When our church launched we were incredibly blessed to have several folks from our mother church with us in the beginning to help us out. In addition we had connected with some folks who were from other congregations but felt called to help us with our initial vision of connecting the disconnected. All of this was wonderful for a new church in its infancy. The problem came in the constant stream of conversations that I was having with people that all started something like this; “We should do _______” or “At my last church we had a ______ group, can we do that?” or even “You know, I’ve been talking to people around here who would like to have_____.” None of these things were bad, in fact most of them were very good things; but they weren’t part of our vision of connecting those disconnected from Jesus or his church. They were parts of other churches; they were programs to take care of people already there. They weren’t part of the story we were trying to write.
The narrative of your new church is the story that you are writing about who you are, who you are looking for, and what you are going to do to find them. In our world today you have a myriad of ways to communicate that story to those inside your church and outside your church, to those you are already connected to and those you hope to connect to. And every time that you share that story you are defining the narrative of who God has called you to be and letting that narrative further shape and lead the church forward. The more definition the narrative has the easier it is to guard against other things from the outside.
I always think about Jesus interaction with Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus approaches Jesus under cover of night and says that they are all aware that he has come from God because of the signs and wonders he is performing. Jesus’s response to his comment is, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Now then, I’m no conversational wizard but even I can see that Jesus’s response has nothing to do with what Nicodemus brought up. Jesus doesn’t want to talk about what he’s already done, he wants to talk about the kingdom of God which he has come to announce and usher in; this is the story he wants to tell, the narrative that will define and guide his ministry.
Church plants pull people from lots of different backgrounds, some churched, others not. That means you become a collecting house for lots of different narratives all while you are trying to start a brand new one. Take care to guard your narrative and tell the story of your church – not another church. Tell the story of how God is transforming lives through your ministry – how the lost are being found, how the faithful are going deeper, how the community and the world is different because your church exists. Tell that story, your story not some other church’s story.
Next time we’ll talk about some practical places and ways you can share your church’s story.