This post is part of a larger NuDunker conversation, “NuDunekrs, nu churches: Planting the Church of the Brethren” including a series of blog posts and a live Google+ hangout Friday, 12/6 at 10 AM eastern. You can find other blogs and comments on the event page above. We would love for you to add your voice to the discussion!
For those who know me they know that one of my favorite activities and hobbies, if you will, is snowboarding. I have been snowboarding for 18 seasons and I fall more in love with boarding each and every season. There is nothing like flying down the mountain on your board, wind wiping by your face, hitting jumps (and preferably landing them), and carving into great turns.
Now my family is a skiing family. My wife, son, and daughter are all skiers. My brother, his wife, their kids, my sister and her oldest daughter are also a skiers. My father is a skier. My sister-in-law and her oldest two daughters are also skiers. The only other two boarders in the family are my 2 brother-in-laws. Going to the mountain is definitely a family affair in our family. Some of my best memories occurred on the mountain, as well as the many ski trips, and ski vacations that we have taken over the years. I have boarded in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Colorado. And this coming April I will cross off one of my "bucket list" when we go and ski/board the Alps (French and most likely Swiss).
So right now you might be saying what in the world does skiing and snowboarding have to do with church planting and specifically church planting in the Church of the Brethren. I believe there are many things that I have learned over the 18 seasons of snowboarding that directly applies to the last 4 years of planting Veritas, a missional church plant in Lancaster. But probably the biggest connection between the two is a statement that I have heard my brother say as well as other people. The statement that stuck in my head in relation to boarding and skiing is "if you aren't falling, you aren't skiing (or boarding)" What this statement gets at is the fact that if you want to improve on your ability (in this instance..skiing and boarding) you need to push yourself, not always play it safe, and take risks. When you fall, you learn. You learn what to do better next time. You learn what not to do next time. You learn the context of the mountain (the pitch of the slope, the bumps on the slope, where the good snow is, etc..)
And so I would rephrase this statement in terms of its connection with church planting, and especially in missional church planting. I would say it this way, "If you aren't falling, you aren't planting a church." If you aren't willing to fail, then don't get into church planting in the first place. I remember one of the biggest things that I had to wrestle to the ground when we decided to plant this missional church (and need to continue to wrestle to the ground) is the fear of failure. What if? What if we fail? What if we run out of money? What if God doesn't come through? What if? What if's can keep you stuck and stop you from strapping on the board and sailing down the mountain. I remember what finally pushed me over the edge and down onto the trail of missional church planting is this thought that I would rather try and fail, then get to be 75 years old and played it safe my entire life. To me that would be true failure.
I think one of the struggles many in denominations (the Church of the Brethren as well as others) have is this mentality that we've planted churches before, we've spent lots of time and especially money, and what do we have to show for it? I remember hearing someone say that a church was planted, they spent 200,000 dollars over the course of a few years, and the church is no more. And so why do that again?
And I would say don't do the same thing again (the huge outlay of money, etc..) but see how you might learn from the past "failure" (not sure that was a failure in the long run) for a new venture. I remember two years ago I went boarding with a group of teenagers at Jack Frost in the Poconos. Around 3 PM I was going down the slope with my son, and decided to hit a small jump. Well I went head first into the ground and came up and got a concussion. I can't remember about 30 minutes of what happened after that. A month later our family was taking our normal winter/ski vacation and it happened to be in the Poconos and we ended up back at Jack Frost. Now I could have played it safe, avoided that slope, avoided that jump and refused to every hit another jump ever or I could take a risk, hit the same jump, and slay the demon (if you will). What did I do? I went down the same slope and hit the same jump and landed it.
So the thing that I have leaned while snowboarding and planting a missional church is to take the risk. If you strap on the board you will more than likely fall especially at the beginning. If you plant a church you will fall. But if you don't strap on the board (or skis..my wife would want me to add that) you will never experience the rush of adrenaline when you fly through powder, when you make that amazing carve turn, when you hit that jump and land it, and when you race your family down the slope. If you never take the risk of church planting, you might never experience the rush of seeing God provide for you in amazing ways (I know that I have seen it more times during the last 4 years than probably all my years previously), seeing God use your gifts and passions to further his kingdom, hearing the amazing stories of people, and seeing a community of Christ followers spring out of the soil of the local community.
So if you aren't falling what are you waiting for? Strap on the board, push off the ground, and fly down the mountain. Carve that turn. Look for powder. And hit that jump that scares you. And then do it again. Take the risk.