The Church as a Slingshot

One of my favorite New Testament studies is considering the many “pictures” used to describe the church. The church is a flock, a building, a body, a family, an army, a bride, a cultivated field, etc. The pictures vary greatly, each providing a different perspective and emphasizing different truths. Well, another picture—which, though it isn’t used as an inspired picture of the church, is consistent with biblical teaching—is the slingshot.

Here’s what I mean: It’s easy to think of the local church as a collection of godly individuals and families. We are prone to assume that the ability to gather together many such families is a mark of ministerial success, as if the church were a spiritual “marble bag” intended to hold beautiful marbles for admiration. Perhaps we gather them from elsewhere, or perhaps we develop them ourselves, but the stronger a church is, the more beautiful “marbles” it will collect.

The New Testament has a way of messing up such an understanding and goal. In particular, 2 Timothy 2:2 suggests that ministerial success is sometimes the launching of godly men into ministry elsewhere, not the hording of them. Sure, we need faithful men who can teach others in the local church, but we also need those who can teach others elsewhere. Thus, success is sometimes not measured by holding on to strong families, but in releasing them. The local church is to be a slingshot, not just a marble bag. It is sometimes to be a pit stop, not a final destination.

By God’s grace, Tri-County Bible Church just had the joy of “slingshotting” a godly man and his family into ministry elsewhere. Aaron Keteles recently finished his training at Great Lakes Bible Institute (the link includes pictures of the graduation) and has been called to leave our church to pastor a church in central Ohio. Ironically, he’ll be serving for some time under Pastor Bob Potter, the same man whom I served under when I first came to Ohio. Pastor Potter delights to mentor young men, and I’m confident that the two men will be a mutual blessing to one another and to the people they serve. At any rate, yesterday was the last Sunday morning on which Aaron assembled with us for worship, and we recognized the day with a commissioning service (the sermon of which addresses this very issue and can be heard here). Aaron was a faithful deacon and teacher in our church, and he’ll be greatly missed. He strengthened our body while he was here. It would have been nice to keep him. However, though TCBC may (in one sense) be weaker today, the cause of Christ has advanced by his departure, and six empty chairs next week will be testimonies of a mission accomplished.

May the Lord bless TCBC with the joy of many more “launches.” May we find biblical success in sending families, not just collecting them. May the “turnover” here be great in that sense. Even if we don’t get larger, may we be honored to help in the training and sending of laborers into the harvest field for God’s glory! May we be part of advancing the cause of Christ, not just the cause of TCBC.

Lord, let it be so. Make our church and others like it slingshots!


6 Responses

  1. Amen, my friend. I wish more pastors had that heart.

  2. Hey, Andy.

    I’m certainly grateful for those who do, and I hope their tribe is increasing.

    As for you, I think the difference between us is that I’m rejoicing to hold the slingshot. You? You actually climbed into it and were launched.

    Seriously, I appreciate your willingness to leave your established church plant to do it all again. Praise the Lord!

  3. I think for many years fundamentalist have liked to hold onto their congregations so they can build their little empires and brag at pastors fellowships. Many times you will hear them say when referring to members of their congregation as “my people” or “our people.” Thankfully, the church I attend now has the opposite attitude. If the Lord wills, about 8 faithful couples/families will probably be sent out in the next 3 years or so.

  4. Hi Chris,
    Hope you and your family are well.

    I was wondering if Jon S. could ask any of those 8 couples/families to come our way in Weirton, WV. We could really use the help!

  5. Hi, guys.

    I have just a moment, but I wanted to respond to Jon’s comment.

    Jon, I did my college internship in a church that had a large pastoral staff, had people driving almost an hour to get there, and yet was in the middle of a huge building program. I asked the pastor (a well-known, old-school fundamentalist) if the church had considered planting a church with one of the assistant pastors taking a group of the long-distance drivers. His response was very transparent, but also very telling: “If some guys want to be all pious and give people away, they can. I figure that I worked to get ’em here, so I’m keeping ’em here.” No kidding. Even as a sophomore, I thought, “Whose kingdom are you building???”

    On the other hand, I also know of many fundamental churches that are very generous with church planting. Grace Church of Mentor was not that large when I came in 1997, yet they sent out families to start TCBC, along with full financial support. They’ve planted several more since that time. Denver churches have been big on church planting, and I think there’s a similar movement in Phoenix. Heritage Bible Church in Greenville has been great about church planting, both locally and nationally. And few churches have been as aggressive or generous in church planting as Calvary Baptist Church in Lansdale, PA, which I believe has planted over 100 churches. So there are some great examples within fundamentalism, as well as poor ones.

    I think the churches-planting-churches model is picking up steam. I trust so.

  6. I think so to. Mainly because the majority of new church plants are being planted with the understanding that they will be reproducing churches. Its good to see new church plants, especially in my town where the bulk of your conservative churches are quickly dieing out because they are virtually “old folks homes.” Another problem is that all the older members who were disciplined in their titheing are dieing off leaving churches with large facilities really hurting for funds. Planting a new church is much easier than reviving a dead or dying church; not to say you shouldn’t try if thats where God is leading.

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