Much like individuals, churches are inclined to become inwardly focused.
It may even be safe to say it’s a church’s default mode.
I mean, there’s a lot of things to worry about: there are bills to pay – mortgages, supplies, utilities, and salaries; most churches want to have great children’s and student ministries and put a lot energy and effort into that; they feel the need to improve, repair, expand their buildings and property; there’s continual A/V and lighting costs for churches wanting to have great sounds and visual effects; and most churches feel the need to keep up with the other church down the road – “They have flat screens in the kids classrooms…they have nice speakers…they’re building looks nice…we need to have those things too. Otherwise, people will want to go there instead of here.”
Oh yes, welcome into the unfortunate reality of the American pastor’s mind.
There’s a type of “keeping up with the Joneses” and self-preservation that can intoxicate a church’s agenda and productivity if it is not careful. Churches are called to reach their communities and the communities of the world with the Gospel (Matt. 28:16-20). Churches are called to be externally-focused, not internally-focused. And sadly to say, many churches succumb to pressure and loose their missional vigilance.
This is a story about a church, and a pastor, that had the courage to do something else.
In the spring of 2011, Grace Christian Fellowship in Largo, Florida decided to do something courageous. After much prayer and reflection, the leadership decided to plant a sister church just 10 miles north (in Dunedin, Florida) from its location in Largo, Florida. This would require sacrifice. Not only would they be giving up their Associate Pastor of 12 years, the Senior Pastor, Randy Evans, would invite the congregation to be a part of this venture as either “senders” or “goers”. Now, most pastors would encourage their church to be “senders”, but “goers”? This took a sacrificial trust in Christ’s promise to “build his church” (Matt. 16:18) that (sadly) many pastors and churches simply do not exercise.
Pastor Randy Evans, and Grace Christian Fellowship, courageously blessed the sending out of 3 of their elders (I was one of them) and about 80 faithful people to begin a new Gospel preaching and living church in the Dunedin area. Because of their sacrifice and willingness to be externally focused and deeply committed to the Great Commission, Grace Church of Dunedin successfully launched on February 5, 2012.
This Sunday, May 20th, Grace Church will be honored to have their sending pastor, Randy Evans, preaching the Good News from it’s pulpit at Dunedin High School’s auditorium. What a testimony of Christian courage and God’s provisions!
It’s a story that’s worth telling. And, hopefully, it will be the story told by other courageous pastors and churches.