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The Exhaustion and Excitement of Being a Sending Church

Mark Pope

Mark Pope

Pastor, The Vineyard Mishawaka
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Leadership praying over new church planters

A few years ago, I had two vivid dreams and I awoke to find myself weeping over those in my community who didn’t know Jesus. Those experiences led me to a strategic decision to become a sending church. Over the last three years, our church has started three new campuses and sent out two church plants. This has been very exciting and, honestly, a little exhausting.

As you can probably imagine, there was significant sacrifice involved. It cost us financially. It challenged our leadership structures as some of our best leaders were called to plant. It even cost some of us emotionally as friends who we had been serving side-by-side with were called to leave and embark on a journey to pioneer new churches.

In the midst of what some have compared to giving birth, people often ask me: what keeps you motivated during the hard times?

Here are a few of my motivations:

It sparks and inspires new leaders.
With every announcement of a new campus or church plant, it is like God puts his finger on a few dozen people and asks them to step up. We especially saw a fire ignite with individuals between the ages of 18 and 30. In a church our size, with approximately 1300 people on a weekend, it was easy for people to sit on the sidelines. New church planting visions drew people out of the seats and onto the playing field. I would argue if you want to raise up leaders, create a new vision and see what God does with it.

New locations reach new people.
Each of these new Vineyard locations are within an hour of our original campus. Many of the people that now attend one of these sites had little or no connection to our original church. A few had visited our main campus, but often times their distance hindered real, life-changing involvement. Having new Vineyard locations made it easier to invite friends and contacts to a Vineyard location closer to that person. We have seen that new locations reach new people as our total number of baptisms has been the highest ever in the history of our church!

Sacrifice is part of spiritual health.
When I shared this church planting vision with our church body, it had been about eight years since we had gone through a major giving campaign. The financial challenge of starting five new Vineyard church experiences sparked a desire in individuals to again sacrifice for the good of the kingdom.

It makes sense long-term.
Although I think our original campus is healthy and is having a good run in ministry, the reality is we are almost 25 years old. At some point, we may lose steam. I can’t help but think starting another five Vineyard church expressions in our city, that could also have a 25-year run, will be of great benefit in the future. My hope is long after I’m in the gone, there will be multiple churches thriving as a result of this planting push.

These past couple years have been a stretch, but if we are not stretching our spiritual muscles regularly, we get spiritually flabby. Although we are sore, like an athlete having just endured a grueling workout, it is a good feeling of soreness. It makes us feel alive!

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Mark Pope is the lead pastor and founding pastor of The Vineyard in Mishawaka, Indiana. He and his wife Denise have three children, Leah, Isaac, and Anna.

 

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