OK, I’m not sure if I should provide you with the less-complicated or more-complicated version of this update…
Thank you to those who prayed for the Cornerstone session meeting on Saturday morning. By God’s grace, the unity and anticipation toward planting this Fall was evident and encouraging. Long story short, we have decided to pursue a “temporary session of elders” daughter-church model. I won’t catalogue for you the similarities/differences with other models that we bantered about, but I can somewhat fill you in on how this will look.
In early 2008 (yes, 2 months) – formally at our Vision Dinner on Jan 26th – I will be veeerrryyyy slllloooowwwwlllllyyyyyy weaned off of some of my Cornerstone responsibilities to direct my attention to the “West Valley churchplant.” Areas of attention will include (first) pursuing some ruling and teaching elders in local PCA churches to form a “temporary session” that I will moderate; a body of men called and commissioned to keep the churchplant accountable to God and his Word and to provide support and oversight from its inception. This is integral in the early stages, so that the budgeting and gathering and vision casting can be done in the context of ecclesiastical oversight. I am praying and consulting now about who these elders should be. This temporary session will include some of the present Cornerstone elders. This temporary body will remain in oversight until such time that the church-plant has trained its own session of elders (usually a year or two in) who will then take the helm under Christ the King. It will be a large commitment for these men – so please pray that God will raise up the right “session.” Under this model, the church that is planted will be a bonafide sister PCA church to Cornerstone.
I will also soon need to get a non-profit tax ID so that we can begin fundraising to complement the giving of momma church (Cornerstone, Center Valley). Good thing my mentor is a former lawyer – as John will be guiding me in how to create bylaws, etc. for accomplishing the task. Of course, to do this – a name of the church is necessary. More on that some day. Right now, West Valley PCA is on my heart because THAT is the target area of the Lehigh Valley in which we live and breath and experience God’s kingdom. THAT is the place for which we (the launcher-outers) need to be regularly praying and weeping for God’s kingdom mercy on our neighbors and classmates and friends. THAT is where we long for “thy kingdom to come to earth as it is in heaven.” THAT is the place where we long for every biblical description of God’s people to fit (terms you often find in the name of churches): grace, mercy, Christ the Cornerstone, fellowship, kingdom, hope, truth, love etc. I will never forget the first day when – while driving and looking out over the Valley’s lights – I felt tears on my face. NEVER before have I cried for a people in a place… The West Valley is my Jerusalem, and it may be yours depending on where you live. So for now, expect to hear the church plant called as such.
Then will come the gathering of PRAYERS. I anticipate that in February, we will begin weekly praying kingdom prayers with one another – that God will check our hearts and motives and move in the west valley in ways we cannot imagine (Eph.3:20-21). This time of prayer will not be vision casting… it will be the heart-surrendering. We will be praying that God will plant a gospel centered church that perpetually serves his kingdom purpose in that place (with or without any of us who are there in the beginning – even me). This may or may not be in conjunction with the Cornerstone small groups already on the west side of the Valley. Of course, I HOPE that any of you who will be with us have been and are continually praying for the target and a gospel-church. Praying for a location to worship. Praying for people outside of Cornerstone who are curious and gospel-driven who will perhaps be a part of our prayer times as well! The praying together will only be as powerful as our praying has already been on our knees beside our beds.
Sometime in the Spring, the gathered prayers will (some of them) become vision dreamers. The prayer meetings will likely morph into community Bible studies. The summer will probably bring any number of “vision barbecues or parties or whatever” to which we invite our friends. But we don’t need to go there now. Just pray and see the season of scattering new ecclesial seeds coming soon!
It shouldn’t be that hard to think about what to pray:
What will the vision of the plant be? Where will the worship be located? How will we minister to the needs of the community? How will it be a churchplant committed to faithfully declaring the gospel to believers and making it relevant to nonbelievers? How will it – to the glory of God – pursue excellence to reach the “professional valleyman” without being tripped up with performance and cultural entertainment? How BIG of a work will God do through this churchplant such that YOUR life in YOUR neighborhood in YOUR city on YOUR west side of the Valley will never be the same due to the gospel of the King of mercy and truth? How big of a commitment is required for my family and your family? How much do you and I believe the gospel in the first place, such that we are burdened by the need of our community for a new gospel-declaring and incarnating church? How will we be excited and yet patient at the same time, letting Christ the King through his Spirit plant the church in his time? How will God preserve Cornerstone PCA in its faith risk of planting a church that will undeniably shake up its gospel-community as it “releases and faithfully multiplies”? How can we make sure it is God doing the work and not our pursuing human strategies apart from his guidance? How will we be a church that ministers mercy and justice in sectors of our Valley that are underpoverished? How will we be a church of the broken and the weak that lives out the power of the gospel because we NEED it so desperately? How will God raise up people to lead new ministries from “scratch?” How will we honor and support the gospel-work of other churches in our target area? How will we plant a church in our community and not just in our heads? How will we keep from becoming the “cozy Christian couch” and rather be the sacrificial cultural transformers that we ought to be? How will we uphold a commitment to the purity of God and his kingdom without showing disdain toward the stained and broken in our world who are circumstantially poised to receive the good news?! How will we be in the world but not of it? How will Satan try to infiltrate a gospel-work with disunity and pride and competition and vision-distractions – because we KNOW he will? How will you and I become shepherds of our weak community, and not just colaborers in the church who solely minister to each other in the church (as regular and important as that is)? How do we become an authentic people of transparency without just wallowing in the reality of our fallen world? How do we give ourselves to something and yet hold it so loosely that God can do whatever he wants with it?
How will we do this without crying out in prayer?!
Please pray with me! Please tell others you know to read this post and join us in prayer. Then open your ears for more news from the west side.