Living things move through various life stages. A congregation, a living thing of sorts, also moves through stages. Any congregational change can produce growing pains. Multiplying a new faith community from an established church is one of those pain-generating experiences. Since a new faith community requires leaders, the sending church always sends away some of its leaders.
Josef Berthold, pastor at West End Mennonite Fellowship, commented on this experience recently. He said, God reminded me early on in our ministry as a church planter to ‘give away your best.’ Give away your best, and do it early in the life of the church. And I gladly agreed to that. I said, ‘Yes of course.’ When the time comes, we will give away our best.
When that time came for Berthold, the sending of equipped leaders caused growing pains. Berthold said, “It was hard. It felt like we started over again. It felt like we gave away our money base.”
Daryl Weaver, now bishop of the Martindale District, recalls similar feelings when the Martindale Mennonite Church began a new faith community in Reamstown, Pennsylvania.
There was a feeling of hopelessness and a bit of despair as we watched all the eager people with energy leave to begin Parkview, and for a few months I remember a sad, somewhat dismal atmosphere.
Perhaps the counter-intuitive part of the church multiplication process in God’s economy is that God returns the leadership investment made to multiplication; Weaver saw this happen.
It became evident that if Martindale was to continue, there was a need for many people to step up and participate in church in new ways. So after a year, things began to feel really good back at Martindale again as we watched many people begin to step up and assume responsibilities.
For Weaver, that emergence of new leadership “has been a real blessing to our church.”
Berthold observed a similar process at West End Mennonite Fellowship. He saw that by giving away the best, “God continued to replenish. He always gives back to us.” It was for this very reason that West End continued to send out their best leaders to multiply faith communities of various kinds all around the city of Lancaster. Berthold sees this constant sending as an ongoing revitalization process in the congregation. “Because we were always on edge,” he said, “we could never just relax and say, well we have what we need.” The regular sending of leaders meant the constant need to raise up new leaders from within the congregation.
Berthold noted an important lesson from ten years as a multiplication leader in Lancaster Mennonite Conference; “We learned to measure our success by how many people we send rather than by how many people we gather.”
Church on the Other Side provides preparation, equipping, and nurture for potential and active
church planters and missional practitioners. It is lead by Omar Guzman and Josef Berthold,
along with coaches, who connect with various new missional initiatives to provide
encouragement, resourcing, and accountability.