As I have been sharing the news of our new adventure with friends, family and strangers, I have been receiving a variety of responses. As I have shared my sense of calling and vision, I have heard responses like "Better you than me", "I wouldn't even know where to begin", and "you really have your work cut out for you!" Another response that I have heard several times is related to our current economic times: "Starting a church will be particularly difficult considering our current economy." While I do not disagree with the sentiment of any of these comments (trust me, I realize what a challenging undertaking this is!), I do find this last statement particularly interesting and I want to offer a challenge here (much easier to do here than to start a debate during a casual conversation with a well-intending friend/church member).
Perhaps one of the most overwhelming parts of church starting is the financial aspect. I have spent some time creating a rough budget for what I project will be some of our expenses. Determining expenses, estimating my personal income needs, and considering fund-raising goals has been very uncomfortable for me. While I know that church starting does in part rely on the financial generosity of others, there is part of me that wants to cringe when the financial considerations are the first to surface when people hear of my sense of calling to church planting.
I think that some of my resistance to this mind-set has to do with my widening vision of the fundamentals of "church." While for most of my growing up years, church meant buildings, programs, and well-paid staff, lately I have been calling those assumptions into question. While such needs may become necessary, it bothers me that they are considered fundamental. As I dream of what the church can and should be, I am not considering anything a "given", including the necessity for abundant financial resources.
I want to go a step further. Maybe these tough financial times indicate the ideal time to start a new church. As people have faced loss of jobs, homes, and financial security, perhaps this is the ideal time for a new community of faith to emerge that invites people into the story of God's great love - a love that does not exclude us based on our economic status or anything else, but rather calls us into a life of dependence on God. Despite the financial hurdles that we will no doubt face, I pray for eyes to see the church as a community of those in need, not a place dependent on a good economy for its success.