Into the Harvest Archives
By Tom Herrick
The subtitle of Mark Batterson’s latest book Chase the Lion is “If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small.” Batterson exhorts his readers, “Dream dreams. That’s the natural, supernatural by-product of being filled with God’s Spirit.” Like Moses, David, and Paul, God encourages us to see what’s possible through his eyes, not our own. By asking “Why not?” our world takes on a different perspective and the possibilities of what God can do through us seem endless. As a fellow church planter, I ascribe to Batterson’s “Lion Chaser’s Manifesto,” which says (in part): “Run to the roar…Set God-sized goals…Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention…Start creating the future…Fight for your dreams…Blaze new trails…Dare to fail…Quit holding back…Chase the lion.”
I have the privilege of sharing my dreams with others, like Bishop John and the Great Commission Committee, who “run to the roar” instead of running away from it. One of the best times we have every year is our annual planning retreat, where we get away for a whole day and dream together about what God wants to do with us. It might sound far-fetched to call a planning retreat an adrenaline rush, but when you share life and ministry with fellow lion chasers, it’s not ‘business as usual.’ This year we spent a good deal of time focused on the dream of planting 50 new churches in the next ten years. God has been challenging us to think bigger. This isn’t surprising when you see the trajectory the diocese has been on for the past few years. God has carefully been putting the pieces in place to support this kind of growth for some time.
Take for instance our goal of developing a “leadership pipeline,” whereby we can provide opportunities for our high school seniors, college students, and young adults to become ministry interns. This has continued to blossom as we now have wonderful young leaders serving as interns at George Mason University with Josh Kammerer and the Apostles at Mason team. For those who hear the call to ordained ministry, the pipeline continues through a residency whereby seminary students and graduates serve for 12-24 months in a congregation while testing the call to plant a new church. The Rev. David Pennylegion was delighted to find this opportunity within our diocese and is currently serving as a pastoral resident with Church of the Resurrection in the Baltimore suburbs. The pipeline eventually leads young leaders to the opportunity to plant new churches. This is the case for the Rev. Matt Hemsley and the Rev. Deacon Darryl Fitzwater, our two most recent church planters. These two are serving “Incubator” congregations Truro (Fairfax) and Holy Spirit (Leesburg) which are partnering with the diocese to plant new churches in the very near future. This leadership pipeline is part of our efforts to develop a DOMA “farm system” for church planters, much like major league sports teams do. Our aim has been to partner with local congregations to give leaders opportunities to serve and develop their gifts for ministry (read more about Internships and Residencies here). With this pipeline in place, we believe God will be sending us many gifted young leaders to bring in the harvest.
But, despite appearances, the goal of planting lots of churches is not about numbers. It’s more an attempt to raise the bar of our expectations and increase the scope of our vision. By focusing on what only God can accomplish, we remember to whom we belong and recall the goals that he has set for us - namely to reach the nations. Our response to his commission is to head in a decidedly missional direction, plant churches that have a strong likelihood of succeeding, and create a culture where health, growth, and reproduction become the norm. Those are goals worthy of our God and of the calling he has graciously given to us. Numbers only tell a small part of the story, but, casting a vision that is bigger than we are inspires us to dream big and step out in boldness and faith.
As we have dreamed this past year, God has challenged us to begin planning for how we will move forward into our future. The result is the Vision for 50, a plan for church multiplication in the diocese. This plan is still taking shape, but it looks forward the next ten years and forecasts what will be needed in terms of people and financial resources to plant 50 churches.
It’s a big dream, indeed a huge dream, but one that sees God at work in our churches and dares to put our trust in him. Please join our L10-2 Intercessors (read more about our L10-2 Intercessors here) as we pray this vision into being and watch God do what only God can do.
The Rev. Dr. Tom Herrick is Canon for Church Planting for the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.