Experiences in Planting, Part 2: Creating a Core

Mark Driscoll in his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev. talks about the moment he stopped wasting time on people who were never going to be on board with the vision God laid on his heart and started investing in people who were interested in being missionaries to the city of Seattle. It was then things began to change for Mars Hill.

It sounds harsh but it’s reality: as a planter you are one person trying to create something from nothing. With limited time and energy, every move you make is important to the life of your ministry. Every move must be strategic and forward-looking, including whom you invest in.

Central to starting something from the ground up is finding faithful people who embody the mission and core values of our group. As nice as it is to love, nurture, and, sometimes, chase after each person that comes our way, we can’t. It’s simply not strategic. This isn’t to say we neglect those entrusted to our care – absolutely not. Jesus calls us to care for and feed his sheep. If someone, Christian or not quite there yet, is eagerly searching for God they are to be stuck with. The thing I’m trying to beware of is wasting time trying to corral people who don’t want to be corralled. There’s a difference between a sheep that accidentally wanders off and one that looks both ways then runs for hills.

In the past I’ve spent too much time focusing on the wrong people but now I’m concerned about doing the opposite: giving up at the faintest sign of struggle. The flaw in the first one is that in spending time with all the wrong people we’re wasting valuable time and energy that could be spent investing in the right people, moving progress forward. We’re ignoring the people the Holy Spirit has prepared for this moment. However, in moving on too quickly we run the risk of passing over those same people. If we expect to find leaders without a struggle, we’ll never have a core. There must be a balance. The trick is in finding it.

One way I’ve been trying to sift the two groups is by creating opportunities for missional engagement. As we embody our values, people almost naturally self-select their level of participation. Those who are serious rise to the surface whereas those who aren’t remain on the fringe. In the process, a natural core begins to form and it’s those people we intentionally invest in. It’s taken a while but it feels like we’re just beginning to see this with our university students and let me tell you, they’re not who I had in mind.

Last spring was probably the most productive season of ministry I’ve ever experienced. I met with more students one-on-one than I ever had before, did more evangelism than I was used to, and hosted more events than I intended. Yet it’s this semester a core is taking shape almost unbeknownst to me. Somewhere in this is a lesson about compromise, patience, and the sovereignty of God in planting but this will do for now.

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