I confess that when we first moved to NJ in 2004 I tried to distance myself from my southern/bible-belt/mega-church roots. We had moved into a new culture where I realized few people could relate to that background and where ministry would look very different from what I’d experienced before. In some ways a little distance is good, but it is also possible to allow the pendulum to swing too far. Although I do church-planting in a radically different context than from where I grew up (urban NJ and progressive VT are both very different than suburban Atlanta), I cannot escape the fact that I would not be the person I am today apart from the people, pastors, churches, and ministries who invested in me and gave me opportunities to succeed and fail in ministry prior to our move into church-planting. Also, I am so thankful for the churches who have partnered with us these past seven years as we’ve stepped out in faith. It means so much to know there are people who believe in what God has called us to do and back it up with their prayers and resources.
Sometimes I think mega-churches get a bad rap in church planting circles. In some cases that may be deserved, but in many cases I think we paint with a very broad brush. It’s easy to miss the fact that there are some very large Bible-belt churches who “get it.” They understand that God has blessed them with amazing people and resources to make a global impact. I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with one such church the past few days: Shades Mountain Baptist in Birmingham, AL. In some ways they look like a typical mega-church. Yes, they have a huge building. Yes, they have 3000 plus people. Yes, they have programs for every age group imaginable. AND they get that God has blessed them to be a blessing. When we moved to NJ in 2004 to start the Point they were behind us 100%, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. They’ve also sponsored church-planters in Portland, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Calgary, and inner city Birmingham. They partner with organizations that address the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, trafficking in Thailand, and drug addictions in their own city. They are seeking ways to help missionaries and pastors in some of the most unreached areas of the world.
This past week I’ve heard a lot about compassionate justice and evangelism going hand in hand from people doing ministry all over the world. It’s been so encouraging and inspiring to see a church praying, sacrificially giving, and even transplanting families because they believe in this.
To my friends, family, and fellow ministers who read this blog from the sunny south- may we all remember that God has blessed us to be a blessing. May we have an open hand with our plans, our lives, and our resources.