I have a friend from High School whose mother is a serial church planter. It never fails, if a new church begins meeting in Laurens, or even Greenwood or Simpsonville (the Forest City and Gastonia to Laurens’ Shelby) she is right there in the middle of it, inviting those seeking a church home to join her the next Sunday. Now “church planting” is a bit of a buzz word in missions and church growth circles, and indeed many have begun to see planting new churches as the main reason for the existence of churches and have in their by-laws provisions calling for the “mother” church to produce plants every few years. My friend’s mother is, however, not a member of this particular camp. Her involvement in these churches (according to my friend, who left the organized church when he reached college due in large part to, he says, the constant changing of home churches) stems from her inability to be satisfied in one church for very long. It doesn’t take long for her to become annoyed at the way her current church does things, to grow tired of the people she is worshiping with, and to begin questioning if this particular place of worship is truly where she should be. So she seeks out those who share her concerns and together they embark on a journey to begin a new church, to “get it right this time.” They leave, they find a new building, they invite people, and they grow (she really should teach a class, these churches she’s involved in manage to attract huge crowds, for a while at least). Sadly that growth leads to other people with new ideas, and it isn’t too long before the process repeats itself, and I see an invitation on Facebook to yet another church with yet another “cool” name, a place that promises to, this time, get it right.
I was asked in one of my classes recently to identify what I thought was the greatest threat facing the American church today. Obviously this was an important topic for a class of future MDiv grads, these problems are what will cost us opportunities for employment in future. As I thought about that question I thought about my friend’s mom. I also thought about how easy it is to complain about church and how simple it is to say “if it was just done this way…” and assume things would magically get better. And then I thought about Paul’s statement to the church in Corinth, a church filled with factions, that some may plant and some may water but it is God who makes things grow (1 Cor 3:8). I wonder how my friend’s mother hears those words. Personally I find in it a call to unity, a reminder that we all have roles to play in the body of Christ and that no one person is truly significant in comparison to the God who is at work in us. Election years in particular can remind us of our differences, it is my prayer that as we celebrate these 200 years of people coming together to worship and serve God is this place that we will focus instead on the faith that unites us and continue to seek the God’s will for this world.