While church planting requires herculean effort to launch and sometimes feels like it includes coordinating more details than the Normandy invasion, it can still be pretty thrilling to participate in such an endeavor. The energy and excitement of starting something new, combined with the unpredictability factor in every new event, can be highly motivational. But what happens next? What happens after the first year has passed, the newness begins to fade, and the launch energy begins to dissipate?
Covenant Hope was launched in Dubai 22 months ago by last year’s conference speaker, Brian Parks. For the first ten months, the church grew, established patterns of worship and discipleship, received new members, performed baptisms, and trained leaders and interns. Then one year ago, the government issued a ban on churches meeting in rented space. The result was that all Protestant churches were required to meet in the one official church building approved and registered with the city. This property is actually owned by the “grandmother” church of Covenant Hope, so they were very willing to receive them. However, with a dozen churches taking turns using the property every Sunday, not to mention the reality that the historic church is across town and not conducive to attracting new people, it has been a bit complicated to try to grow a church. How would this young church respond? First, since church meetings are limited to that one property, members have to weigh the risk of hosting home meetings, like Bible studies or leadership training events, since they could result in stiff penalties. The threat of jail is low, but the financial penalties for such violations in the city of Dubai are exorbitant, particularly since they don’t fine the participants, but the pastor! Nevertheless, the church continues to meet regularly, and attendance has remained steady. Leaders and interns are being trained, and diverse people from various countries are hearing the gospel, responding in faith, and joining the fellowship.
Covenant City Church (CCC) was launched in Jakarta 31 months ago by Tezar Putra. The church is doing so well that it has faced growing pains more quickly than anticipated. They currently meet in a rented space in one of the city’s malls, which they renovated to accommodate up to 240 people. They are already close to capacity and are having to consider two Sunday services. They have three elders and one elder candidate but need to hire an additional pastor to serve their growing congregation. They are challenged by the need to provide spiritual care for so many people, by the demands of a growing children’s ministry, and by the need to coordinate various adult ministries. The good news is that people are coming to faith and growing as disciples of Jesus. The challenge is that such growth is often hard to manage. There is no simple formula for automatic spiritual growth. Some individuals with strong leadership potential and clear public gifts require more time to grow and mature in their faith than the pace of rapid growth seems to allow. That places church leaders like Tezar in a quandary: do we appoint younger believers as leaders and pray fervently that they mature “on the job,” or do we heed the Bible’s caution against appointing leaders too early and accept the struggle of serving a growing congregation with a few leaders? These are the challenges Tezar and Tatiana, along with the other leaders of CCC, are facing as this church grows in its third year.
Church planting is a bit like having a baby. It is a joyful event which represents a complex process of growth and development prior to delivery. It is also a joyful, yet pain-filled, experience when the baby is born, one which is just the beginning of the beautiful and unpredictable journey of raising a child. The pastors of Covenant Hope and Covenant City Church have given birth to beautiful children and are now on the wild ride of raising them.