by Ed Stetzer
I've watched my wife go through three deliveries and if there's anything that I've learned through that, it's that I shouldn't try and empathize or describe how it feels. So, in an effort not to alienate my female readers, I'm going to instead relate this concept to one of the most significant cultural events of my lifetime: September 8, 1966. The premiere of Star Trek. And, as any good Trekker (they don't like to be called Trekkies) knows, the most famous episode in the whole series was "The Trouble with Tribbles."
David Gerrold wrote the episode (maybe a little concerning that I know that) featuring Tribbles, these cute, furry, little animals who hate Klingons. Everyone loves the Tribbles, but the crew quickly discovers a problem when they keep multiplying everywhere, eating all the grain on this colony, and taking over the whole ship. It's Dr. McCoy who is able to discover how this is accomplished: tribbles are born pregnant. All they have to do to reproduce is eat. There's a lot more to the plot that results in the tribbles saving the day, but that's another blog post that only those of you with pointed plastic ears would really enjoy.
I am convinced that if we want to see a Church Multiplication Movement, we're going to have to get to the place where churches are genuinely born pregnant. As they grow, they naturally multiply. I know a lot of church planting boot camps that tell all their candidates that they need to plant another church within the first three to five years. I've heard it and lived it firsthand. My observation, however, is that if three years is the goal, it's going to miss--and most don't do it at three years anyway.
Regardless if it is three, five, or ten years, none of those goals get birth on the planter's mind from the beginning. I've never met a planter at the start of the third year who has said, "Great! We have enough people. Let's plant a church." There's always some push back. Instead, from the very first meeting, church multiplication needs to be discussed. It needs to be clear at the beginning that the church is going to be a church planting church. The church will be born pregnant.
That's why at Grace Church we announced on the first Sunday that we would be planting a church--we've got it in our budget, we are talking about location, and right now are looking at who is the best person (and what's the best plan) to do it.
But, it can be hard to have babies so soon.
Just like it is in the natural realm, though, it's not easy on the mother to just keep having babies. (I don't recommend talking to my wife about having your next child while she is still on the delivery table.) Johnny Crist, pastor of the Atlanta Vineyard church, perfectly explained to this a group of planters I was mentoring when he explained the process by saying, "Church planting is like having a baby: it's bloody, it's messy, and there's a lot of yelling, but afterwards you've got a beautiful baby, and you want to do it again. But not right away."
So, if we're going to be born pregnant, we need to plant churches soon--but that also might require us doing it in some new and different ways. While this may also be challenging, it must be the answer in order to make being born pregnant sustainable. This would incorporate my next characteristic for a church planting movement: open more lanes. More on that in the next post.
For now, I simply say: you were never ready to have kids. There was not enough money, time, sleep, and clothes, but you did it anyway. So it is with church planting. You have to be intentional--to think pregnant early on--and to prioritize planting from the beginning.