The end is near!
The end of 2016, that is.
As 2016 draws to a close, I would like to pause and reflect for a moment. It has been an interesting year, to say the least, but I am truly excited about what lies ahead for our family and for our church family. Let me give you a bit of an update on what we are doing in this next year.
As you probably know, I served as pastor at Cornerstone Church for seventeen years. It has been a wonderful ride—a crazy, wild ride, but wonderful, nonetheless. We led our church successfully through a period of difficult transition, and we now are entering another time of change. God is preparing us for something amazing.
Here’s what we are doing and why. After the sale of our church building this past September, we are relaunching in September 2017 as a new church in Mansfield, TX. We are reshaping our core congregation into a focused “Launch Team” of people committed to planting a new church, people with a pioneer spirit who share our passion for building a church for the unchurched. No more “business-as-usual” kind of church. God is doing something drastically new in us.
We are choosing a new name, a new identity, and marshaling our resources for a big-as-we-can-make-it launch next September. We are currently meeting in a temporary location while we determine our launch venue. We are also currently meeting Sunday evenings at 5pm. Meeting at such an awkward time is a deliberate decision to ramp down “business-as-usual” sort of church and transform us into a church planting team. That is not easy, but transformation never is. In fact, smashing the routine like this has the necessary effect of sorting out those who demand the routine of “comfort zone church” from the pioneers who are ready to build something new. The mindset has to change before the reality can change.
Our goal is to identify and recruit those who feel a divine call to plant a life-giving church in Mansfield, both those who previously attended Cornerstone and those from Mansfield and surrounding communities whom the Holy Spirit will help us summon. Over the next nine months, we intend to build “city momentum” in Mansfield by recruiting and training Spirit-called church planting pioneers.
In trying to cast the vision of what we are doing—which is quite challenging, considering how revolutionary this assignment is—I have been drawn to a metaphor that I first heard my wife, Jeana, use when describing what we are doing: “We are giving birth to a new church,” she said. And “birth” as a metaphor has been spot on. Jeana often reminds us that having a baby is both exhilarating and terrifying. So is relaunching an old, established church into something totally new. Only a deep sense of divine assurance can sustain you through it.
But we are giving birth. Yet, before birth is the period of pregnancy with all its thrills and terrors. At the close of 2016, we are moving out of the “first trimester,” which has been a season of deconstructing business-as-usual and preparing to frame up an unprecedented season of new life. From the New Year to Easter, we will work through the “second trimester.” We will name the baby and start planning nursery renovations, as it were, by training committed launch team members on what our church culture, values and vision will look like. We will also get started in earnest recruiting launch team members from within Mansfield and surrounding communities. We will also start raising our launch budget.
After Easter, the start of the “third trimester,” we will continue developing our leadership and volunteer teams and start allowing the new church to take organizational shape. Through the summer, we will continue building momentum through weekly training meetings and monthly “Interest Socials” where we invite people from the community to come and hear our vision. We will also choose our launch venue. By August, we will enter the “delivery phase” when we start rehearsing our Launch Sunday, which will be Sunday, September 10, 2017.
We are giving birth.
Another powerful metaphor for this season of transition is Jesus’ teaching on new wine and new wineskins:
[Jesus] also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (Luke 5:36-39)
God has determined to pour new wine into us as a church. But before he can do so, he must shape us into a new wineskin. The old wineskin was wonderful and served its purpose. But the old wineskin limits the growth and expansion of the new wine as it swells in the bottle. Jesus said that new wine in old wineskins—old systems, structures and mindsets—will explode the old skin, destroying a beautiful past. Rather than damage the old wineskin, Jesus prefers to create a new wineskin altogether. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing in us.
Then, Jesus concludes with an amazing statement: “And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” Did you get that? The only way God can get us to drink the new wine is to stop giving us the old wine. In other words, during transition there will always be a period of spiritual dryness and unsatisfied thirst. This is what ultimately sorts out those who can persevere to become church planters and those who cannot.
Can you endure a period of unquenched spiritual thirst long enough to let God wean you from the old wine and prepare you for the new?
How Do You Drink the Water?
Another powerful example of this is Gideon’s “water test.” After the Lord told him to send home the fearful and afraid—22,000 soldiers!—the remaining 10,000 were brought to the brook and told to drink the water. Those who drank with their eyes down, slaking their thirst but forgetting to look around for the enemy, were sent home. Those who drank the water while keeping their eyes up and watchful were chosen as Gideon’s 300—the original “300”!
The key is this: can we drink the water while keeping our eyes open? Or are we more focused on satisfying our own thirst? It’s all about vision. How do we see the church? Do we see the church as the place where we go to get our needs met, our thirst quenched? Or do we see the church as the place where, yes, our needs are met, but, most importantly, our eyes are open to the needs of others?
Entitlement Culture—Be Gone!
This is the main thing that is shifting about our church. We are moving from a self-focused entitlement culture to a church that exists to reach the lost. Yes, we will all get our thirst quenched—our kids taught about Jesus, our spiritual needs met, our families healed and our souls saved—but we will all do so while keeping our eyes fixed firmly on those around us who have never heard about Jesus.
That’s the Latest
So, there you go. That’s what we’re doing.
If you are interested in knowing more about our vision, or how you can get involved by joining the launch team, supporting us financially or partnering with us in prayer, please let me know. And keep watching for the next few weeks as we will reveal the name and identity of our new church. Looking forward to sharing that!
Thank you all for your prayers and support. Jeana and I love you and pray the best for you and your family this Christmas season. Many blessings to you all!