I got to be part of a panel discussion this weekend. It was a privilege to be asked as we discussed traditional churches making the shift to missional. I love this stuff!
And I really enjoy that people in so many churches are asking these questions. It indicates an openness to God’s leading in new ways or possibly a desperation from traditional ways not working. Either way it’s a fun chance to encourage people in their ministries and seeking God’s direction in fresh expressions.
Thinking about the panel in advance, I found myself reflecting on Diaspora’s story and my journey into the missional church over the last couple of decades. It helped me remember some of those great early days when we were gearing up to land Diaspora. The excited conversations, the times of prayer, the questions, dreams, hopes and fears.
Even the night the name arrived. I was in that state where sleep is about to arrive and the word, “diaspora” popped into my head. I really do think that it came from God.
I sat up in bed thinking to myself, ‘hmm, diaspora — dispersed, scattered — like the Israelites after the Babylonian exile or the followers of Jesus after His death and in church history”. And I thought about our church plant which was planned to be an intentionally scattered church rather than a traditionally gathered one. We would meet scattered or dispersed in our Disciplemaking communities. And that was it, the name for our upcoming church plant!
And there have been plenty of other surprises in this journey.
For example, the people who would join us. We spent a lot of time talking, sharing food, praying and dreaming about Diaspora. I had a clear picture of those I thought would be part of it. God seemed to be opening doors to several people who I thought were a great fit for us. But apparently not as some of them just didn’t join us! (Somehow God didn’t get the picture I did)
And others over the past few years have expressed interest and I thought, “oh yes, here we go this will open us up to new things and new people.” But then they decided God wasn’t calling them into Diaspora. And we have always said, we want the ones God is calling not just church shoppers.
And there’s the whole, “plan” of how many people we’ll have at particular points. Diaspora is a different kind of church but I tried to fit us into the traditional church plant projections. And guess what, it didn’t work! We had people coming, but we didn’t grow as quickly as I dreamt we would.
A couple of years ago, Bonnie and I were fortunate to spend a weekend with some missional authors and leaders in a coaching situation. I remember boating around the harbour at Newport Beach California with Neil Cole ( author of Organic Church and Church 3.0)and we talked about Diaspora. He cautioned us that it wouldn’t happen as quickly as we might think but that’s just part of the journey. That was a helpful affirmation.
We have plans and dreams and God doesn’t bring those all the way we think. Always know that however you think things are going to go, they won’t. God isn’t bound by your vision, plans or timetable. And that’s alright because His ways and plans are better. It’s about following God not showing Him how great we can do it!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV
So, what about taking some time and prayer looking back, remembering and reflecting on where you’re at in ministry?
Is it where you thought you’d be?
Has God led you in a better way than you imagined?
Are you at a difficult point?
Can you remember the vision, the fun, the dreams that brought you where you are today?
Whatever you do in this process, make sure you take it all to God in prayer. It’s valuable to examine ourselves and our ministries. But we need to remember that God will give us the true evaluation and the direction we need to move on from where we are.
God bless you today!