Summary: Reasons why a stable older church took on the challenge of launchng a new church a nearby community.
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Out of Our Comfort Zones
Hold that text in the back of your mind. We will come back to it later.
Old time evangelist Vance Havner used to tell the story of an old fisherman. Ol’ Clem amazed everyone with his success. It didn’t matter what the weather was like or how productive other fishermen were. Clem always caught his limit. But no matter how many times they asked, Clem refused to tell his buddies how he did it.
Finally the game warden grew suspicious. One morning he showed up just as Clem was putting his old boat in the water. “I’m coming with you today,” the warden insisted. Clem protested to no avail. Finally the old fisherman shrugged his shoulders and said, "Okay, suit yourself."
The two climbed into the boat and motored over to a secluded cove on the lake. Clem sat there pondering his situation for the longest time. Finally, he said, "Well, I guess it’s time to fish." He opened his tackle box and pulled out a stick of dynamite. Before the game warden could say a word, Clem lit the dynamite and tossed it in the lake. The explosion blasted a huge fountain fifty feet in the air. Dozens of stunned fish bobbed to the surface. Clem calmly got out his net and started scooping up his catch.
At first the game warden sat there as stunned as one of the fish. Finally, he came to his senses and shouted, "Clem! You can’t do that. It’s illegal!" Clem didn’t say a word. He reached into his tackle box and picked up another stick of dynamite. He lit it. He tossed it in the game warden’s lap and said, "Are you gonna’ fish or are you gonna’ just sit there?"
That’s the question the leaders at First Christian Church of Vandalia faced. The church had been a strong, faithful church for generations. It had left a mark on ministries inside and outside of its community. The Vandalia Church had also been instrumental in helping lots of other churches get started. In 2004 the leaders confronted the issue of whether to start a new church themselves in nearby Bowling Green-Pike County or continue business as usual.
We could see many reasons to take on the project.
1. We already had many Pike County people who were driving to Vandalia for church.
2. More importantly, Pike County had no independent Christian Church. Not one!
3. We also knew from personal experience and the research that we were able to compile that a large part of the county had no church affiliation. Well over fifty percent of the population was unchurched.
4. We also knew that the area was expected to experience considerable growth in the future as the suburban sprawl spilled over from Lincoln County into neighboring Pike County.
We also knew there were some reasons for starting a new church that we wanted no part of. I spelled these reasons out and talked about them often with our folk. I wanted no misunderstandings about this.
1. We were not starting a new church in order to move Bowling Green people out of the Vandalia church!!
2. We weren’t doing it to make church more convenient for BG people driving to churches in other communities.
3. Our goal wasn’t to compete with the various denominational churches that already exist in Bowling Green. Honestly, there were a few churches that I wouldn’t mind competing with. There were also good churches who were do a decent job of serving the community.
4. The new church could not be an effort to reproduce a church in Bowling Green just like the church in Vandalia. Despite the fact that Vandalia was a good church with a good history. The communities were different. The new church needed the freedom to do what was needed to reach the new community.
5. We were not starting a church where people from Bowling Green who are going to church in other communities can do things their way. Frankly, a perennial problem for new church plants is the way a new work can draw frustrated church people who are looking for an opportunity to be a big fish in a smaller pond.
We had good reasons to do it. We knew there were reasons we wanted no part of. But it still was not an easy decision. We had some pretty good reasons not to do it.
1. We knew we would lose some members and leaders to the new work. No church looks forward to that.
2. The project would cost money. We were not a big church. We did OK financially, but we were a long way from rich.
3. The new church could siphon off valuable resources and energy from work that still needed to be done in Vandalia. We are small rural community. But there are still lots of people who need the Lord and lots of young people who need directed in the ways of the Lord. We had not intentions of giving up on our home base.