The Tour de France finished on Sunday.
My love for the race started when we were vacationing in Mauritius many years ago. Not being much of a cyclist myself, I had no affection for the race. However being in this little cabin with one grainy TV in French, M and I tried to decipher what was going on with the different colored journeys, tactics and the sheer French countryside beauty.
This 2015 race will probably go down as one for the ages. What caught my attention was the intent of the riders who were lying in second, third, fourth, fifth place to isolate the leader, Chris Froome, from his Sky team. The tactic was "isolation" in order to defeat. It was fascinating and captivating, but they were not able to split the team. Sky held together and Froome won.
The church planting parallel was obvious to me. We were never created to be alone. From the garden, through the Abrahamic call to faith, we have been called to a glorious "togetherness". At the first level it is in marriage, then the family as a planting team, then a core group and then lastly with apostles.
I am not sure we can do this "church planting thing"without all these "togethernesses". The mistake the planter makes is to think that some of these "togethernesses" are optional. But they are not. If Froome got split from the Sky team he simply would not have won.
Paul writes of the partnership the plant needs with apostles "because of our partnership in the gospel" Phil 1:5 and then again "... church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving..." Phil 4:15. Lest we think it is simply one man's perspectives, John also writes "I John your brother and partner in the tribulation" Rev 1:9. There is a simplicity to this, that is so empowering. It is relational, it is ongoing, it is personal, it is intimate. The church plant needs the foundation of the apostle (as we saw last time). But there are other times when the plant needs the personal touch - especially in times of tribulation (like trouble with a leader, divisiveness with a congregant, poor doctrine leaking into the community, bombastic leadership styles, moral failure...)
Unfortunately, the church is fond of surrogates. We let scripture slide for personal and cultural preferences, hence the high degree of plant implosion.
These surrogates include, joining an organization, denomination or a planting network, working with sister church models or simply being on our own. Whatever the alternative, if it is not in the text, we are ignoring a huge cornerstone of the partnerships we need to get that plant of ours powering.
Who is the apostle you are journeying with?
When and how do they engage the community personally, intimately, affectionately?
What the dirt starts flying, who will get on the plane and come and walk you through the pain of your tribulation?
Jesus loves his bride. He has thought of every eventuality. We are simply foolish to think we can improve on his design.