2 Years Church Planting – Climbing Everest
This Sunday we celebrate 2 years of being a church…doesn’t time fly?! I wrote some reflections on church planting at month 6 and month 12 so I thought I’d write a few more reflections now we’re at month 24. On our church blog I wrote about 3 reasons why we should give thanks – to stop pride, stop grumbling and keep us excited. In this blog I want to reflect on the journey so far and think about priorities for the year(s) ahead.
So let’s retell our story of the last 4 years, using the analogy of climbing Everest which I recently used on a leadership retreat. It has 3 stages.
Sept 2012-Sept 2014: Training the team
Leanne I arrived in Dublin in September 2012 and for 2 years we focused on three things.
- Team – We gathered a team together to form a house church. We started as 6 people and by the end of the 2 years we were about 20 people.
- Training – We did some altitude training in terms of settling in, making some friends, becoming financial viable/sustainable and understanding the culture and the people (contextualisation). We wanted to understand Dublin well before we launched the church.
- Vision – We clarified our vision & values which in summary is to see the spiritual, cultural and social renewal of the city and our values are mission, discipleship, community & leadership. Put even more simply, we wanted to be a church for the skeptical Dub, particularly those between the ages of 18-35. We wanted to be a community that could connect with those that were not connected to church.
After 2 years, we were ready to start the climb!
Sept 2013-Sept 2014: Reaching Basecamp (year 1)
In year 3 of being in Dublin (year 1 of the church) we arrived at basecamp, a place where we can grow for the long-term. Here were some important milestones.
- Launch & venue – We actually launched the church and started in Filmbase in Temple Bar, then moved to Immanuel on the Quays briefly before settling at Synge Street Secondary School
- Identity – After being fairly hidden, we became known in Dublin, and started to grow. People found out about us. And we had tonnes of fun together, growing in community. Going to the pub was a key part of our identity, both in connecting to the city and ensuring everyone who came felt welcome.
- Early signs of vision – What we had hoped started to happen. Those who were skeptical started to engage. We saw some people baptised. We saw some ‘prodigals’ return and we saw some ‘de-churched’ get connected.
- Early signs of values/structure – We started training leaders and set up City Groups, Life Groups, Sunday Leaders and we became a charity.
Sept 2015-Sept 2016: Starting to climb Everest proper (year 2)
So this time last year it seemed that having got ourselves set up and established as a church, it was time to think ‘long-term’ and about what we were hoping to achieve over the next 10-20 years. And there were 3 things that really stood out to us, which we have started to implement and want to keep focusing on.
(1) Leadership development – We want to continue to grow our internship and apprenticeship which has been a huge success. It has been great seeing people grow through the year(s). We will keep doing 6:30 leadership to develop leaders and over the coming years hire some more people onto staff. We will sorely miss Caroline when she heads off on maternity leave.
(2) Remain an outward facing church – in 2 ways:
- Be a church where skeptics are welcome. I want our church to remain a church where those who are skeptical, non-believers, unsure of what they believe or have fallen out with church can connect and be engaged, be welcomed and loved.
- Be a church that is about the city of Dublin. It’s less about building a great church and more about playing our part in making Dublin a great city. We want to infiltrate every sphere of Dublin – schools, colleges, homes, community, business, art, music, finance, politics…you name it. We want to be salt and light in these areas, trying to make a positive difference. A key ingredient in this is learning how to integrate faith and work.
(3) Multiplication – Planting other churches/congregations. As part of the DNA of the church we want to have a vision for multiplying and planting other churches and starting other congregations. That is partly why we want to raise up leaders and this is partly what it means to be an outward facing church. But this will also require sacrifice and a willingness to put God’s mission above personal comfort. Our hope and prayer is that we can have multiplied by our 5 year anniversary.
There are more ideas that we have prayed about that we’d love to see happen but they’re less clear at this stage – like starting a mercy ministry or renting a multi-purpose space for offices/training/cafe/meetings or planting churches outside of Dublin/Ireland or setting up a more formal faith&work initiative. These kinds of things excite us…and hopefully they can come further down the line.
I ended my recent church blog like this:
I love the holy ambition of Paul, who knows that nothing can stop him because God is for him, and he ends his letter to the Romans by saying (Romans 15:20):
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.”
That is what I want for our ambition as a church. To be excited that God will lead us to places where Christ is not known… and we can build a new foundation with him.
So as we come this Sunday to celebrate our second birthday as a church and look to the future, we must remember what he has done so far and give thanks. Let’s avoid the pitfalls of grumbling self-indulgence and proud self-reliance by thanking him for what he has done. And let’s stay excited and expectant of what is to come!