There is a particular scene in the Disney movie Moana that gets me choked up every time I watch it with my kids because I believe it’s an inspiring metaphor to church planting. If you’ve seen the movie, perhaps you already know where I’m going with this.
Inspiration Starts in the Basement
Early in the movie, Moana’s grandmother invites her to explore a hidden cave on their native island that reveals the ‘why?’ to their existence. Inside, she discovers a bounty of large ships and canoes once used by her ancestors, now hidden away in the darkness of a lost cave – the basement, so to speak, of their home. In the cave, Moana receives a spectacular and hopeful vision of their ancestral past – they were once voyagers! Destined once to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ through habitation and exploration, today they sit isolated with a purpose and identity defined by mere survival.
As church planters, we are voyagers. We have spent many days and nights digging through the deep, dark, and dusty recesses of our church basements and discovered the legacy of what got them (and us) here in the first place. Our ancestors of a previous generation once voyaged out from their homeland, parted ways from their ‘mother’ church, stepped out in faith, and set sail to share Jesus with a new community or people group. Like the people on the island of Motunui (Moana’s home), many of our churches today have left the legacy of their ancestors behind, storing the relics and images of the past in their basements, now having moved on to other matters. They are no longer defined by their spirit of exploration, but one of self-survival.
Rediscovering our Purpose
Perhaps we can find inspiration from a story like Moana. Is it possible what Christianity and Evangelicalism is so desperately looking for in its confused and misplaced identity crisis is a rediscovery of its ancestors? Is it possible that we are here today because our ancestors, who once believed so strongly in a way of life that it would fundamentally change the course of history, would do whatever it takes to share that life, blessing, and good news with new people and communities across the world? Is it possible while reading scripture we see a story of God’s great rescue mission for every tribe, tongue, and nation through the work of Jesus Christ and continuing today through his Spirit-empowered children? Is it possible the world isn’t simply ‘in denial of the existence of God’ (as many Christian leaders would contend), but rather we, as adopted children of God’s family in Jesus Christ, have forgotten who we are and what we were made for?
Perhaps this is who we really are: relentless, Spirit-filled voyagers fulfilling God’s initial blessing to humanity to ‘be fruitful and multiply’. Perhaps we too can sing, as we stare into the night sky remembering God’s promise given to Abraham that we too share in, naming those whom Jesus has rescued and redeemed: “At night we name every star. We know where we are. We know who we are, who we are.”
Small Starts and Big Expectations
I wish to share a portion of an email that I sent last week to the members of our small church plant. I believe it’s relevant and practical to our discussion here.
Today I was reminded that great things usually start small — but with big expectations. Recall the parable of the mustard seed,
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
God redefined the future of humanity and secured His plan for worldwide restoration in His Son, Jesus Christ. Beginning as a tiny seedling in a large and diverse world, Jesus initiated the final plan, the inauguration of the everlasting Kingdom. It would start small, be planted in the midst of a field full of false gods and unbelief, take root, and eventually grow to become a large “tree” (mustard trees look more like over-sized bushes) that blesses the earth and is hard to ignore. The funny thing about plants and trees is they are made to multiply. They drop new seeds all the time. Those same birds that make nests in the tree are now carrying those new seeds in their beaks and on their wings to new fields and frontiers. The seed falls, is planted, takes root, and grows into a bountiful new tree. The Kingdom of God is not like a single mustard seed, but a seed that continues to be planted across all of creation.
Restoration Church is comprised of a select number of birds — you and I — who have left their nests to plant the seeds of the gospel among those who have not yet heard or responded, and then to nurture that message so there would be a place for many to build their nests in the branches of the Kingdom. It may take months, perhaps years, for our newly planted mustard seed in Lake Zurich to grow where it can support many nests, including our own. So for now, as we seek shelter under the shade of other plants and trees, we find our hope and joy in being part of God’s worldwide rescue mission in Jesus — seeing His Kingdom expand and leaving no field untouched!
By the Cross; for the Kingdom,