The congregation in Antioch was blessed with a number of prophet-preachers and teachers. One day as they were worshipping God – they were also fasting as they waited for guidance – the Holy Spirit spoke: “Take Barnabas and Saul and commission them for the work I have called them to do.” So they commissioned them. In that circle of intensity and obedience, of fasting and praying, they laid hands on their heads and sent them off.
Acts 13:1-3 MSG
This is one of my favorite stories in the book of Acts. From the very beginning, the local church was supposed to be a family that celebrated multiplication and expansion. We are designed by our creator to nurture and send out our best. In the past six years at New Life, we have planted four churches in the US, dozens more overseas, and helped several of our staff transition to take key roles at existing churches. We have also launched a campus in our downtown area and are planning for more campus multiplication soon. Whether planting new churches, strengthening existing ones or opening campuses, I have learned there are three key factors that determine the success of each transition.
First, God gives us a burden for a place. Two years ago, while praying for our city, I felt an increasing responsibility to go to the downtown area. So, we began looking for places to meet, asking pastors of other downtown churches for their input and assessing the demands and needs of the area. The more we talked and asked questions, the more intense the burden became. It was clear the Lord was leading us to expand to a new place.
Second, God shares that burden with a person who is willing to go. About the same time, Pastor Glenn Packiam felt a transition in his role with our congregation and he was beginning to feel the same thing for downtown. Glenn had several important responsibilities at our main campus, but his team was ready to take over the leadership of his areas so he could be released to go. Glenn is a great communicator, teacher and leader and was the perfect person to go downtown with a team of people. We had the place and the face, but there was one last thing to consider.
Third, God gives us a pace. Timing is so important in every transition, especially if it involves key staff. Are they really ready as a leader to lead a congregation of their own? Are there emerging leaders ready to take their place or will their departure cause more harm than good to the sending church? Is their enough budget to fund them properly? Do they have a team to go with them? All of this requires wisdom, lots of conversation, and much prayer. Leaving too quickly can cause irreparable harm to both parties, but so can staying around too long. Pace is important, if not critical in the process.
All of this requires prayer and trusting, truthful relationships. It requires pastors willing to send and leaders who are willing to say “yes” to the adventure of going to the unknown. I am grateful Barnabas and Saul answered the call and for a church in Antioch that was not afraid to release their best people into a world that really needed them.