June 6, 1944. For most Americans familiar with World War II, it is known as the day that Allied forces made up of British, Canadian, and American soldiers stormed the beaches on the Normandy, overwhelming German-held positions in a daring effort to liberate France, and the entire European continent from Nazi oppression.
Operation Overlord included a combined force of over 150,000 men. These sailors, infantry soldiers, and their airborne support engaged the Axis forces. It is still considered the largest seaborne offensive in military history. On August 25, 1944, the city of Paris was liberated and the invasion was considered a resounding victory.
What Does WW2 Have to Do with Church Planting?
What, you may ask, does this historical event have to do with church planting? Just two years ago, my wife and I parachuted into West Los Angeles from Omaha to plant Ignite LA Church. We each have a multiethnic background and our marriage is a cross-cultural one. We also have led a variety of ministries, experienced success in marketplace careers, and even pastored a young adult ministry. Yet, nothing could have prepared us for planting a church in the middle of a global pandemic in one of the most diverse and dynamic cities in the world.
This is where the story of D-Day picks back up.
The often-overlooked heroes of that operation are the parachutists. These legendary men of both the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions parachuted in the middle of the night deep into enemy territory.
Their job was to disrupt German communications and supply lines, to block approaches into the vicinity of the amphibious landing at Utah Beach, to capture causeway exits off the beaches, and to establish crossings over the Douve River at Carentan to assist the US Army’s V Corps in merging the two US beachheads. Their success in meeting those objectives would create an unobstructed pathway into France and ultimately across the rest of Europe. Their sacrifice, for the big picture of the entire mission, would prove crucial to the overall war effort.
Although their mission was very risky, and not without its struggles, mistakes, and some errors, these men were heralded for their bravery, grit, and resilience behind enemy lines.
Parachute Church Planting
This story is what comes to my mind when we talk about “parachute church planting.”
At its core, it is a unique, apostolic calling and endeavor. Launching a daring operation to establish a “beachhead” from which to preach the gospel, make disciples, establish relationships with existing movements already present, and move deep into the enemy’s urban-held territory to free people from spiritual oppression is not for the faint of heart. It requires immense courage, grit, resilience, and above all, it requires faith!
Vision Is Not Enough
Ask any church planter about their ministry, and they will almost always jump into telling you about their “vision.” Vision is essentially what you see, what you are pursuing, what you hope to become or continue to be in the future. Without a clear, compelling, God-given vision, church planting is relegated to noble community service at best, or a wild pipe dream at worst.
The thing about vision is that it leaks. It must be constantly communicated to the people you are leading and reinforced in your own heart and mind. If you do not continue to keep it alive, your ministry will grow stagnant and so will your energy. This is why vision, no matter how powerful, is not enough to sustain a church plant. You need more!
If You Run Out of Grit—Just Quit
Grit. The actual definition of the word means, “Courage and resolve, strength of character.” You must continually learn how to dig deep and find your inner strength, energy, and passion, even when it wanes.
This is why I like to say, “If you ever run out of grit—just quit!” Now, I am not actually encouraging you to quit your ministry! But I do believe that comfort and security can become enemies to living on-mission, especially in a post-Christian and unreached context.
Take my city for example. Living in Los Angeles and pursuing entertainment, creative work, and even church planting, is like hanging on the edge of a cliff. People do not fall off the cliff (i.e., leave a city or stop pursuing their vision) because they are not talented enough, creative enough, smart enough, or attractive enough. They fall off because they expected it to happen too soon. Or they ran out of financial and material resources. Or, most commonly, they ran out of the inner resolve it takes to live, work, and do ministry in such a challenging and dynamic city.
Regardless of where you live and work, do not let your passion and energy run dry!
Let the Culture Teach You How to Reach It
The first time I heard this phrase, it was from a mentor of mine. He said, “Logan, when it comes to starting a new faith community, particularly in a city like Los Angeles, you need to let the culture teach you how to reach it.”
You might be asking, What does that mean?
It means that your best strategy to reach and engage the unchurched people with the gospel is to listen to how people speak when you are out and about. Pay attention to how they spend their time and money. Watch where they go. How do you react when you ask them about their family, or their career, or when you tell them what you do for a living?
These are all signs and building blocks of how to form a strategy for ministry. Do not show up in a new place, where you do not yet have a relationship, and try to push someone else’s methods onto the culture. Listen, look, and engage with love and intention!
Cling to Christ
Above all else, never lose sight of your personal relationship with Jesus. Let it anchor you in the tough times and refresh you daily. You are not defined by what you do, but by what he has done for you.