In her new book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield writes: “I know I can’t save anyone. Jesus alone saves, and all I do is show up. Show up we must.”
When Christians fail to show up, those around us remain unreached. Complacency is a sickness that keeps us from loving our neighbors. In fact, we misrepresent the gospel when we fail to bring it to our unbelieving neighbors. This proves our lack of love for them, our lack of gratitude for our own salvation, our underestimation of its primacy in our lives, and our rejection of God’s call to go.
But Christ’s love is the antidote to complacency, and it compels us to go to the lost. Jesus spent his life among the needy, and that’s where he sends us (John 17:18). We shine his light in the darkness. We speak up where the truth is silenced. We welcome when the world abandons.
We misrepresent the gospel when we fail to bring it to our unbelieving neighbors.
This is what happens in church planting. We show up and speak up to meet the needs, both seen and unseen, of people in our communities. Here are three ways to do this as we plant churches.
We think strategically about how we can live out our mission to make disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:19). The global refugee crisis has, in many cities in both the United States and across the world, brought the nations to our neighborhoods. They’re coming to us. We have an unprecedented opportunity to show up.
My local church, Imago Dei Raleigh, cares for refugees who live in an apartment complex in our city. We seek to build friendships as these families transition to life in Raleigh. Recently we facilitated a vacation Bible school inside the complex. The gospel was shared with the children and their parents through Arabic and Burmese translators. My boys played soccer with new friends who speak multiple languages and have multiple skin tones.
I also met a Syrian woman with her four children. She lives in isolation, because she speaks little English. One tangible way I can love her is to help her practice conversational English. We exchanged phone numbers so that we can make plans to visit together. I’m committing to show up—not to exegete Romans, but to love her by helping her to learn English. Hopefully, as we become friends, I’ll have the opportunity to share Christ with her.
Think strategically about opportunities you may be overlooking. Talk to others in your church about how you can corporately meet the needs around you. Is there a specific area in or near your city that needs the gospel? Perhaps you could gather people to pray about seeing a church planted there. Take the initiative to start this kind of discussion, and see what good might come.
God orchestrates the placement of his people for his purposes. Our presence in our neighbors’ lives creates space for us to share the gospel. Engage your relational networks with gospel intentionality. Who’s better equipped to reach your neighbor than you are?
We’re not bound by one playbook for how to reach our neighbors. Be creative! For example, my friend hosts a neighborhood book club. Ladies come to her house to spend time with their friends as they discuss the latest bestseller.
Who’s better equipped to reach your neighbor than you are?
Over time, as they get to know each other better, the group begins to see the genuineness of my friend’s affection for them and her love for God. They see gospel fruit displayed in and through her life. Planting a church presents opportunities to think creatively about reaching the lost. It forces us to ask questions that push us to create new spaces for people to encounter Christ.
Disciples are made in the church. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Discipleship is costly.
Planting a church is no exception. It’s a costly endeavor. Time, money, resources, comfort, energy—all these and more are invested in church planting. But herein lies an opportunity to take up our cross and follow our Savior.
Planting a church is a costly endeavor.
When Christ showed up for us, he did so as a sin-bearing substitute. As his image-bearers (Gen. 1:27), our love for others will cost us, too. When we show up for our elderly neighbors, we sacrifice our time and our plans to help care for them. When we show up for our coworkers, we give up casual relationships for intentional conversation and care. It requires effort, and it’s worth it.
Caring for vulnerable neighbors isn’t an inconvenience; it’s a kingdom investment. When we show up sacrificially, we love like Jesus.
What Propels Us
We don’t show up to invest in the lives of others because we’re “do-gooders” or “super Christians.” We invest in people for their good and God’s glory. As churches are planted across the globe, God’s kingdom advances, and God’s fame is magnified.
In his book Radical, David Platt writes, “Disciple making is not a call for others to come to us to hear the gospel but a command for us to go to others to share the gospel.” Ours is a going faith. And we go because we long for God to be honored among the nations.
To show Christ to others, we first must show up. But we never show up alone. He’s always with us, which means we can go to the lost with confidence in Christ, trusting his promise to build his church (Matt. 16:18). We act strategically, think creatively, and give selflessly. We show up for others because Christ showed up for us.