The past year and a half for me have been a continuing dialogue with God culminating in an intense conversation with him this summer. People have asked me about the calling that God has asked me to be a part of and how I know that this is what God wants, and all I can do is explain the process of dialogue that I have engaged in over the past year.
February of 2010, our elders and pastoral staff went to “Velocity’ inAtlanta. It was a great trip where we were ignited with a desire to live out the calling that West E. Free has been given to ‘multiply churches that multiply churches to reach our county for Christ.’ It’s a calling that involves way more people then just church planters and it is a calling that, without Jesus Christ leading the way, is impossible for us as humans to really live out in a way that produces what God has called us to. Elders and Pastors came back from the conference excited about what God had for us in this area of calling but unsure exactly of next steps.
When I came back, I had this lingering conversation in my head about my role in this multiplying churches calling. I wondered if maybe God was directing my heart and mind to plant a church inWichita. I wondered if maybe he wanted me to be a part of launch teams helping to start youth ministries. I wondered if he wanted me to be in the youth ministry position that I have been part of the past several years. Late in 2010, I thought that God was moving my heart toward Church planting inWichita(me doing it) and began to read and develop in this area of church planting so that when the timing was right, I would be as ready as I could be.
Early in 2011, there were a few things that I experienced that I knew that God was directing me somewhere other then planting a church. He was saying, “Just hold on, hold tight, and be patient. I’ll clearly direct you when the time is right. Be satisfied with where I have you, but know that you will not stay there.” And so I began to pray more broadly, that God would capture our churches heart in this area of multiplying churches. In March, our elders asked Pastors to pray about and discover a strategy that would help us multiply churches at a rate that would be directly correlated with this concept of reaching our county for Christ. Elders and Pastors spent a month in prayer and when we came back together it was clear that we still needed to discover and put together a strategy. Pastors spent several hours together discussing a strategy for multiplying churches based on “HillCountryBibleChurch” in Austin, Texas. HCBC (www.hcbc.com) has planted 23 churches in the City ofAustin through the past 11 years and has church plants that are 2 generations away from the home church. They are somewhat peculiar in the church planting world because they are focused solely on their city and reaching the city with the gospel. They believe the best way to reach their city with the gospel is by planting churches.
As I have read about and studied church planting, as I have had conversations with church planters currently on that journey, as I have talked to former church planters, it seems to me that the gospel must go forward into a culture and context and out of that gospel being planted in a city, churches are born. To say that we are involved in ‘church planting’ is somewhat inaccurate and it may be more accurate to say that we need to be involved in ‘gospel planting.’ We desire that all people in the city ofWichitahave a chance to know Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord. When people hear the gospel and begin to respond, communities of faith that are sharing Christ with others are born and lead by leaders (we call them Church planters).
During the time that we were developing the strategy, we talked about a position that would be hired by West E. Free Church that would oversee three things at West E. Free.
- Assist in developing a culture and lifestyle of evangelism within the West E. Free local church body.
- Develop and Oversee a Residency programming by recruiting, training and equipping, and launching church planters and a core team made up of people from West E. Free and people that may or may not know Jesus from outside of any church.
- Partner with others in our city who are multiplying churches that multiply churches to reach our county for Christ.
As we talked about this position, I could tell that God began to speak again. I was resistant to this discussion mostly because it was difficult to see myself in this type of role as we developed it. There came a point about 3 weeks after the role was developed and talked about where I was reading through Exodus and reading Chapter 4 where God is having this conversation with Moses. He continues to address Moses’ concerns about leading people out ofEgyptand Moses keeps giving excuses. As I read the dialogue, it was as if God began to say, “I don’t want excuses from you. I want obedience. That is all I desire as a response to the salvation that I have given you. You have not earned it and you are not earning it today. You do what I ask, and I’ll take care of the rest.” It was in that moment that I knew that I needed to apply for the “Pastor of Multiplication” position here at West E. Free.
Even weeks after this decision and conversation with God, I still had a lot of excuses. I still have a lot of anxiety and questions. I still have a lot of deficiencies in this area that I know God will have to work in spite of if I am to be involved in this role. But God is a God of using people that are weak so that his glory might be made clear and shown brightly. And I’m excited about that!
Many parts of the dialogue I have not gone into detail about. I could tell you about the countless conversations that I had with my wife. I could tell you about the conversations that I had with different mentors and friends that helped shape and guide the conversation between God and I. Sharing with you about the scripture that was directed toward me and that I read in my quiet times daily would be something that I could sit down and show you. All of those things were integral in the process of ‘calling.’ For many, ‘calling’ seems ambiguous and the truth is, it can be! In this case, God has clearly directed my heart and mind towards obedience in this particular area.
One of the more difficult parts of this whole discussion has been my own love for students and parents and leaders here at West E. Free. I love youth ministry and I love what God is doing in the families here. Not being able to be integrally involved in that in the future will be incredibly difficult, but again, is part of the call to obey in this area. I shared with parents, leaders, and students this past Sunday night where God is calling me and to what area he is leading me and my family. That was hard. My dream is that in the position that God calls me to, I will have the opportunity to help launch 10 youth ministries around our city that impact teenagers all over. But not being involved to the level that I have been involved with is still painful, as exciting as that dream is. In a different role at West E. Free, I have not ended any relationships with anyone, in fact, it will just be a little different relationship then I have had in the past. Relationships don’t end and that’s a good thing! My prayer and hope if I get to be involved in this new role at West E. Free is that students are living ‘missionally’ (as missionaries in whatever context they live in, school, neighborhoods, etc) and share the gospel with people that don’t know Christ regularly. They are going to be key to our church living as a church that understands and lives out a lifestyle of evangelism.
Some have asked about next steps in the process of this dialogue. Now that I have applied, elders here at West E. Free will meet on September 8th to decide whether or not to recommend me to the congregation for a vote to change roles. Then, if that recommendation is affirmative, there will be a congregation vote. I’m excited about the process and to see what God will do.
Regardless of where God puts me within the context of West E. Free, I know that I need to be involved with planting the gospel and churches somehow. God has to work to draw people to himself as we see churches planted in our county and begin to see our county saturated with the gospel.
If you would like to know more or dialogue with me more about this, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to share more. If you would like to give input or have questions for elders at West E. Free, please contact Pastor Ken Cooper via email.