The marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger who was sent from the Battle of Marathon to Athens—26 miles away—to inform the Greeks that the Persians had been defeated. Legend has it that Pheidippides ran the entire 26 miles without stopping, and upon delivering his message, he collapsed and died.
Although there’s debate about the historicity of this occurring, the concept and practice of marathon is real. For instance, according to the 2014 Annual Marathon Report (yes, it’s a real report), 541,000 people were classified as “finishers.” In other words, 541,000 people who started a marathon actually completed it. Here’s a really simple principle when it comes to completing a marathon: anyone wishing to start and finish a marathon must have what it takes to stay the course.
Church planting is similar to running a marathon.
There is much practice and preparation done before the big launch day. For church planters, they cover a lot of groundwork prior to launching—building relationships, sharing the gospel, connecting with community leaders, creating communication pieces, and attempting to engrain themselves in the daily rhythms of the community.
All of their preparation helps prepare them for what is, for many, the official launching of their church.
Eventually, for those following the more typical model today, the big launch day comes. And with launch day comes a lot of potential distractions that can take your eyes off some key issues. Many planters find themselves swept up in the current created after launch day. They have to plan this service, order that, pay for this, meet with that person, counsel this couple, meet with those volunteers, fill out denominational/network reports, attend a coaching session, study for the sermon series, follow up with visitors, etc.
Being swept up in the current of the after effects of launch day isn’t necessarily bad, but what happens is the busyness of the church plant becomes detrimental to the planting of the gospel in more people. In short, the busyness and distractions of other important things takes the planter’s focus off one of the primary things—evangelism.
The question becomes: now that the marathon has officially begun (with the launching of the church), with all the potential distractions, how can planters stay the course (and lead the church to stay the course) of making disciples through evangelism?
Let me list three ways planters can stay the course in keeping evangelistically focused even after the launch.
1. Keep the Mission before the People.
Every time the church gathers together for corporate worship, you must remind them that gathering together is not the goal. The church doesn’t exist for itself, but for others. Thus, you must remind them that the church exists for mission. As one missiologist put it, “The church was created by mission and for mission.”
If the mission becomes the Sunday gathering, then you’ve created a religious organization—not a church, which is both gathered and scattered. To protect the new church from becoming a cool new religious organization, planters need to keep the mission before the people week in and week out.
To do so, you can create videos of people who have recently come to know the Lord, share personal testimony of members who have recently shared Christ with someone, make baptism a big celebratory deal, create opportunities for the church, corporately, to engage the community in an evangelistic way, and recite your mission statement and emphasize how the church doesn’t exist for itself but for God’s glory and others’ good.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today