The Unfinished Work in Church Planting
The Apostle Paul was leading a team of church planters that included Titus. Titus was one of his most trusted workers and Paul knew that Titus would take the initiative and break into new areas for church plants. However, we see in Paul’s letter to Titus that one of the most important aspects of the church planting endeavor is stated in Titus 1:5 “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished…” (New International Version) Why would Paul ask one of his most trusted workers to be involved in the mundane task of developing infrastructure and systems as part of setting churches in order? Could it be because infrastructure and systems are vital for a church plants ability to be healthy? There are four thoughts that are reflected in this passage that are important for the work of the international church plant. They are summed up in the words, “you might straighten out what was left unfinished.”
First, “what was left unfinished” reflects the task at hand for any new church project but even more so for an IC. In the early stages of the IC plant the excitement, passion, and calling can lead us further than our infrastructure can carry us. In a desire to establish the church and to set the launch day, we can easily miss key components that will be needed for the future. For example, in those early days, we may not be thinking about training kids workers, but rather just finding them. We will discover the “unfinished” portions of our church plant either by looking forward or looking backward. The first is through a strategic vision for future growth, while the second is through necessity. Regardless, if the IC is to grow and develop the “unfinished” aspects will need to be addressed.
Second, “straighten out” focuses on the areas of the church that have started to be developed without the attention needed. This will require intentionality and may be painful. As an example, if in the early days a church has not established the means to pay their pastor, in trying to begin to do so may be problematic in the future. If the issue is not addressed, it will be even more difficult to begin paying a pastor or a staff later on. In addressing the matter, personalities and leadership will be challenged. As matters become established precedent, it is much harder to “straighten them out”, but will need to be addressed for the church to continue to be healthy and thriving. Teamwork is important in these “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us” moments for a new church.
Third, “might” is the most frightening word that Paul had for Titus and for us. He is telling Titus that some of these unhealthy aspects might be too deeply entrenched in the churches DNA to be adjusted. People may resist the change and the church becomes bound. This point will require a great deal of prayer and leadership. It requires the leader to know what issues to address and not to challenge. In an IC context, this is even more pronounced as various cultural issues can surface. The built-in grace of an IC can help navigate these matters, but even then they may not be able to adjust or may take many years. The key is to be strategic and to communicate with your team about what issues are worthy of the energy needed to adjust and which are not. If you are the original planter of the IC, then this point is easier, yet if you came into an established IC, this can be more challenging.
Finally, “you”are the key! The most important point is that “you” were called to serve this specific IC. God ordained “you” for this moment and “you” are the gift that God has blessed the church with. People may not be able to recognize that and there may be days that you question it, yet God will be faithful to His Church and to you. When people pray God bless this city, He has answered that prayer by placing you as the pastor or staff of the local IC. You are gifted for this work and God will bless you. This is why your health is vital for the church to be healthy. If your personal life has healthy infrastructure and systems, this will be reflected in your leadership and in your ability to “straighten out what was left unfinished.”