A new beginning
On Monday morning, August 6, 2007, my wife Kortney and I, along with our two boys, loaded up a U-Haul truck and prepared for the long drive across I-90 from Mansfield, OH to Quincy, MA. After serving on staff at a small independent Baptist church for seven years, we believed God had given us a vision for planting churches in the Boston area. We moved to a city where we knew no one and downsized from a 3,000-square-foot house to an 800-square-foot apartment for triple the price. We began meeting our neighbors, sharing our vision for a new church, and looking for a space to meet in.
After a year, we launched our public gatherings, and for the next three years, became a revolving door of 35-50 different people every week. After five years of working multiple jobs, opening our home nearly every night of the week for counseling, and hosting small group meetings and dinners, we finally started to see Life Community Church grow into a healthy, vibrant congregation. While it was certainly exciting to see our church grow, the reality was this: We were tired and lonely.
A turning point
While God had certainly been faithful, the church planting journey for us was hard and oftentimes discouraging. It was at this point that our team decided that we wanted to be a part of a network that we could be family with, that we could be on mission with. It was shortly after this turning point that I was introduced to a man named David Butler, the SEND City Missionary for Boston. We met at a Starbucks in Westwood, MA, and I expressed to him that we were interested in being a part of SEND Network. He welcomed us with open arms, and we have been a part of the SEND family ever since.
Today, my wife and I have five boys, Life Community is a growing family of congregations on Boston’s South Shore, and I now find myself in the role of City Missionary for Boston. This August will be 16 years since we loaded up that U-Haul, and I can honestly say that if it were not for SEND Network, we would not be where we are today. I’m convinced now, more than ever, that every church planter needs a network. While there are many reasons for this, I want to share my top three.
1. Maximize your impact
The first reason that I believe every planter needs a network is because networks maximize impact. The truth is that we are better together and can accomplish way more together than we ever could apart. Each church working together as one big family can create a far greater impact in our cities than any one church could on their own. This is because when we plant churches together, we are making a strategic choice to participate in the movement of God in our city. This is necessary because God’s dream for our cities is bigger than our dream for our church.
He wants more than a handful of churches to be planted throughout our cities; He wants our cities to be saturated with the gospel. That’s going to require us to work together to mobilize everyday, Spirit-led missionaries to make disciples in all the spaces of our cities. Not one church is going to have that kind of impact on their own. As my friend Neal McGlohon says, “God won’t allow it.” Because in the end, what God is most interested in is building His kingdom, and that requires all of us working together.
2. Prevent the risk of isolation
The second reason every planter needs a network is because networks prevent isolation. Very few things can feel as isolating as trying to plant a church on your own. Church planting can be a very lonely place, but the good news is this: It doesn’t have to be. One of the greatest benefits of a network is that we are not on the journey alone. I recently reminded one of our planters of this truth. Just last week, we hosted a retreat for our planters. There was no programming or agenda—just a group of brothers getting away together. We played basketball, ate good food, laughed a lot, and talked about the difficulties and pressures of ministry and life.
After one particular conversation, one of our guys stood up and said, “I’m so glad I came. I don’t have anyone to talk to about these things.” I immediately put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Bro, that’s not true; you have all of us.” This is why networks are so valuable. It’s because the physical presence of brothers in our life is a gift from God, especially in times of difficulty and doubt. Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks to this very idea in his book Life Together. He writes, “The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.” Over the years, being a part of a network has sometimes resulted in my faith being strengthened through the word of one of my brothers, and sometimes, I’ve had the joy of being the brother to offer a word that strengthens someone else’s faith.
3. Dismantle your pride
Finally, I believe every planter needs a network because networks dismantle pride. Church planting is where egos go to die which, in the end, is the best thing that could happen for any of us. Networks exponentially increase this reality because they force us to recognize this truth: “I’m not the only one God has called to carry out His mission.” When you join a network, you are intentionally choosing to collaborate with other kingdom laborers, many of whom have bigger dreams and greater skills than you.
The thought of this shouldn’t threaten us; it should excite us as we realize that God’s kingdom agenda is not limited by our weakness. It’s also a reminder that God doesn’t just want to use us to be a part of His church planting movement. Instead, He wants to use our involvement in His church planting movement to chisel away the parts of us that don’t look like Jesus. This would certainly include our pride.
I hope these words have been helpful to you as you weigh the importance of planting with a network. No matter where you are in your planting journey, I pray that you are encouraged, experiencing God’s favor and knowing that you have a family in SEND Network that is with you every step of the way.
Published May 31, 2023