When Church Planting Looks Foolish

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Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches

We Christians are a foolish lot.

Think about it: in a busy, fast-paced world where there’s always something to be done, where we experience constant pressure, and where efficiency rules the day, we take time to gather with other people every Sunday. We sing, listen to a sermon, and go out of our way to spend time with people afterward for lunch or during the week.

In a world that preaches consumerism and teaches us that people are useful insofar as they benefit us, we pursue reconciliation with those who’ve wronged us. We love those we don’t particularly like—in fact, we endeavor to seek their good, even when it’s costly.

To the outside world, none of this makes sense. Why are we giving up our precious Sundays to spend two hours singing stuffy old songs and listening to some guy go on about a historical figure who died 2,000 years ago? Why would we make time for people we just met? Why would we remain friends with people who add no perceived value to our lives?

More than this, why do we continue to plant new churches in a world that wants nothing to do with Jesus? It just doesn’t make sense. It’s foolish.

Folly vs. Power

The world is right. Our message is foolish, if you don’t have the ears to hear it. Further, planting churches in a world that doesn’t want them seems foolish. But in reality, it’s an opportunity to see the power of God at work. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

When planting a church, there will undoubtedly be people who want to see you fail. They will think what you are doing is foolish.

This work includes trials. When planting a church, there will undoubtedly be people who want to see you fail. Some will stand in direct opposition to the gospel. Folks will think what you are doing is foolish.

At our church here in Brooklyn, we’ve had neighbors slander us and our people, making claims that are not true, in the hopes of seeing us gone. We struggled to find a new home for our congregation because many places are fine with accepting our money, but not our message.

Additionally, we’ve tried to serve at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, only to be met with rejection when they find out what we believe. People have been willing to accept our mercy and justice, just not our reason for doing so.

Small, But Powerful

Preaching this foolish message in hard places will often mean slow growth. While church “success” is not measured in the number of people who gather on a Sunday, we do want as many as possible to hear the gospel.

In our context, we dream of seeing the gospel reign in Brooklyn as in heaven. As we approach our fifth birthday, we’re still a small church (a little less than 200 people). This can sometimes feel discouraging. And the world would want us to believe that our numbers suggest failure.

But a small church still shines gospel light. And a small, foolish-looking light has the power to pierce even the deepest darkness. God has used our foolish little church to do just that in our city. In our short life we’ve seen new believers baptized, marriages restored, the homeless clothed, the hungry fed, children given safe spaces to live, and so much more.

A small church still shines gospel light. And a small, foolish-looking light has the power to pierce even the deepest darkness.

Praise God that he uses the foolish to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27).

When you are met with opposition, when it seems as though you can’t catch a fair break, don’t quit. Dig your heels into the truth, as gospel power enables you to stand firm. As you do this, you display something the world doesn’t understand.

Upside-Down Kingdom

The world longs to be in community, to be fully known and fully loved. They look at us and they see that love. They see the way we contend for one another and strive with one another, flaws and all.

In a world that preaches a gospel of “be true to yourself,” the church is full of those who die to themselves. May that be our gospel witness. May the world see us and see our love for one another, and thereby know whose we are (John 13:35).

In a world that preaches a gospel of ‘be true to yourself,’ the church is full of those who die to themselves.

The world offers us all sorts of clubs and organizations to bring people together. To find an example, you needn’t look further than any gym across the country. There, you’ll find people forming a team to compete on the basketball court.

For the duration of the game, the team is a unit, working together, striving toward one common goal. But when the pickup game ends, we go our separate ways. That little orange ball might bring people together for a short game, but it isn’t enough to sustain them through disagreements, or pain, or the suffering that life brings.

A community formed by the folly of the cross, however, is anything but temporary and conditional. The church is built on the unconditional love of God in the gospel. And that makes the community of the church, and therefore church planting, unstoppable.

No matter how much opposition we face in church planting, the message of Christ coming to save sinners cannot be silenced. Nero thought he could do it to the Roman Christians, and oppressive governments are trying it now throughout the world. But gospel seeds sown in the midst of persecution can yield abundant harvests.

The church is made up of a long, rich, beautiful history of foolish people walking in the power of God to change this world. As we plant churches, we have the privilege of extending this history until Christ returns.

Let the world call us foolish. Let them oppose our churches. We know who is King, and one day, they will too.

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