No team in NHL history has experienced perpetual success. Les Canadiens have had numerous periods of fruitfulness and the Oilers had their dynasty, but both Montreal and Edmonton eventually needed to take stock of their personnel and their strategies and realize that they needed to engage in a process to rebuild themselves back into a winning team.
Over the last several years the EMMC has been engaged in a similar rebuild. We recognized the need to take stock of the present and make a plan for the future. In that time we have watched God strategically raise up leaders and place them in positions of influence. We have invested time and money in Leading With Vision workshops that have been completed by 456 individuals representing 17 EMMC churches.
All of this is planting seed, and if we keep watering this seed, fruitfulness will come.
I have attended the Multiply church planting conference in Vancouver for the last four years. The first year it was just Lyn Dyck and me, as EMMC General Board members, checking out a conference we thought might be of some value. It turned out to be of greater value than either of us anticipated. The second year two other EMMCers joined us, followed by ten the next year and 19 this year.
The conversation about church planting is picking up some momentum, but as of yet no new churches have been planted as a result of our attendance at the Multiply conference. So, have we been wasting our time? Not at all. With our recent efforts toward making church planting a priority, we are looking to start a sustainable fire, not just light off a few fireworks. And so we are willing to be patient and to follow God’s lead and his timing.
In the early stages of writing this article I debated whether the title should be “Will We Multiply?” or “We Will Multiply.” The former is a prodding question, the latter is a statement, a commitment, a declaration. I opted for the latter, since I believe that multiplication is not optional. It is a required.
We live in a country crying out for someone to tell them who they are, who they belong to. The Church can offer that better than anyone/anything else. We know Whose we are. We know where we belong. Our identity is clear.
We will multiply. The “we” is important, too. No individual can say “I will multiply!” and expect to succeed without forming some sort of cooperative partnership. “We will multiply” is a declaration that requires a corporate body. In this case, that corporate body is the churches that make up the EMMC.
Every year many of us watch the NHL playoffs to see who will win the Stanley Cup. At the end of every playoff season we witness moments of victory and success, and images of iconic players are burned into our memories: Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, Sidney Crosby. Often it is these images alone that we remember, that define and encapsulate an entire winning season of hockey.
But no iconic player has ever won the cup alone. If you watch the broadcast long enough, after the Stanley Cup is won and is hoisted above the heads of these elated iconic players, it gets passed around to less iconic players. Next it goes to players who scored no goals in the playoffs, and to others who only played for a minute or two each game. There’s always a backup goalie who often doesn’t play even a single minute of the playoffs. Then the cup is even sometimes passed to team support staff.
The last people to hoist the cup on the night it is won are not headline-makers. To fans, they are mere footnotes in the celebration, and yet they are necessary and valuable contributors who are required to reach the goal of team success.
What does this have to do with church planting? A lot, as it turns out. Too often we envision a church plant as the trophy of a star player, as the single-handed accomplishment of a gifted individual. That’s like saying the only members of a hockey team who matter are the ones who score the goals. Anyone who understands the dynamics of a successful team knows that several types of people are needed to win. Role players are required to fulfill a specific task. Experienced players are required who have been through the ups and downs of winning and losing, who’ve learned many hard lessons and keep those lessons in mind to share at the right time. A coach is needed to align the desires of the group with a unified vision. Trainers are needed to keep the athletes in top form.
It’s not just a matter of finding a church planter, raising some money, and starting something new. The reality is that a healthy church plant is the fruit of a cooperative effort on the part of many seen and unseen players. As we move towards a future where planting churches will become part of the EMMC ethos, “Will your church plant another church?” is not the only question to ask.
Your church doesn’t have to do it all! It’s not a competition, it’s a cause. One reason we belong to a conference is so that we can “do together what we cannot do alone.” That means we are on one big team and that leaders may be developed in one place and deployed somewhere else. Some churches will provide pastors, some will supply funds, others will train workers for these new churches. And together … we will multiply.
For now, we need to be faithful in what we know to do today so that we are ready when the call comes for us.
~ Brendan Giesbrecht
The Stanley Cup is unique among the professional sports trophies in that it is the only trophy that has not only the names of winning players engraved on it, but the names of coaches, management and club staff as well. Church plants aren’t trophies, of course, but they do represent the culmination of a team effort.
In 1988 the Edmonton Oilers inaugurated the tradition of gathering the entire team around the cup for a photo. It’s a moment where the team declares, “THIS is what we were after! This was the goal! This is what we accomplished together!” As we plant churches, we may never get all of the contributors to that success together in the same place at the same time for a picture, but we can be assured that every major and minor contributor, every seen and unseen trainer and supporter and encourager will be noticed and rewarded and someday acknowledged by God himself.
Will we multiply? That’s not the question. The question is this: How will you and your church support the cause? How has God specifically gifted you and your church to contribute to a corporate effort to see more communities of Jesus followers planted in a culture that so desperately needs truth and light?
If you’d like to hear more about this, consider attending the Identify, Train, Send workshop on Friday at Gathering 2019.
~Michael Krahn, Pastor
Aylmer EMM Church, Ontario