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Small Town USA

Small Town USA

Our partnership exists to help church planters and churches effectively plant new churches in small towns. When we think about “doing the stuff,” we think about participating in kingdom work in rural America. Two of our goals are to (1) strategically work together to effectively plant healthy churches in small town USA and (2) equip, empower, and resource church planters heading into rural communities.
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“A day is a span of time no one is wealthy enough to waste.”

I don’t know who to attribute that quote to. It came to me on a little slip of paper baked into a crunchy, tasteless cookie that was given to me at the end of a meal at my favorite Chinese restaurant. When I read that statement, though I didn’t know who to credit it to, I felt as though God was speaking to me. I figure if He can speak through a donkey, He can speak through a message on a little piece of paper in a tasteless cookie.

It’s really easy to let time get away from us. It’s really easy to forget the powerful message of Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” The realization of how brief our lives really are-how short our window of opportunity to make a difference really is-is meant to produce in us a heart of wisdom which will cause us to make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16). But it’s really easy to procrastinate. It’s really easy to convince ourselves why we can’t do things we believe we’re supposed to do. It’s really easy to convince ourselves that we have all the time in the world to get around to doing the things God has called us to do.

When my wife and I, along with our core team, planted Vineyard Christian Church in Pataskala (OH) in June of 2005, we included church planting in the mission statement of the church. I had felt drawn for a number of years to the idea of planting churches in small towns in southern and southeastern Ohio and looked forward to Vineyard Pataskala planting new churches in that area. Seven years later, we hadn’t sent out any church plants. We had no plans to start new churches. We really didn’t even talk about it anymore. We even removed it from our mission statement.

There were many reasons why we never got around to planting. I’ll only mention a few. First, I found out (along with our elders and other leaders) that leading one church is really hard work. We had our hands full with Pataskala. We had pretty strong growth in the first several years and it always felt as though we were struggling to keep on top of things with the one church we already had. Who had the time or energy to try to start another church? I also became convinced that our church needed to be larger than it was/is before we could plant another church. I convinced myself that we needed to be better organized, and more “on top of things” in our own church, before we could plant another church. You may have noticed churches can be pretty messy places. As a leader, they are also very humbling places. The complexities of the problems people have, the unique challenges of leading in a largely volunteer organization, the difficulty of finding good models of discipleship (and actually implementing them), the pain of people leaving the church, and a whole host of other messiness, can really leave a person humbled…not to mention battered, bruised, and with their confidence a bit depleted. Vineyard Pataskala is a good church, but I was convinced we needed to be better before we had any business starting another church. And I became convinced we needed better resources before we could plant, primarily meaning financial resources. With the addition of staff and the purchase and expansion of a building in recent years, and my desire to support a plant with substantial financial resources, it seemed like too big a task to plant another church. Add all these reasons together, and church planting wasn’t really on our radar anymore.

But it was still in my heart, and God gave me a needed nudge. Bob Ugland, the Event Representative for the National Church Planting Team, visited our area pastor’s breakfast and God used him in two ways that resulted in a decision to act on that part of our mission statement that we had removed. First, Bob informed us that most church planting is done by churches of between 200-400 people. I’m sure this information is readily available from multiple sources, but I had never seen or heard it before. I had assumed church planting was primarily the domain of much larger and better-organized churches, churches “farther down the road” and “more on top of things” than we were. The realization that it is churches our size that are doing most of the church planting was used by the Holy Spirit to help me begin to believe that we should, and could, start more churches.

At the same meeting, Bob gave a “word” that someone in the room needed “to tear down a wall.” I immediately felt the word was for me (I’m sure it was for others as well) and felt that I knew what the wall was. The wall that needed torn down in my life, and the lives of our elders, was the wall of caution. It’s interesting, bordering on comical (or perhaps sad), what a cautious group of leaders God assembled at Vineyard Pataskala. There’s not a “wild and crazy” person among us. We’re all planners. We’re all risk averse. We’re all “C’s” or whatever the cautious letter is from the DISC assessments. It’s amazing we ever planted a church to begin with. Caution is a good thing. We’ll never be a group of people who “throw caution to the wind” or fail to put a lot of thought and prayer and planning into things. But caution can be a negative thing when it causes you to shrink back from attempting things that can’t be accomplished only by solid planning, proper resourcing, and hard work.

Sometimes God calls us to things that require faith “that is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Sometimes God calls us to risk without knowing the outcome. Sometimes God calls us to things we don’t feel ready for, and probably aren’t ready for. Sometimes God calls us to things even though we don’t have our act perfectly together. Sometimes God calls His people to go to battle with an undermanned army, knowing that they are solely dependent on Him. Sometimes God calls us to dream big enough dreams, and pursue big enough initiatives, that they’re only achievable by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God used Bob Ugland, the information he shared and the word he gave, to push me and our leaders to once again consider church planting. Being the cautious folks we are, it took several months of consideration and prayer, but we finally decided to step out, in faith, and begin working toward planting other churches.

This is what it took for us to decide to act. What will it take for you? The Vineyard has a goal of planting 750 churches in the next several years. We need a lot of churches deciding to act. Perhaps your hesitation is like mine was…you’ve believed your church is too small, too messy, not “on top of things” enough, and lacking the resources to act. Perhaps, like me, you need reminded that we serve a God who seems to take pleasure in taking people who are overmatched, and using them to accomplish His purposes. There are a few of those stories in the Bible, you know.

We are committed to start new churches. And after a couple years of slow progress, we’re just about to get started establishing a new church in a community about 35 miles southeast of us. Some of you reading this have been experiencing the same feelings about planting that I’ve shared. I pray that perhaps, like God used Bob to nudge me (and our church), God will use my story to nudge you toward deciding to act.

We have limited time to make a difference in the world for the good of people and the glory of God. May we number our days aright, gain a heart of wisdom, and make the most of our time. A day is a span of time no one is wealthy enough to waste.

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About the Author
Brian Burd is the founding and lead pastor of Vineyard Christian Church. He preaches about 40 Sundays a year, has oversight of Adult Ministries, and has primary responsibility for setting the vision and direction of the church. Brian was born in Zanesville, OH and has been married to his wife, Michelle since 1988. They have two sons, Aaron and Austin, and reside in Pataskala. Brian came to faith at a young age in a Pentecostal church. He enjoys reading, Ohio State football, backyard football with his sons, and trying new restaurants.

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