Why Church Planting Matters Now
Easter 2020 was a Sunday that I will never forget. It will be forever ingrained in my memory, not because of what happened, but because of what didn’t happen: For the first time in my life, I didn’t gather physically in a building with other believers. Instead, like many of you, I gathered digitally with multiple communities of believers from all over the world. I could not stop celebrating the connectivity that modern technology has afforded our society. At the same time, I could not ignore the sobering reality that I would not be able to look people in the eyes, greet them enthusiastically, and shake their hands. I am grateful that we were able to gather online, but I missed hearing the congregation say in unison: “He is risen indeed!”
We are living during unprecedented times. Even the greatest minds are grappling to understand what our world will look like on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the world, fear and anxiety abound. Uncertainty is driving a scarcity mindset, which is giving way to hoarding and stockpiling. One thing is certain: We will all lose something or someone. In this moment, our faith calls us to slow down, lament, memorialize, and be led forward by God’s Word. We have never been here before, but God is with us. He is the one who created the universe out of chaos, made promises in the wilderness, painted the sky as the floodwaters receded, and raised a lifeless body from the grave. God is in control and He is leading us.
In chapter 16 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus predicts the saddest day and the gladdest day in history: Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. However, Jesus does not give his disciples instructions for what to do on Saturday. Consequently, the disciples spent Saturday struggling to understand their role in God’s mission. After the crucifixion, they lived as though resurrection was not coming. They were paralyzed by the shock and horror of the crucifixion. Saturday became a chasm that their faith struggled to cross. They could not see their role in God’s mission in the midst of death, although Jesus had promised them days earlier: I will build my Church.
Historically, hardships and national crises have brought about renewed spiritual interest and revival. The online engagement numbers from Easter are a sign that people are searching for hope. Many are looking to the church. This extended Holy Saturday that we are living in is a season for us to remind our souls of the words of Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” It is only in our stillness that we will hear God’s voice leading us, on mission, through this pandemic.
We must continue to plant churches during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why? Because it is Saturday and Sunday is coming! We will emerge from our homes. Non-essential workers will return to their jobs. Homeschooling parents will be relieved by academic institutions. Churches will have physical gatherings again. The economy will recover. The fear of scarcity will subside. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer will be in abundant supply again. The world will be fundamentally changed, but life will return. These days will be written about in the history books. Will the story that history tells be the story of a faithful Saturday where the church lived on mission?
Wesley Bolden has ministry training and experience in church revitalization, campus ministry, leadership and church planting. In 2013, he partnered with Stadia to plant Tri-Cities Church, a multiethnic church in metro Atlanta. Wesley is passionate about empowering church planters to discover and live into their unique gifting and calling. During his free time, he loves to get outside, listen to podcasts and drink good coffee.