.
A friend of mine and I were talking this past week when he asked me what kind of timeline I was looking at for Cayman. I didn’t have one. I just figured I was going to be faithful to the time God has called me here and not think about moving until I had to renew my contract. While the need for a timeline is important (after all, every leader needs vision), things are always easier in theory than in praxis.
As nice as it sounds to entrust the work to people after you and move on to the next exciting venture, planting is a commitment. It sometimes means being willing to stick your flag in the ground and commit to a place longer than you intended. I believe any planter would agree. Sometimes it just needs to be said (namely, for me) Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your ministry. It’s okay if things take time. It’s part of the planting process.